One of the most common questions related to food safety is: “How long does cooked pork last?” This article will provide you with some tips on how to safely store and consume cooked pork, as well as some general recommendations on when and how to cook pork.

Is it OK to eat cooked pork after 5 days?

  • Leftovers should be refrigerated within 1 to 2 hours of serving.
  • Cooked leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator’s coldest section for 4-5 days.
  • Leftovers can be stored in the freezer for up to three months if properly packed.
  • Raw pork chops can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days, according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
  • In the fridge, raw ground pork lasts around 1 to 2 days if the pork is properly wrapped and sealed, and the fridge is set to 40° F (4° C).
  • Cooked pork, whether pork chops, bbq pork ribs, or ground pork, can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days.
  • If you don’t plan to cook raw pork or eat cooked pork straight away, you can wrap it tightly and freeze it. In the freezer, raw or cooked pork will keep for 4 to 6 months.

Selecting the best pork

raw meat on display counter

Fresh is best

When purchasing pork, look for pieces with a thin layer of fat on the outside and meat that is firm and a grayish-pink color. Meat with a small degree of marbling has the best flavor and tenderness.

Look for packages that are cool to the touch and do not show signs of wear or punctures. Always remember to select meat right before you check out at the grocery. Make certain that all meats, whether raw, pre-packaged or from the deli, are refrigerated at the time of purchase.

The easiest strategy to avoid “cross-contamination” is to keep fresh meats apart from other products at all times. Place raw meat packets in a plastic bag to prevent juices from dripping onto other meals. If you are traveling for more than an hour, keep raw meats in an ice chest. During hot weather, keep an ice chest in the car’s passenger compartment. Take the meats home and place them in the refrigerator or freezer.

Product dating

Product dating, using “sell-by” or “use-by” dates, is not mandated by federal regulations. However, many shops and processors may choose to date raw pork shipments. Products with a “sell-by” date should be used or frozen within three to five days of purchase.

If the manufacturer has set a “use-by” date, stick to it. It is always preferable to purchase a product before its expiration date. It doesn’t matter if a date expires after freezing pork because all items remain safe while properly frozen.

Product inspection and grading:

All pork sold in retail stores is either USDA-inspected for wholesomeness or inspected by state systems that meet federal government standards. Each animal and its internal organs are examined for illness. The “Passed and Inspected by USDA” seal guarantees that the pork is wholesome and disease-free.

Although the inspection is required, quality grading is optional, and a facility must pay to have their pork graded. USDA pork grades are limited to two levels: “Acceptable” and “Utility.” The only fresh pork available in stores is “Acceptable” quality pork. It should have a high lean meat to fat and bone ratio. Pork graded “Utility” is mostly utilized in processed items and is not available in supermarkets.

Storing

Refrigeration

Refrigerate pork at temperatures below 40°F. Uncooked pork should be stored separately from cooked dishes. Refrigerate or freeze fresh pork as soon as you get it home. Never leave the meat in a hot car or out at room temperature.

Packaged entire pieces of fresh pork can be refrigerated in their original packaging in the coldest area of the refrigerator for up to four or five days after buying, while ground pork can be refrigerated for up to two days. Keep the pork refrigerated until ready to cook. When transferring cooked or uncooked pork to another dining location, keep it in an insulated container or ice chest until ready to cook or eat. Cooked pork is best if refrigerated for no more than four days.

Freezing

Freeze full pieces of fresh pork if you aren’t going to cook it within four days of purchasing it. Wrap whole cuts of pork separately in freezer bags or foil before freezing, and label to make it easier to select the correct amount of cuts to thaw for a single meal.

Before freezing, ensure you push the air out of the packaging. Overwrap the porous store plastic with a freezer bag or paper if you wish to freeze the pork in its original wrapping. Cooked pork chops can be frozen in the same way as fresh pork chops unless a sauce or gravy accompanies them. Pack the meat in a hard container with a tight-fitting lid in that scenario.

Preparation

sliced raw meat on chopping board

Hand hygiene

Before preparing your pork, such as, pork shoulder for smoking, and handling raw meat, always thoroughly wash your hands with hot, soapy water. Allow no raw meat or juices to come into contact with ready-to-eat items, either in the refrigerator or during preparation. Cooked items should not be served on the same plate as raw pork.

Before using utensils that have come into contact with raw meat, always wash them in hot, soapy water. Wash counters, cutting boards, and any other surfaces that have come into contact with raw meats.

Thawing

Thaw raw pork in the refrigerator, cold water, or in a microwave oven. NEVER allow the beef to defrost at room temperature. Allow for a 24-hour thawing period in the fridge. After defrosting raw pork in this manner, it can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days until cooking, or, if you decide not to use the pork, it can be securely refrozen without being cooked first.

To thaw frozen pork in cold water, keep it in its original packaging or place it in a waterproof plastic bag. Every 30 minutes, change the water.

Plan on cooking the meat immediately after thawing it in the microwave because some food sections may become warm and cook when microwaving. Any germs present would not have been eradicated. The thawing time will vary depending on whether you’re thawing a whole roast or slices, as well as the number of portions frozen together.

Use the DEFROST or MEDIUM-LOW setting, as directed by the manufacturer. Turn the roast and separate the portions as they defrost, taking care not to overcook the meat.

Foods defrosted using the cold water method or in the microwave should be cooked before refreezing since they may have been stored at temperatures exceeding 40 °F. Cooking frozen pork in a slow cooker is not advised.

Marinating

Marinate food in the refrigerator rather than on the counter. After using the marinade, discard it because it includes raw juices that may hold bacteria. Reserve a portion of the marinade before adding raw food if you wish to use it as a dip or sauce, or boil used marinade before brushing it on cooked pork.

Browning or partial cooking

Never brown or partially cook pork, then refrigerate and continue cooking later since any bacteria present would not be eradicated. It is safe to partially heat or microwave pork and lamb before transferring it to a hot grill or oven to finish cooking.

Cooking

grilled meat on black charcoal grill

Importance of kitchen thermometers:

One of the important considerations in controlling bacteria in food is controlling temperature. Pathogenic bacteria develop slowly at low temperatures, multiply quickly at intermediate levels, and die at high temperatures. Foods must be completely cooked for safety. It is critical to use a thermometer when cooking meat and poultry to avoid undercooking and, as a result, a foodborne illness.

The only reliable technique to ensure safety and determine the “doneness” of most foods is to use a thermometer. A product must be heated to an internal temperature high enough to eliminate any hazardous bacteria that may have been present in the food for safety concerns.

Cooking the meat:

The FDA recommends that ground pork patties and other ground mixes be cooked to 160 °F for safety. Cook entire muscle meats such as chops and roasts, as well as fresh cured ham, to 145 °F (medium rare) with a 4-minute break before carving or eating, 160 °F (medium), or 170 °F (well done).

Even when cooked to a safe internal temperature, cooked muscle meats can be pink. If fresh pork has achieved 145 °F throughout and is given a 4-minute rest, it is safe, even if it is still pink in the center. The pink color can be attributed to the cooking process or the addition of additives.

Microwaving:

Arrange uneven sizes of pork in a dish or on a rack so that the thick sections are toward the outside of the dish and the thin pieces are in the middle, then cook on medium-high or medium power. Place a roast in an oven-safe bag or a covered saucepan to cook.

For recommended cooking times, consult the manufacturer’s instructions that come with the microwave oven. Insert a microwave-safe thermometer before cooking. Take the meat from the microwave and use a digital meat thermometer to test for doneness in multiple locations to ensure the necessary temperatures are reached.

Serving

Before serving or eating food, wash your hands with soap and water. Cooked foods should be served on clean plates, with clean utensils and clean hands. Cooked foods should never be placed on a dish that previously housed raw pork unless the dish has been thoroughly cleaned with soap and hot water.

Hot meals should be kept above 140 degrees Fahrenheit, while cold items should be kept below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Never leave foods at room temperature for more than two hours, whether raw or cooked. This is reduced to one hour on a hot day with temperatures of 90 °F or higher. Use a meat thermometer to stay safe.

Leftovers

Basic Tips: Always use clean storage containers and utensils for safe storage. Divide big amounts of leftovers into small, shallow containers for speedy chilling in the refrigerator; avoid placing huge pots of stew or gravy in the refrigerator to cool because this amount of food will likely not cool until the next day.

Carve the remaining flesh from the bone and keep it in tiny shallow containers in the refrigerator for three to four days. Wrap the meat in heavy foil, freezer wrap, or store it in a freezer container for freezing. Use meat within two to three months for the best flavor.

When reheating leftovers, ensure sure they’ve been cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Throw aside any food that has been refrigerated for an extended period. Never sample food that looks or smells unusual to test if it can still be used.

How to tell if raw pork is spoiled?

Don’t ignore your instincts when determining whether or not pork flesh is stale. Your visual and other sensory features might alert you that there is something wrong with the food in front of you. Pathogenic microorganisms cannot be seen, but their effects can.

The USDA provides refrigeration and food safety requirements. According to the article, two types of bacteria can thrive and contaminate your food. These are their names:

  • Pathogenic Bacteria – These bacteria are harmful because they cause food poisoning. They are difficult to detect just by smelling, tasting, or observing. Bacteria will proliferate if the food is not chilled.
  • Spoilage Bacteria — As food spoils, these bacteria grow and reproduce. They are in charge of the changes in the fragrance, taste, and appearance of the meal. However, they are not the type of germs that cause illness.

The following are three food safety indicators that will alert you if raw pork has already spoiled:

1. Its color has changed

Pink is the natural hue of hog flesh. It is already problematic if it turns gray or brown.

2. It has a sour smell

When fresh pork changes color, it is very typical for it to smell terrible. The odor would be similar to rotting eggs, ammonia, or sulfur. If this occurs, the raw pork is already stale.

3. It is slimy

Good raw pork does not have a sticky feel. The raw pork does not stick to your fingers when you touch it. The flesh of rotten raw pork is sticky. If you touch it and it sticks, discard the meat.

How to tell if frozen pork is spoiled?

Freezing removes moisture from uncooked pork. Given enough time, this liquid will freeze, causing frost to form outside the meat. That’s frost sticking to the outside of the pork and the plastic wrapper.

Check the following items to see if the frozen pork has already spoiled:

1. Ice crystals or frost has already formed inside the packaging

When white ice crystals form inside the container, you know the frozen pork has already been susceptible to freezer burn. Technically, it is still safe to eat. However, it has already lost the majority of its moisture. When you eventually prepare it, the flavor and texture may be unsatisfactory.

2. Slimy once thawed

When the flesh of pork meat turns slimy or sticky, it indicates that the piece of pork has been frozen for an extended period. A good cut of pork should be tender but not sticky.

3. Its color has changed

Raw pork flesh should still have crimson streaks. However, if you detect grayish-brown lines with some gray or dark brown spots, that pork has overstayed in your freezer. It is still safe to consume, but it will not taste like fresh pork flesh. At the very least, the flesh will be leathery and dry.

4. The smell is off, if not rancid

You won’t be able to smell ruined frozen food until it has thawed. However, once thawed, the smell will be off, even rotten. It is preferable to discard it.

How can you tell if cooked pork is bad in the fridge?

Even if you store cooked food in the refrigerator, you can never be certain that it will stay fresh for an extended period. There are spoilage bacteria that can withstand cooking heat. Other microorganisms can infect the food while it is being handled. Here are some signs that tell if cooked pork in the refrigerator is still edible.

1. The presence of mold in the meat

You should not eat cooked pork if there are layers of mold on it. Throw out the entire thing. Some people believe that it is okay to cut out components with molds. You’ll never know if the mold has contaminated other parts if you do this.

2. It has a sticky texture

If the meat is covered in a slimy film, it is not good. Do not even attempt to taste it to see if it is still edible. Those slimy substances are bacteria that have increased in the flesh.

3. Its color has changed from pinkish to grayish or brown.

A color shift isn’t always a bad thing. When exposed to heat, pork flesh changes color. If the color change is followed by any of the other symptoms discussed in this article, the meat is already rotten.

4. The texture has changed

If you observe a change in the texture of the meat, it’s a sure clue that something is wrong underneath it. It is preferable to dump it in the trash.

5. Foul smell

If the meat has a rotten odor or other nasty aromas, don’t eat it. The scent is caused by the rapid growth of bacteria that damaged the meat.

FAQs

Is leftover pulled pork better the next day?

Don’t be alarmed if you see congealed fat on it the next morning; it’s just all the concentrated magical tasty goodness that will disappear when you reheat it. Wait until after it has been reheated before adding some sauce. I honestly think pulled pork tastes better the next day, and it freezes well.

How long does barbeque pork last in the fridge?

Transfer leftover brisket, pulled pork, ribs, chicken, and other barbecues to shallow containers to swiftly chill to a safe temperature of 40 F or lower. Leftover barbeque can be stored in the refrigerator for 3–4 days.

What happens if you eat bad pork?

Trichinosis is a foodborne sickness caused by consuming raw or undercooked meats, specifically pork products infested with a specific worm. Abdominal pain, diarrhea, fever, chills, and headaches are common symptoms.

Is it safe to leave pork out overnight?

Raw pork should never be left out of the refrigerator for an extended period; keep it in the fridge until you’re ready to cook it to prevent the formation of hazardous bacteria and limit the chance of cross-contamination.