How long is pulled pork good for? (and ways to use leftovers)

When I make pulled pork for my family or friends, I usually have some leftovers. The pork leftovers can be stored in the fridge or the freezer to eat again. They can also be used in other dishes and recipes. It’s honestly the best part of making pulled pork — having delicious, ready-to-eat meat for days.

But how long is pulled pork actually good for, and what are some creative ways to use up those leftovers?

Pulled pork platter

What is the safe eating temperature for pork?

According to the USDA guidelines, the safe eating temperature for pork is 145°F. Typically when I make smoked pulled pork, I cook it until it’s 200°F, which is well beyond the safe internal temperature requirements.

Taking it to 200°F is necessary for you to “pull” or shred it apart before serving. This temperature also helps to break down the connective tissues, making the pork tender and juicy.

Pork butt on the smoker

Choosing the right cut of pork

Let’s first talk about the main ingredient — the pork itself. The most commonly used cuts for pulled pork are pork shoulder (picnic roast) and pork butt (Boston butt).

These are tougher cuts of meat with a good amount of connective tissue and fat. That makes them perfect for slow cooking and shredding.

The slow cooking method breaks down the connective tissue and melts the fat to keep the meat moist, tender, and juicy.

When buying your meat, make sure to look for marbling or white streaks of fat throughout the meat for best results. This will add a lot of flavor and moisture to your pulled pork.

Pork shoulder vs pork butt

Pork shoulder and pork butt are found in the same area of the pig, but they are not the exact same cut.

While they are both great for pulled pork, there are some differences between the two. Pork shoulder comes from the top part of the front leg and is usually a bit leaner than pork butt. It has more connective tissue, which makes it ideal for slow cooking methods like braising, smoking, or roasting.

On the other hand, pork butt comes from the top part of the shoulder. It generally has a higher fat content than pork shoulder, making it perfect for pulled pork as it will become tender and juicy when cooked low and slow.

Raw pork butt

How long is raw pork good for

Raw pork can be kept in the fridge at 40°F for up to 4 days. Place it in a sealed container or wrap it tightly with plastic wrap to prevent any air from getting in. If you want to keep the raw pork for longer, it’s best to store it in the freezer (0°F or lower) for up to 6 months.

Seasoning a pork butt

Just make sure to thaw it properly before cooking. You can even divide them into smaller portions for easier handling and thawing.

How to properly thaw raw pork

The safest way to thaw raw pork is to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge a day before you plan on cooking it. This slow thawing method allows the meat to defrost evenly while ensuring that it stays at a safe temperature to prevent any harmful bacteria from growing.

If you don’t have time for this method, you can also use the defrost setting on your microwave or place the pork in a sealed bag and submerge it in cold water.

Just make sure to cook the pork immediately after thawing using these methods as they can partially cook the meat on the outside, increasing the risk of bacterial growth.

How to store pulled pork

The general rule is to store any leftover food in an airtight container to preserve freshness and quality. A tupperware container is perfect to store your leftover pulled pork. A gallon freezer bag is also great for large quantities whether you are storing pork in the fridge or the freezer.

You should always refrigerate meat like pork within 2 hours of it being removed from the smoker. Allowing the pork to sit at room temperature for too long will only allow faster bacterial growth.

How long does pulled pork last in the fridge?

Pulled pork can be consumed and eaten safely for up to 4 days when stored in the fridge, according to the USDA. However, this time frame may vary depending on how it was stored and whether it was cooked properly.

If the meat is not kept at a safe temperature or if it has been left out of the fridge for too long, it may spoil quicker.

If you plan on waiting any longer, go ahead and freeze it for later use. A tip to keep in mind is that the longer it stays in the fridge, the drier and tougher it may become. So if you don’t plan on using it within a few days, freezing would be a better option.

Smoked pork butt

If the pork happens to smell sour or off, you know it has entered the danger zone. If that is the case dispose of it immediately. Always store the pork in an airtight container if possible to keep it safe for longer.

If you cooked your pork in a foil pan or container, cover it tightly with plastic wrap or aluminum foil to avoid contamination.

If you have a lot of leftover meat or making large batches, you can also store them in individual portions. This makes for easy reheating and avoids spoilage every time the container is opened.

How long does pulled pork last in the freezer?

Pulled pork can last for 6 months in the freezer. If you have a vacuum sealer, that is the best way to store your pulled pork before freezing. The key is to remove as much air as possible before sealing the container to help maintain the quality and flavor of the pulled pork for a long time.

You can also use freezer bags, but make sure to squeeze out as much air as possible like the vacuum sealing technique above. Label the bags on the outside with the date so you can keep track of how long the pork has been frozen for.

You can thaw out the pork as needed and incorporate them into other great recipes. Some of our favorite ways to use pulled pork are nachos, pork tacos, sandwiches, chilis, or even with eggs and pickled onions for brunch.

How to tell if pulled pork is still safe for consumption

The shelf life of pulled pork or any other type of food, for that matter, depends on how it was cooked, handled, and stored.

Generally, pulled pork can last in the fridge (with a temperature of 40°F or lower) for 4 days if stored properly. If you plan on keeping it longer than that, then freezing is your best option.

Even if your pulled pork was held under proper storage conditions, it’s still important to check for signs of spoilage before consuming it to avoid food poisoning.

The first thing to look out for is any color changes. If the pork has turned a grayish or greenish hue, it’s a good idea to discard it. See if there are any signs of mold growth, as that is a sure sign of spoilage. Next, check for any off odors. If the pulled pork smells sour, rancid, or generally unpleasant, it’s definitely up for disposal.

Another easy way to determine its freshness is by checking its texture. If it feels slimy or has a mushy consistency, then it’s time to say goodbye to your pulled pork.

How to reheat pulled pork

Microwave:

Place your pork in a microwave-safe dish, cover with a paper towel to prevent splatter, and reheat for a minute. Add increments of 30 seconds if additional time is needed to warm the pork.

If the pork looks dried out, you can add a little bit of water, chicken broth, or beef broth to rehydrate the pork and bring it back to life. If you like it sweet, a little apple juice can also add a lift when reheating.

Sous Vide:

Sous vide is a great way to reheat pulled pork. With this technique, you can slowly bring the pork up to temperature without drying it out. None of the juices are lost when you reheat this way as the pork is in a vacuum-sealed bag.

In fact, if you have frozen pulled pork already vacuum sealed, you can just drop it in the water frozen and reheat with sous vide. It’s one of the best methods to reheat food. 

Stovetop:

The stove top is a quick way to heat up pulled pork where you can get some crispy bits from the hot pan as it sears the pork. It’s quick and also allows you to add other ingredients to it.

How many times can you safely reheat pulled pork?

You can reheat pulled pork as many times as you want as long as it’s heated to 165°F. This temperature ensures that most bacteria present in the pork are killed off, making it safe to eat.

Take note that each time you reheat pulled pork, it can potentially lose some of its flavor, texture, and moisture. So it’s best to only reheat what you plan on eating immediately.

What to do with your leftovers

Pulled pork is a very versatile protein that can be used in many dishes. Of course, there’s always the classic pulled pork sandwich. Simply reheat the pulled pork and pile it onto a soft bun with some coleslaw and your favorite bbq sauce. But there are so many other ways to use up those leftovers that you may not have thought of.

Sometimes, my family will make a large plate of pulled pork nachos with all the toppings! Another favorite is pulled pork tacos or burritos, with some cilantro, avocado, and lime juice to top it off.

Pulled pork

Am easy way to bring pulled pork back to life is with a little dry rub sprinkled on top after it’s warmed. Pulled pork is a great topping for loaded baked potatoes and mac and cheese for a hearty and twist.

And if you’re feeling adventurous, try making pulled pork fried rice, adding in some veggies and scrambled eggs for a complete meal.

And let’s not forget about BBQ pulled pork pizza. Top a pre-made crust with your favorite barbecue sauce, cheese, and pulled pork. This always makes for a quick, easy, and delicious option.

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