So you've got leftovers from a pulled pork recipe like our Oven-Baked Pulled Pork, and you need to freeze them. If you don't do it just right, you could end up with the dreaded freezer burn.
Making Pulled Pork
Pulled pork usually starts with a pork butt roast. You can prepare it in a slow cooker or in the oven. If you plan on using it for multiple recipes, it's a good idea to leave the seasoning fairly simple so that you can adjust the flavor profiles as needed for each pulled pork recipe you want to make.
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Your pork is fulled cooked once it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit with three minutes of resting time, according to the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services. After the meat has cooled, you can use two forks to pull the meat apart.
Once the meat is pulled, you can separate it into multiple meals, if desired. Then, you can add the necessary sauces or other components to the meal. For instance, you can add barbecue sauce for a pulled pork sandwich, or taco or fajita seasoning for tacos.
Freezing Pulled Pork
Your packaging material should be:
- Moisture and vapor proof, though moisture resistant also works
- Made of food-grade material that won't crack or become brittle in low temperatures
- Leakproof and durable
- Resistant to water, grease and oil
- Easy to fill and seal
- Easy to mark and store
Freezing pulled pork should not happen until the food has completely cooled. Package it in batches that will be used at one time. When placing the food into containers, leave a bit of headspace for expansion that occurs as the food freezes.
Work to remove as much air as possible as the air can contribute to freezer burn. Vacuum seal systems remove all the air from packaging to extend the food's life. Packing food tightly also helps to reduce the amount of air in the package.
Label each package with the name of the product, the date it was frozen and any added ingredients. If not using freezer bags, use freezer tape or freezer marking pens to ensure the material holds up under the cold temperatures. Place the food in the freezer as soon as it is packaged and sealed.
Working With Frozen Pulled Pork
According to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service, freezer storage times are for quality only, and frozen foods remain safe indefinitely, as long as they remained frozen the entire time they were in storage. Cooked meats maintain good quality for two to three months after freezing.
Of course, you do not have to thaw the frozen pulled pork ahead of cooking if you have more time to allow it to heat through. If you forgot to place it in the refrigerator to the night before, you can also defrost it in the microwave.
According to the Michigan State University Extension, you should pay attention to food safety issues to make sure you get a safely prepared meal. They say you should remove any packaging because it is not heat resistant at high temperatures.
Place the food in a microwave-safe container and use the defrost setting on your microwave. If your microwave doesn't rotate automatically, you'll want to manually rotate the food about halfway through the cooking process. Depending on the wattage of your microwave and the thickness of the food, defrosting should take about seven to eight minutes per pound.