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Can you freeze pulled pork? Freezing, Defrosting, and Reheating Pork Shoulder

Learn how to freeze pulled pork! This guide will walk you through the steps to freezing, defrosting, and reheating leftover shredded pork that will maintain flavor and quality. All you need is a few zip-top bags, a sharpie, and room in your freezer. Continue reading for tips on freezing, defrosting, and reusing cooked pulled pork. 

Pulled pork shoulder or Boston butt is usually made in large batches on the smoker, grill, or in the oven. Because it’s such a large cut of meat, there’s generally a lot leftover. 

Barbecue enthusiasts may be wondering how to use up all of the leftover meat. Instead of eating pulled pork for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, freeze your leftovers to use up in soups, sandwiches, tacos, and more.

Making Pulled Pork

A pork shoulder (also known as pork butt) is one of the most delicious and versatile cuts of pork. It can be prepared on the smoker, grill, oven or from a slow cooker recipe.

This cut of meat is easy to season and can adapt to complement whatever you are serving. I recommend using a simple rub as a starting point so you can easily adapt the flavors as needed.

For any pulled pork recipe, the key is to cook it low and slow so it shreds into beautiful pieces of tender, juicy pork. The meat is so tender it literally falls apart!

Whether you are smoking or roasting, the optimal shredding internal temperature for pork is 205 degrees internally. This temperature can be read with an internal meat thermometer. Many of them are safe to use in the oven and smoker.

Once the meat has cooled, you can use forks, shredding claws, or your hands to pull the meat apart. After serving, the leftover pork can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-5 days or transferred to the freezer to save for a later date.

Storing Pulled Pork in the Fridge

How do you store leftover pulled pork?

The best and safest way to store leftover pulled pork is in the refrigerator. After you are done serving the pork, add the leftovers to an airtight container and place in the fridge for 3-5 days. 

How long is pulled pork good for in the fridge?

Pulled pork is best before the 3-day mark. The flavors are still high-quality and the meat hasn’t dried out. 

You will know when the pulled pork is bad as it will have a bad smell and taste “off” – much like rotten eggs or ammonia. For this reason, it’s best to label your containers so you can track when your leftovers are the freshest.

Freezing Pulled Pork Shoulder or Butt

There’s nothing worse than defrosting meat to find it is now flavorless and dried out. To avoid wasting your hard work, follow the proper steps for the best quality flavor and great tasting leftovers. 

Tip: Save the cooking juices that begin to coagulate in the cooking dish or in the leftovers container. Make sure these juices and fatty pieces are added to the leftovers for freezing.

To maintain good quality, wait until the meat has completely cooled before the freezing process. I recommend separating individual portions and placing them in a large resealable freezer bag. Then, label the bag with the freeze date. 

You can either use a vacuum sealer to remove the excess air from the bag or you can do this manually by sealing the bag half-way, then pressing as much air as possible out of the bag. 

If you know you will freeze a portion of the meat, keep some sections of the shoulder whole instead of shredding. This will help the meat maintain moisture and flavor.

Is it better to freeze cooked or raw pork?

If you are freezing larger cuts of meat like a pork butt, you can freeze it raw or cooked. For smaller cuts like pork chops or tenderloin, it’s best to freeze before cooking instead of after.

How do you freeze raw pork shoulder?

To freeze an uncooked pork shoulder, tightly wrap the raw meat in plastic wrap and place in the freezer for up to 3-5 months. Wrap the shoulder in multiple layers to minimize risk of freezer burn.

Can I freeze pulled pork with sauce?

It’s best to freeze the pork without any sauce on the meat. But, the pork can still be frozen with or without bbq sauce. 

Depending on the type of bbq sauce, the ingredients may not stand up to freezing, defrosting, and reheating.

Defrosting Pulled Pork

How do you thaw frozen cooked pulled pork?

There are two ways to thaw frozen pulled pork. 

Method 1: Defrost in the refrigerator

Remove the bag of pork from the freezer and place in the refrigerator overnight to defrost. Avoid leaks by putting the bag in a casserole dish while thawing.

Method 2: Defrost in water

While you wouldn’t want to thaw uncooked meat this way, defrosting cooked meat is perfectly safe and much faster using this method.

  1. Place the bag of frozen pork in a large bowl of warm  water, switching out the water every 30 minutes or so.
  2. Depending on the amount of meat you are defrosting, this process usually takes an hour or two.

How long is pulled pork good after thawing?

Depending on how long the pork was in the refrigerator before freezing, the meat should last around 3 days.

Reheating pulled pork

On the stove top:

The best way to reheat frozen pulled pork is in the skillet. This is one of my favorite ways! This method is best when the meat is the star of the dish. Use this method for dishes like sandwiches and nachos.

If you are adding the pork to soup, there’s no need to reheat. Just add the thawed pork to the soup during cooking. Be careful not to overcook. The pork should only need about 10-15 minutes to adjust to temperature.

In the oven:

You can also slowly warm pulled pork in the oven. To a casserole dish, add the pork and any juices you may have saved.

If your pork is still whole and not shredded, shred the pork so it heats up more evenly. Cover the dish with foil and place in the oven (225 degrees) for about 30 minutes or until warmed through.

Add barbecue sauce (if desired) and continue cooking until warmed through.

In the microwave:

Reheating the pork in the microwave is the most convenient option, but not recommended as it can dry out the meat.

Place the meat in a microwave safe container and cook at 1 minute intervals until warmed through. Be sure to stir between intervals.

Whether the meat has been roasted or smoked, it’s still possible to enjoy a delicious meal from frozen pork shoulder.

Recipes for using pulled pork leftovers:

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