Pork is delicious, whether you’re eating pulled pork on a bun with barbecue sauce or enjoying pork chops with some macaroni and cheese.
While most people know that eating raw pork and undercooked pork is a definite no-no, they might not know that there are some guidelines for storing leftover cooked pork, too.
You can get sick if you let cooked pork sit out for too long. The same is true for pork that’s left in the fridge for way too long.
This can all sound overwhelming, especially with potential food poisoning on the horizon.
Well, don’t fear – I’m highlighting all of the info you’ll want to know, including how long cooked pork can sit at room temperature and in the fridge, plus tips to make it last longer.
How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out at Room Temp?
If you just cooked some pulled pork or pork chops, you need to get them to the refrigerator within two hours or about an hour if the ambient temperature exceeds 90F.
That said, how long pork can sit out depends mainly on where you’re at.
That’s because, after you leave cooked pork at room temperature longer than two hours (or one, in some circumstances), cooked pork leftovers enter the “danger zone.”
If left in the danger zone (40F to 140F) for too long, foods – including leftover pork – will begin to grow bacteria that can cause illness.
If you’re wondering how long can cooked pork sit at room temperature for pulled pork, the answer remains the same.
Don’t let cooked pulled pork sit at room temperature for more than two hours, or you run the risk of becoming ill.
That said, you will want to serve grilled meats at the bbq party, ground pork from the slow cooker, or cooked pork chops from the baking dish in just two hours or less.
How Long Is Cooked Pork Good in the Fridge
If you’re not planning to consume your fresh pork within the two-hour mark, it’s best to get it into the refrigerator where it’s safe for a longer period.
Just how long can cooked pork chops sit in the refrigerator, though? Three to four days.
It’s always best to use leftover cooked meat sooner rather than later. Not only will the leftover food taste better, but it will have a higher quality that’s bacteria-free.
How to Store Cooked Pork to Make It Last Longer
After you cook pork and you’re ready to store it for later, follow these two tricks to extend the longevity and keep it fresh in the fridge:
- Store in an airtight container. Proper storage in a container will lock in freshness and keep undesirables out (such as potent smells, grime, etc.).
- Store at the back of the fridge. Storing toward the back of the refrigerator will ensure that your pork doesn’t come in contact with the warmer temps when the door is opened.
You also have the option of storing pork in the freezer. Pork sitting in the freezer can last indefinitely, although it’s recommended to consume the frozen cooked pork within three months for the best quality.
To store your cooked food in the freezer, do the following:
- Wrap the cooked pork meat tightly in a layer of plastic wrap.
- Wrap with an additional layer of aluminum foil.
- Add a third barrier of defense, if desired, by storing in a container.
The more layers you give your meat, the less likely it will form freezer burn and dry out. So, while adding so many layers may seem excessive, it will be worth it when you go to thaw the frozen pork.
You can defrost pork by leaving the meat in the fridge overnight or use a cold water bath to speed things up. However, if you use the cold water method, it needs to be cooked ASAP.
Signs Cooked Pork Has Gone Bad
Cooked pork left out for more than two hours will go bad.
The same is true for pork leftovers that have sat in the refrigerator for too long.
Knowing the signs that your pork meat has gone bad is essential. That’s because if you eat bad cooked pork, you could end up with a foodborne illness.
Let’s avoid consuming any dangerous bacteria and ending up with a food-borne illness by double-checking for these signs that your perishable food, pork, has done bad.
1. Odd Smell
The first thing to check for is an off smell. Does the pork smell sour? Does it have an undesirable odor? If so, toss it out immediately.
While cooked pork can sit in the fridge for up to four days, that doesn’t mean it will stay good. For example, if the power goes out and the pork isn’t at a safe temperature, it could go bad.
The second indicator that your pork is spoiled is discoloration. Take a good look at your pork butt or lean cuts. Is there discoloration or possibly fuzzy mold? Do not eat it!
Can You Eat Cooked Pork That Has Been Left Out Overnight?
Do not – I repeat – do not – eat pork that’s been left out overnight (and especially not if it’s been left out for up to two days!).
Pork that has sat out overnight will have extensive bacterial growth and likely make you sick shortly after consumption.
The best option is to throw the meat away and start from scratch. Purchase some uncooked pork, season how you’d like, and cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 145F on your food thermometer.
When it’s done cooking, you have up to two hours to eat it before the meat needs to be placed in the fridge or freezer. If it’s consumed immediately, you don’t have to worry about harmful bacteria altogether!