If you’re like me, you often have leftover cooked pork because you want to make sure everyone gets their fill. But then you might wonder just how long pork can sit out before it becomes unsafe to eat?
You should refrigerate or freeze any leftover cooked pork as quickly as possible and not let it sit out for more than two hours. When cooked pork sits in the temperature danger zone between 40°F and 140°F, dangerous bacteria grow exponentially and can cause foodborne illness when consumed.
Let’s take a closer look at handling cooked pork and things you can do to help keep you and your dinner guests safe.
How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out Before It Goes Bad?
Keep in mind that these times will shorten drastically if it’s left sitting out on a hot day or in a warm kitchen.
The temperature danger zone applies to all cooked meats and is something you should be aware of. When the temperature of your food is lower than 40°F or higher than 140°F, bacteria growth is slowed but not stopped.
Between those two temperatures is the sweet spot where dangerous bacteria can flourish and cause your pork to go bad.
It’s also important to be aware that bacteria grow quicker and in larger numbers when the surface area they are growing on is larger.
This means that ground pork is more likely to go bad and have more bacteria growing than a whole roast, or pork chops, because each piece of ground pork can be covered, whereas a roast only has so much space on the outside of it. Cooked ground pork should be used up within two days.
Can Cooked Pork Be Left Out Overnight?
The two-hour rule also implies that cooked pork can not be left out overnight and consumed safely, even if it looks and smells fine.
I get it. You got busy and either left it in the oven or just forgot to wrap it up on the countertop. But you can make somebody seriously ill by eating it the following day.
And no amount of cooking can make it safe again.
Will I Be Sick If I Ate Cooked Pork Left Out Overnight?
If you have eaten cooked pork that was left out overnight, you could experience food poisoning that could lead to diarrhea, vomiting, and a fever.
These are the symptoms of foodborne illness caused by bacteria like Staphylococcus aureus, Bacillus cereus, or Clostridium perfringens. All three of these bacteria can survive the cooking process and make you very ill if ingested.
Freeze Cooked Pork If Your Fridge Is Full
Try the freezer if your fridge is full of food and you have nowhere to store your cooked pork. Freezing cooked pork isn’t ideal, but if you want to save it, you may have no other choice.
The problem with frozen cooked pork is that when it’s thawed and reheated, is that it can become extremely dry and stringy.
If you’re using previously frozen cooked pork, adding gravy or another sauce can help make it more palatable.
I’ll often reheat it in gravy and break it up as it’s heating up. It’s important that the internal temperature of your cooked pork reaches at least 145ºF before serving.
How Long Can Pork Sit Out After Thawing
You should always thaw frozen cooked pork in the fridge and never let it sit out. It will take some time to thaw in the refrigerator, so it’s best to start the process the night before.
If you leave frozen cooked pork on the counter, the outside of your pork can thaw quickly while the center remains frozen. Bacteria colonies that have already grown will use the opportunity to expand further. By the time it’s completely thawed, it may not be safe to consume.