Prep Guides for Pork – Handling
August 30, 2012
Due to modern practices, pork is easier and healthier to handle than ever. (For instance, trichinosis is virtually a thing of the past.) But there are still a few safety guidelines to follow, especially when it comes to freezing and defrosting.
Most pork cuts are ideal for freezing. (One notable exception is ham, which loses quality and texture at sub-zero temperatures.) For all other cuts, make sure to follow these tips:
- Freeze pork in waxed freezer paper (waxed side on the meat), heavy-duty aluminum foil, heavy-duty plastic storage bags or heavy-duty plastic wrap.
- Divide pork into manageable portions – form ground pork into patties (with a double layer of wax paper between them), freeze chops into individual portions, but leave roasts whole.
- Wrap exposed bones with extra paper to prevent tears.
- Wrap as tightly as possible and/or squeeze out excess air.
- Label with name and date.
- Make sure the freezer is set at 0 degrees F or lower.
The safest way to thaw pork is in the refrigerator following these guidelines:
- Small roast: 3 to 5 hours per pound
- Large roast: 4 to 7 hours per pound
- 1″ thick chops: 12 to 14 hours
- Ground pork: estimate by thickness
If you’re crunched for time, partially defrosted (or even frozen) pork can go right into the grill or oven, but you should allow for about 50% more cooking time. However, pork should be fully defrosted before cooking in a slow cooker.
You may also defrost pork safely in the microwave. Check the directions from your oven’s manufacturer.
It is generally safe to re-freeze pork that has either been thawed in the refrigerator or cooked to 145 degrees.
Always refrigerate pork after it’s cooked within one to two hours. Technically, if pork sits at temperatures between 40 and 140 degrees F, harmful bacteria can double every 20 minutes. This bacteria cannot be smelled or tasted, so “when in doubt, throw it out.”
While this may seem like a time saver, partially cooking or simply browning pork and then storing it to cook later is not advised.