A Deliberation: How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out?

August 28, 2023

You can keep cooked pork out for 2 hours unless it is a warm day, then you need to store the pork in the refrigerator or freezer within an hour.

Working in so many restaurants, food safety has been drilled into me. My friends in the South know this which makes me their go-to person when it comes to storing food in that hot, humid climate. So, I’m pretty used to answering their questions.

In this post, I will be taking a look at how long can cooked pork sit out before it needs to be stored. I will also be providing you with tips on storing your pork. Let’s begin!

how long can cooked pork sit out

How Long Can You Leave Cooked Pork Out at Room Temp For?

According to the USDA, you can let cooked pork be kept out for no more than 2 hours. This is provided that the temperature is below 90 degrees F.

If the ambient temperature is above 90 F, then you shouldn’t let cooked pork – or any cooked meat for that matter – sit out for more than an hour.

You should also stick to this timeline for fresh pork or raw pork.

Is This True for All Cooked Pork Items?

Yes, you should follow the above rule of thumb for all kinds of cooked pork. As a result, you shouldn’t let cooked pulled pork sit out for more than an hour or two, depending on the ambient temperature.

You should also not let cooked ground pork or cooked pork chops sit out for any longer than this period of time too.

Related Reading

How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out Before Going Bad?

The thing to remember is that there is no way to know for sure precisely when your cooked pork is going to go bad.

However, what scientists do know is that at a temperature range between 40 F and 140 F, bacteria begin to multiply very quickly. This range is known as the danger zone.

After the bacteria begins to multiply, the risk of food poisoning goes up quite a bit. This is true even if you decide to store cooked pork in the refrigerator afterward.

As long as you put away your leftover cooked pork before the 2 hours is up (or 1 hour if the room is very warm), then there is nothing to worry about.

If you have left your cooked pork out for longer than this, though, there is no guarantee that your meat is safe to eat.

Remember that unlike meat that has been left out overnight or for a day or two, cooked pork that has just gone bad isn’t easy to identify. At times, there may not be any bad odor. Also, you may not notice an odd texture and there will certainly not be any discoloration.

In short, you can eat bad cooked pork without even knowing it. Due to this, it is best to err on the side of caution and throw any cooked pork left out for over 2 hours away.

You really shouldn’t take the risk with potentially rotten cooked pork.

Grilled Pork Chop

What If You Keep the Pork in the Microwave or Oven?

Ok, so letting cooked pork sit out on the counter at room temperature is not a good idea. What if you keep the pork in the microwave or oven? Isn’t it covered then – will it not be safe from bacteria?

The reality is that there is almost always bacteria in your food. It may have come from the air or transferred from another surface. As long as there are only very few bacteria in the food, no harm will come to you.

If you do store the cooked or raw pork in a covered location, though, the meat will still get to room temperature. When this happens, the bacteria will begin to multiply, and the risk of food poisoning increases.

When Should You Put Away Leftovers?

A lot of people imagine that you should wait a while before storing your pork. This isn’t the case at all. It is always a good idea to put away the pork as soon as you can. This reduces the chance of the meat going bad.

For instance, if you know at the start of a meal that you have prepared too much pork meat, then you can put away the pork then and there.

Contrary to popular belief, you don’t have to wait for the pork to cool down to room temperature. Instead, wait until the food is warm but not piping hot either.

If you try to put piping hot pork in the refrigerator or the freezer, then you will cause the surrounding temperature to drop. In doing so, you may cause other food in those sections to spoil as well.

What If You Reheat Cooked Pork Left Out?

This is a question that I get quite often and I do follow your logic. The reason that we cook food in the first place is so that the heat will kill the bacteria that are lurking in our food.

So, does the same not apply to cooked pork leftovers that you have left out for a little too long?

Unfortunately, this is not the case. Yes, bacteria on food can be killed but if the bacteria have been allowed to thrive, then it has begun to produce toxins. It is these toxins that can cause food poisoning and make you sick.

These toxins are heat resistant so even if you cook your leftover pulled pork or pork chops to a high temperature, you can still get sick.

How to Store Leftover Pork?

Now that you know how long can cooked pork sit out, you may be wondering about the right way to store your leftover cooked pork.

You have two options to store cooked pork – the refrigerator or the freezer.

Are you planning on eating the leftover pork within three to four days? If so, it can be stored in the refrigerator.

If you aren’t sure when you will be able to reheat and eat your pulled pork or pork chops, then it is best to store it in the freezer. You will be able to keep frozen cooked pork in the freezer for three to four months without compromising taste or texture.

Roasted Pork Tenderloin

How to Refrigerate Cooked Pork?

Here are some tips to refrigerate your leftovers:

Step 1

Wait until pork leftovers cool down. You can refrigerate the pork when it is warm but not hot.

Step 2

Arrange pork in an airtight container. Seal the lid tightly.

Step 3

Place it at the back of the refrigerator section. This will ensure that the food will be kept as cold as possible.

How to Freeze Cooked Pork?

Here are the steps you should follow for freezing cooked pork:

Step 1

Arrange the pork in freezer bags or wrap it tightly in plastic wrap or freezer paper. It is best to freeze the pork in whole cuts. It maintains its flavor and moisture this way.

If you want to defrost and cook smaller portions, then package them in these portions. This way, you will not have to thaw out all the leftovers at once.

Step 2

If using a freezer bag, squeeze as much air out of the bag as you can possibly can before sealing it. This prevents freezer burn.

Write the date of freezing on the packaging. This will let you know when you need to defrost the pork.

Step 3

Place the meat in the bag of the freezer where it is the coldest. Try to minimize how often you open the freezer to ensure that the cold temperature is maintained inside the chamber.

How to Defrost Frozen Cooked Pork?

It is important to always defrost frozen pork properly before attempting to reheat it. Keep in mind food safety is more than knowing how long cooked pork can sit out. It is also about defrosting the meat at a safe temperature.

The best way to thaw frozen cooked pork is to keep it in the refrigerator. This way, the pork is maintained at a cold temperature, preventing bacteria from growing on it as it is thawing.

The only issue is that this method can take a while. So, make sure to take the pork out of the freezer and place it in the refrigerator several days before you need it. Larger cuts, in particular, can take a long time to thaw out.

Related Reading

Reheating the Pork

After you defrost the pork, you need to reheat it. Once again, food safety comes into play here. Never use the microwave to reheat your pork. It cooks the food unevenly and this can cause bacteria to multiply on it, especially if the food isn’t eaten right away.

Instead, heat the pork on the stovetop or in the oven. And, as you do so, use a meat thermometer to track the internal temperature of the meat. Only once it has reached 145 F can the pork be taken off the heat.

Oven Roasted Pork Belly

Wrapping It Up

Now you know how long can cooked pork sit out before it needs to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. This means that you know how to store and reheat pork safely, ensuring that your family will never be put at risk of food borne illnesses!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API. CatHead's BBQ is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for website owners to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon (.com, .co.uk, .ca etc) and any other website that may be affiliated with Amazon Service LLC Associates Program. As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
More like this ...
Hungry Yet? Lets Grill Some!
Copyright 2023 CatHead's BBQ, all rights reserved.