How to keep pulled pork moist and as delicious as the day it was made? How do we reheat it properly? Let’s sink our teeth into this topic and find a solution that will work for you.
Best way to store pulled pork
Pulled pork will keep in the fridge for a couple of days. But if you plan to keep it for longer than that, it’s time to clear up some space in the freezer. But you’ll have to keep a few things in mind to make sure you do it right.
Sauce vs no sauce
The sauce has a greater effect on how your pulled pork will freeze than anything else. A sauce that doesn’t have a lot of fat will become a solid ice block. This can lead to ice crystal formation in the meat tissue, which will, in turn, result in meat that turns to mush once it’s defrosted.
If your sauce contains some fat, feel free to pull the piece apart and freeze everything together. But if you’ve cooked the pork in stock and very little fat, freeze the sauce separately.
Pulled pork in sauce will freeze well in almost any container, but “dry” stuff must be vacuum-packed for best results.
Chunks vs pulled apart
It’s better to freeze the meat after it’s pulled apart than in a whole chunk. Even if you do everything right, big chunks of meat take a lot of time to defrost and that will have a huge impact on its texture.
However, if you’re keeping the pulled pork leftovers in the fridge, leave it whole. This will ensure that no matter the storage solution, most of it will stay moist and succulent.
Freezing pulled pork
Meat freezes best if it’s flash-frozen. This will ensure that no ice crystal formation will lead to mushy texture
and cardboard flavor. But, how do you do this at home? Well, get yourself some liquid nitrogen. This stuff is cheap, and you can easily buy it online or even at Costco.
Before you start, get some protection. Handling liquid nitrogen without gloves can lead to serious injury. And don’t forget to read the instructions and the warnings on the packaging – they are there for a good reason!
Once you’ll all wrapped up and well-read, all you have to do is to place the container or a bag with pulled pork into the liquid nitrogen bath. Once it turned solid, it’s completely frozen. Then, label and store the pork in the freezer for up to 3 months.
You could skip this step and just place the container or the bag in the coldest spot in the freezer (usually the rear center). But, taking this extra step will ensure that the meat is perfect once defrosted and reheated.
Vacuum sealing pulled pork
If you freeze pulled pork often, it may be time to invest in a vacuum sealing system. It’s the best storage solution for anything that is destined for the freezer and you will truly see the difference in the quality of your frozen (then defrosted) foods.
Luckily, vacuum sealers have become a lot more affordable in recent years and they don’t take a lot of space at all. Here’s how to use them to store pulled pork.
Firstly, the top benefit of this method is that you can vacuum seal pork pulled apart or in big chunks. Still, it’s better to pull the meat apart first because that will allow you to create a flatter package. A flat package means a higher surface-to-mass ratio, and that means fewer ice crystals, of course.
Fill the bag only up to one-third of its capacity. This will ensure that no liquid gets sucked up into the machine and that you can get a nice flat package of perfect thickness for freezing.
Keep in mind that home vacuum-sealing machines can’t handle very liquid items – vacuum chambers are a lot better for this job. So, remove at least half of your sauce and freeze it separately in ice cube trays. Also, check the machine instructions because they may have more details of how much liquid should be inside. Press the button and leave the machine to do its thing.
A quick note: it may seem that the cost of this method just keeps adding up, but the price of vacuum sealing bags is not that much higher than better quality freezer bags. However, you can save a lot more money if you get the rolls instead of pre-made bags. Plus, you can then tailor-make the bags into the perfect size for your needs.
You can buy more affordable alternatives in the form of ziplock bags with vacuum seals and these tiny pumps that are supposed to suck the air out of them. But, they might just not be worth it.
The easy way to vacuum sealing pulled pork
If you can’t dish out for the vacuum sealer right now, you can always try the water displacement method. Simply, fill a large pot or the sink with water. Take regular ziplock bags and fill them with pulled pork up to one-third capacity. Remove some of the air by smoothing everything out and zip them at least halfway.
Then, place the bag into the water. As you slowly submerge the bag under it, it will push the rest of the air out. Once the zip is the only thing left out of the water, close the bag.
This is not a perfect solution, but it will do the trick and will give you almost as good of results as some of those fancy vacuum bags from before.
Airtight containers and other solutions
A standard airtight food container will do just fine if you keep pulled pork in the fridge. However, it’s not the best solution if you want to send it to the icebox. No matter how good the seal is, the chances of ice crystals forming are very high.
The only way to use those containers is if you fill them and the recipe has a lot of sauce. But there’s a better alternative: silicone bags.
Well-made silicone bags offer an airtight seal. They work better since they’ll give you a larger surface-to-mass ratio. That means that the content will take less time to freeze, therefore lowering the chance of ice crystal formation. Plus, as a lovely bonus, they are microwave safe and you can use them to defrost and reheat the stuff inside.
Best way to reheat pulled pork to prevent them from drying out
So, you didn’t ruin your pulled pork by storing it incorrectly. Time to enjoy your leftovers, so what now? How to reheat it to get the best possible results?
The keywords are low and slow. This will keep the meat moist and juicy, and will even enhance the sauce (if the pork was cooked in it, of course). Let’s break it down.
On the grill
If you already have a grill running, it’s a great place to reheat your leftover pulled pork. The trick is to avoid direct heat. Find a spot away from the coals or turn of the burners in one section. If the hood will be down for the cooking process, make that section closer to the vent.
Make a parcel out of a couple of sheets of aluminum foil. Pick the pricier stuff for this job and not the kind that breaks the second you look at it. Make sure that the shiny side is on the outside and your food will sit on the matte side.
Try not to overfill your parcels. If you are working with layers that are more than 2 inches thick, there’s a chance that the outside will start drying out before the middle is fully reheated. If the foil is sturdy enough, you can gently press the parcel with the tongs to “stir” the contents and/or redistribute the sauce.
Break out your grill/oven thermometer if you have one. You want to see 165 – this is the temp at which your pulled pork is safely reheated. This will also save you a few headaches because you will not have to open the parcels to see what’s going on.
In the oven
An oven set to anything between 200 and 250 degrees Fahrenheit is perfect for reheating. Opt for the lower temperatures if you are reheating pork without sauce, but feel free to “crank up the heat” (by up to whopping
50 degrees) if there is one.
Here as well the time will vary based on the amount and the shape of the dish you’re using. If you’re in a bit of a hurry, spread the pork (and the sauce) over a baking sheet. You can use any other baking pan, but make sure that you’re working with thinner layers of food. Cover with aluminum foil to stop the meat from drying out.
A dutch oven will work great as well. Plus, since it’s good at retaining heat, you can use it to keep the pork warm whilst you’re dealing with the sides and fixings.
Don’t forget your trusted thermometer. You still need to see 165 to make sure that everything is safely reheated.
In the microwave
You’re using your microwave wrong. Reheating is a delicate process, so unless you’re making popcorn or steaming veg, there’s no need to turn it on full power.
If the pulled pork comes with the sauce, go for the 400 to 500 Watts. If there’s no sauce, you may want to lower that to 300W. That’s usually low and medium settings on most microwaves (check your user manual).
If your storage container is microwave safe, you can use it directly. If not, transfer the pork into a bowl or a deep plate and cover with plastic or a silicone lid. It doesn’t have to be an airtight fit, but it needs to be secure enough not to burst open mid-reheat.
Now, how long it will take depends on the microwave, power setting, amount of meat, and the shape of the vessel. If you’re reheating about a cup of pulled pork, start with 3 minutes, and then add 30 seconds until you hit the sweet spot.
Remember to pull the vessel to the side and not keep it in the dead center of the turntable. That place gets the least of the waves so it will take you longer to reheat the center of your dish. Less time in the microwave means fewer chances for the meat to dry out or turn rubbery, so pull the dish a bit to the side.
So many dishes were invented for using leftovers. Pulled pork works great in almost every single one of them. Here are a few examples and how to get the best results.
- When you’re making a stir-fry with pulled pork, make sure that it’s at room temperature and pulled apart when you add it in. It should go in last after your veggies are cooked. Toss it a few times to combine and heat through. The carryover heat from cooking the other ingredients will fo most of the work.
- If you’re adding the pork to puff or filo pastry creations, you can use it without defrosting. There should be as little of the sauce as possible (to prevent the pastry from going soggy), and don’t be too generous with your portions.
- You can add pulled pork to a quiche or a frittata the same way you would other cooked or cured meats. Just make sure that it’s at the room temp at that time.
- If you want to add pulled pork to another slow-cooked dish like a soup or chili, do it almost at the end. Frozen pork can go in up to an hour before the end of cooking time, but defrosted can go in the last 10-15 minutes or so. Just remember to adjust the overall cooking time since add cold ingredients will affect it.
Kitchen tools you’ll need
Using the right kitchen tools will really make cooking easier. There are different tools that serve specific purposes, and you should use them for your dish to save time and energy in the long run.
- GERYON Vacuum Sealer, Automatic Food Sealer Machine for Food
- Syntus Vacuum Sealer Bags, 6 Pack 3 Rolls
- 200-Count Food Vacuum Sealer Bags 8 x 12 inch
- Reynolds Wrap Heavy Duty Aluminum Foil
- Crock-Pot 7-Quart Oval Manual Slow Cooker
- 24 Pack Airtight Food Storage Container Set
- Waterproof Digital Instant Read Meat Thermometer with 4.6” Folding Probe Backlight
Pulled pork will keep for a few days in the fridge, but it’s better to freeze it for long-term storage (up to 3 months). Should you do it in whole chunks or pulled apart depends on if you’re storing with a sauce or not. Invest in a vacuum sealing system for best results.
Best reheating methods are low and slow, no matter the heat source. Just remember to wrap it up or put a lid on to keep the meat moist and juicy. If you still have any questions don’t hesitate to leave a comment below.