Freeze Cooked Pork for Future Meals
If your cooked pork loin, pork chops or carnitas provide too much food for one meal, freezing the excess portions for future meals makes perfect sense and is perfectly safe. Wrapped properly, cooked pork retains its flavor and texture for up to three months in the freezer, although it stays safe to eat indefinitely after that time, even as its texture suffers. Whether you enjoy pork for its taste or for its lean appeal in cuts like the loin, freezing the cooked pork immediately stocks your freezer with easy main dishes for the future.
What's most important about freezing pork immediately after cooking is ensuring that the pork cools quickly, within two hours of placing it in the freezer. To make this happen, separate pork stews into separate, shallow containers rather than freezing the entire pot; cut roasts or loins into smaller pieces, and separate chops into a flat parcel in a plastic bag rather than stacking them on top of each other. Refrigerators are designed to readjust to hot items placed inside, so there is no need to let the pork cool before freezing.
Keeping air and moisture from reaching cooked pork helps protect the meat from freezer burn, which happens when water molecules in the meat move around before freezing, allowing air molecules to move into the meat and cause dehydration. White, dry splotches of freezer burn at the edges of the meat affect both its taste and texture, although freezer-burned pork is still safe to eat. To prevent freezer burn, use airtight plastic containers or freezer grade plastic bags, and squeeze all the air from them before sealing. Double wrap the meat in plastic and foil as an extra precaution.
Thawing the Pork
Because bacteria grow rapidly at room temperature, it's never a good idea to thaw meat on the counter. Instead, allow at least 24 hours or more to thaw the pork in the refrigerator. The best way to make sure the meat thaws completely before you reheat it is to place the pork in the refrigerator about two days ahead of time. The thawed pork will stay safe in the refrigerator for three to four days.
If you feel at all queasy about the meat because of an off odor, slimy texture or for any other reason, throw it away.
Susan Lundman began writing about her love of cooking, ingredient choices, menu planning and healthy eating after working for 20 years on children's issues at a nonprofit organization. She has written about food online professionally for ten years on numerous websites, and has provided family and friends with homemade recipes and stories about culinary adventures. Lundman received her M.A. from Stanford University.