Yes. You can freeze pulled pork. Simply empty it into either an airtight container or a sealable freezer bag before popping it in the freezer for 2-6 months. If you want to dig your heels in, vacuum seal pulled pork before freezing it. It will last 2-3 years.
My love for smoked pork butt often leaves me with plenty of leftovers that end up cushioned between two sandwich buns. So by default, I have become quite the expert on handling leftover pulled pork with absolutely no wastage. I would love to show you how.
This article definitively answers the question, ‘Can you freeze pulled pork?’ and gets into the how. It also explains how to defrost and reheat it. Walk with me:
How Do You Store Leftover Pulled Pork?
When freezing fresh pulled pork shoulder or pork butt, the aim is to keep the meat from spoiling and avoiding freezer burn. To that effect, cooked pulled pork should be protected from air and moisture.
It is best to freeze pulled pork once it cools to reduce the amount of moisture in the package that may accelerate the formation of freezer burn.
At the same time, it is essential to stay clear of the danger zone. The danger zone refers to the 40-140 degree temperature range where bacteria proliferates.
Once your guests have had their fill of your delicious pulled pork butt or pork shoulder, freeze what is left using this step-by-step outline:
Freezing Pulled Pork in Airtight Containers or Freezer Bags
- Divide your pulled pork into portion sizes such that you only defrost what you need.
- Transfer these portions into separate freezer bags or airtight containers.
- Stick a label on the bag or container indicating the date it was stored.
- Pop it in the freezer. Your frozen pulled pork should last in the freezer for 2-6 months. However, for better quality, I suggest consuming it within a month.
Note: The point of using either a container that is airtight or a sealable ziplock bag is to keep out as much air as possible so press out as much air out of the bag and seal it immediately.
If you only have the containers, chose one that perfectly fits your portioned pulled pork to reduce the amount of air in the container.
Freeze Pulled Pork in Vacuum-Sealed Bags
Aside from the freezer bags and kitchen containers, you can also vacuum seal pulled pork before you freeze it. This method is highly effective because it sucks all the air out of the bag before leaving it with an airtight seal with the benefit of a machine that does it for you.
Armed with vacuum sealer bags, here’s how to go about it:
- Once your pork is cool, divide it into portions and empty these portions into individual vacuum-sealing bags. Make sure to leave between 3-5 inches between the food and the point you intend to seal. This serves 2 purposes. One, it ensures your food doesn’t mess up the edges of the package, and two, that the seal holds.
- For external vacuum sealers, lay the vacuum-sealing bag flat on your kitchen counter and place the open edge across the sealing strip. Some people make the mistake of sealing while the bag is placed over the vacuum channel. This is wrong as it could prevent the machine from effectively sucking out all the air.
- Next, close the lid of the machine. With most vacuum sealing models on the market, you should hear a click when it is sealed like my NutriChef Vacuum Sealer.
- Click on the ‘seal’ button and let the machine work its magic. Once done, it will automatically turn off the seal indicator lights.
- If you are working with a chamber vacuum sealer, place the bag holding your pulled pork into the chamber. The air will be pumped out of the bag and the chamber simultaneously.
- Now throw your pulled pork in the freezer and forget about it. With this sealing technique, your pork should be good for 9-12 months.
Can You Freeze Pulled Pork With Sauce?
Most sauces that are paired with pulled pork feature sugar, ketchup, vinegar, and mustard. This will freeze just fine without affecting the quality of your pulled pork. However, other sauces with a higher fat content generally do not freeze well.
For example, Alabama white sauce and Chipotle Crema are heavy on mayonnaise. Such sauces start to break or separate upon freezing which will ruin the quality of your frozen pulled pork. Imagine defrosting that mess!
To that effect, I do not recommend freezing pulled pork with sauce whenever possible but if you must, go through the list of ingredients that make up the sauce to see if it freezes well or not.
When in doubt, put some of your sauce in an ice cube tray and watch what happens when you freeze it.
How to Thaw Frozen Pulled Pork?
There are 2 ways to safely thaw pulled pork. You can either use your refrigerator or a cold water bath.
Defrosting Pulled Pork in the Refrigerator
Although it takes a lot of time, the simplest way to defrost pulled pork is to thaw it in the refrigerator overnight. Here’s how:
- Remove the portions you want to thaw and place them on a casserole dish. This will trap any runoff moisture leaving you with an easier cleanup job.
- Place the dish in the fridge and just, go to bed. By morning you should have fully thawed pulled pork. Easy peasy!
Defrosting Pulled Pork in a Cold Water Bath
Alternatively, thaw the pork in a cold water bath by:
- Immersing the bag of frozen pork in cold water and letting the temperature of the cooked meat drop.
- Keep a keen eye on the water temperature. When it gets as cold as the pulled pork, switch the water.
Notes: Some say that you should use a hot water bath to hasten the process but I do not recommend this.
Additionally, the bag you use to thaw pork must be watertight to avoid spillage and cross-contamination.
How Should I Reheat Frozen Pulled Pork?
Armed with thawed pulled pork, how do you reheat it? This is the most flexible part because you can reheat pulled pork using any equipment you fancy.
The USDA recommends a minimum internal temperature of 145 degrees F for pork. We can easily achieve this using the oven, microwave, slow cooker, or stovetop. Let’s look into reheating pulled pork in the:
Move your thawed pork onto a microwave-safe container, season it with your go-to spices, and heat to 145 degrees. This method often yields drier meat than others. I, therefore, recommend it for recipes like pulled pork sandwiches and pork tacos that demand less water.
Empty your pulled pork into a saucepan or cooking pot, add some broth and barbecue sauce, and reheat it over medium-low heat. The cooking juices not only serve to flavor the meat but also to keep your pulled pork moist and juicy.
Prepare your oven by preheating it to 250 degrees.
Next, prepare the leftover pork by emptying it into an oven-safe dish or a roasting pan and topping it off with a dash of your favorite bbq sauce or broth.
Place the dish on the middle rack of your preheated oven and cook until done, stirring every 10 minutes. After about half an hour, you should be looking at reheated pulled pork ready to grace the dining table.
With a slow cooker, water content is key because it will be simmering for a while and we wouldn’t want it to dry out.
Pour your pulled pork leftovers into the cooker followed by broth or your preferred flavoring liquid. Close it, and set it on warm for 2-3 hours, stirring every 30 minutes.
Any Pulled Pork Recipe Ideas?
Yes, plenty. They include pulled pork chili, barbecued pulled pork mac and cheese, pulled pork sweet potato hash, pulled pork egg rolls, pulled pork stuffed peppers, pulled pork pizza, and pulled pork tamales just to mention a few.
It’s a Wrap
So, can you freeze pulled pork? Absolutely. Vacuum-sealing pulled pork is a foolproof way of preserving what’s left of your pork shoulder or pork butt. Vaccum-sealed pulled pork can last in the fridge for up to a year, which is no easy feat.
However, this demands the use of a vacuum sealer which is not always available. If that’s the case, freeze your pulled pork in sealable freezer bags or containers that are airtight. This should store well for 2-6 months.