Proper handling is crucial when storing pork to prevent food-borne illnesses such as Salmonella, E. coli, trichinosis and others. The USDA advises consumers to keep pork frozen for safe long-term storage and to follow the proper thawing and refreezing methods to prevent the consumption of spoiled pork which may cause severe illness.
Pork must be cooked or frozen within three to five days after purchase. If you plan on cooking the pork within this time period, you may store it in your refrigerator at 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Pork frozen in your freezer will remain safe to eat as long as it is frozen but the USDA warns that the quality of the meat may be reduced after extended periods of freezing. For the best flavor, use frozen pork steaks within six to 12 months, pork chops within four to six months and pork roasts within four to 12 months.
The USDA advises storing frozen pork in a freezer at 0 degrees Fahrenheit or below. If you are unsure of the temperature of your freezer, use an appliance thermometer to make sure your freezer is keeping your food sufficiently frozen. Look for a refrigerator/freezer appliance thermometer because these tools are specially designed to provide accurate readings at low temperatures. Test your freezer by wedging the top of the thermometer between two bags of frozen vegetables with the probe end of the thermometer exposed to the air in your freezer. Check the thermometer after five to eight hours. If the temperature is higher than 2 degrees Fahrenheit, adjust the temperature setting on your freezer and test again after approximately eight hours.
Frozen pork can be safely thawed in the refrigerator, microwave or by soaking the pork in an airtight plastic bag in cold water. If you thaw frozen pork using the microwave or cold water methods, the pork must be cooked because it may have reached temperatures above 40 degrees Fahrenheit during thawing and could contain harmful bacteria. If necessary, you may freeze the pork after it has been cooked. Frozen pork thawed in the refrigerator can be safely frozen again within three to five days because the refrigerator will keep the pork at or below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Make sure that you place the frozen pork into a plastic bag or a large bowl when thawing to prevent pork juices from dripping onto other foods in your refrigerator. These juices may contaminate cooked food or produce in your refrigerator and cause illness.