If you’ve ever been to a BBQ party, then you must know that a good piece of cooked pork is a main part of it. Alongside chicken, pork is one of the most popular types of meat nowadays.
Aside from that, there are various parts of pork meat and everyone can find something they prefer. But, just like with any other type of food, it is important to care about food safety.
Pork is also perishable and it can spoil in a certain time frame. Spoilage risk is especially high when you are dealing with cooked meat, i.e. in this particular case, cooked pork.
And the riskiest place for cooked meat, is on a countertop, i.e. at room temperature.
So, the main question arises “How long can cooked pork sit out?”. I am just going to say that it is not recommended to leave cooked pork outside for more than 2 hours.
But, in order to find out more about the shelf life of cooked pork, as well as storage tips and spoilage signs, it is best that you continue reading.
How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out?
If you are into food, and especially into meat, I am sure that you have heard about the “2-hour rule”. It says that it is not recommendable to leave food outside for more than 2 hours because dangerous bacteria will begin to grow rapidly.
According to the USDA, the growth of bacteria will occur because room temperature is in the so-called “temperature danger zone”. Well, room temperature is mostly around 68 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature danger zone ranges from 40-140 degrees F.
So, the safe temperature for food, and especially for meat, is 39 degrees F or lower, so it is obvious that room temperature is not a suitable temperature for meat, including pork and, especially, cooked pork.
And one more note. If you are living in some parts of the world where the climate is warmer, i.e. where the temperature reaches 90 degrees F or more, the time frame in which pork meat will stay good decreases. So, instead of 2 hours, you can leave it outside for no more than 1 hour.
As you can conclude, room temperature is critical to how long cooked pork can sit out safely.
How Long Can Pork Chops Sit Out?
Just like with almost every type of cooked food, the same “2-hour rule” applies to pork chops as well. That means that you shouldn’t let your pork chops stay at room temperature for more than 2 hours after cooking them.
In that time frame, you should refrigerate your pork chops properly and they will remain good for about 2 days in the fridge. If you want to preserve them for longer, i.e. for about 6 months, you can store them in the freezer. And yes, here are the best ways to reheat pork chops.
One more note. Only if the pork chops have been deep-fried, will they last a little longer at room temperature. But, to be safe, I wouldn’t rely on it. I’d rather stick to the good old “2-hour rule”.
How Long Can Pulled Pork Sit Out?
For those who don’t know, pulled pork is not just ordinary pork cooked in a slow cooker, but rather mouth-watering smoked pork that has been shredded and mixed with various sauces that make it so delicious.
Some of those sauces can make it last a bit longer, but again, I would suggest you stick to the “2-hour rule” if you want to be 100% sure that you are eating good meat and that you won’t get food poisoning or some foodborne illness.
So, after making your delicious pulled pork, do not leave it outside for more than 2 hours, but rather refrigerate it or freeze it within that time frame.
How Long Can Raw Pork Sit Out Before Cooking?
If you are planning to cook a piece of raw pork, there is a high probability that the piece of pork is stored in the freezer because that is the best place for raw meat to be. So, when you decide to use it for cooking, it is essential to defrost it first.
In order to do that the right way, it is best to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge and let it defrost there overnight.
Alternative ways of defrosting frozen pork are in the microwave and in cold water. However, the refrigerator is definitely the best and safest place for defrosting raw meat.
After it has been defrosted, you can pull it out of the fridge and leave it outside for no more than 2 hours if you want to avoid harmful bacteria growth. However, my suggestion is to cook it immediately after defrosting it.
One more note. Never defrost meat, including pork, at room temperature because meat must be kept at a safe temperature (39 degrees F or lower) during thawing.
What Is The Right Cooking Temperature For Pork?
When your pork is properly defrosted, it is ready for the cooking process. In order to go through the cooking process correctly, it is essential to know the right internal temperature that pork needs to achieve in order to be properly cooked.
Well, the general rule of thumb is that the internal temperature of pork meat needs to be 145 degrees F in order to be done. However, there are some differences between various parts of pork when it comes to the right internal temperature.
For example, lean cuts of pork meat will be perfectly cooked when they reach an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, according to the USDA.
On the other hand, if you are dealing with a tougher cut that has a lot of connective tissue and fat, it is essential to let it reach a higher internal temperature in order to tenderize properly. This is especially true if you are cooking the cut from the pork butt.
Also, if you are planning to make pulled pork that needs to be shredded, it is best to let it reach an internal temperature of 195 degrees F so that it falls apart and so that you can shred it more easily.
In order to read the internal temperature of the meat, it is best to use a food thermometer. You just have to insert the probe of the thermometer at the meat’s thickest point and make sure that it doesn’t touch fat or bone. That should do the trick.
How To Store Cooked Pork Properly?
Now that you know that it is not such a good idea to leave your cooked pork at room temperature, especially for more than 2 hours, it is time to learn how to store this precious meat properly.
So, if you want to eat fresh pork that is not contaminated with any type of harmful bacteria, it is essential to store cooked pork leftovers somewhere where the temperature is lower than 40 degrees F. I am sure that the first thing that comes to your mind is a refrigerator.
So, if you want to protect your cooked pork from spoiling and, at the same time, keep it fresh, it is best to put it in an airtight container, seal the container properly in order to protect the pork from the air, and put it somewhere deep in the fridge, ideally far from the fridge door because that is where the temperature is more stable.
Your leftover cooked pork should be good in the fridge for up to 4-5 days.
If you are dealing with ground pork, you shouldn’t leave it in the fridge for more than 3-4 days because it is more prone to spoilage.
What About Freezing Cooked Pork?
Although it is not that common to freeze cooked pork, contrary to freezing raw pork, cooked pork still can be successfully frozen if you go through the process the right way.
So, when people have some leftover food and want to preserve it for longer, they usually use the freezer to solve the problem.
The same goes for cooked pork. So, before you put your pork in the freezer, you must know that it is essential to let it cool down first.
In order to do that, you need to let it stay a few minutes at room temperature. However, you need to be extra careful not to let it stay outside for too long, i.e. no more than 2 hours, in order to avoid any harmful bacteria growth.
After that, it is best to separate it into portions in order to make it more accessible after the freezing process.
After making those portions, double-wrap each portion. First, wrap it in some film wrap and then place each wrapped portion into a freezer bag. Suck out all the excess air, seal it properly, and label the exact date of storage on the bag.
You can put the bag in the freezer and your pork will be good there for up to 3 months.
How To Defrost Frozen Cooked Pork?
The next logical step in the whole process is to defrost your cooked pork leftovers. There are three main ways to do that. You can do that by using a fridge, slow cooker, or microwave.
The best way to defrost your frozen cooked pork is to transfer it from the freezer to the fridge and let it thaw overnight.
When it comes to reheating frozen cooked pork, you can use a slow cooker. Preheat it to 345 degrees F and let your pork cook for about 20-25 minutes.
Check the internal temperature of the meat by using a food thermometer, i.e. stick the probe of the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.
If the temperature is 165 degrees F, your pork is successfully reheated and ready for consumption.
If you decide to microwave the pork, you must unwrap it, put it on a microwave-safe plate, cook it at 50 percent power for two minutes, flip and cook for two additional minutes, and eat it immediately after that.
One more note. Never defrost pork at room temperature because the risk of harmful bacteria growth will become too high.
When To Avoid Consuming Pork?
And, finally, it is extremely important to know when to avoid consuming cooked pork leftovers. So, here are the main situations in which you must avoid consuming your pork meat at any cost.
• Bad Smell: Bad smell is always a sign of rancid meat. So, if the meat has a tangy and putrid odor, it is most likely bad and you should avoid consuming it.
• Discoloration: If you notice any signs of discoloration on the surface of the meat, the meat has molds on it and it is not suitable for consumption. You should definitely discard it.
• Slimy Texture: If you sense that the meat is slimy or feels sticky under your fingers, its texture has deteriorated over time and that is a clear sign of spoilage and that you should not consume the meat.
Does Cooked Pork Need To Be Refrigerated?
If your intention is to preserve your cooked pork for a few days, i.e. for 4-5 days, then yes, you have to refrigerate it. The main reason for this is the fact that the temperature in the refrigerator is not in the temperature danger zone, contrary to room temperature, so the meat won’t go bad.
However, if you want to extend the shelf life of the meat for more than 5 days, it is best to store it in the freezer and it will last there for up to 3 months.
Just avoid leaving it outside because it will go bad after just 2 hours.
Can You Let Pork Shoulder Rest Overnight?
Just like with any other type of part of the meat, it is not recommended to let pork shoulder stay at room temperature for more than 2 hours.
So, it is obvious that the answer to this question is “No, you can not let pork shoulder rest overnight”. Instead of that, it is essential to store it where the temperature is below 40 degrees F, preferably in the fridge or the freezer.
Can I Eat Cooked Pork Left Out Overnight?
No, it is not recommended to consume cooked pork that has been outside for more than 2 hours. The main reason for this is the harmful bacteria growth that can lead to food poisoning or foodborne illness.
No matter whether it is pulled pork, pork chops, smoked brisket, or bacon, pork is such an amazing meat loved by so many people around the globe, especially those hard-core food lovers.
Because of that, it is extremely important to know how to handle it properly. But, in order to know that, it is important to learn all the information about pork shelf life. So, the main question related to cooked pork shelf life is “How long can cooked pork sit out?”.
Well, as you could have seen in this article, cooked pork shouldn’t be left outside for more than 2 hours if the room temperature ranges from 40-90 degrees F. If it is even higher than 90 degrees F, pork shouldn’t stay outside for more than 1 hour.
Instead of that, it is best to store it in a place where the temperature is below 40 degrees F. A fridge, as well as a freezer, are the best places for that purpose.