Buying Pork

Finding the right cut, amount, and quality of pork depends on your meal needs, so here are some things to consider:

  • Pork that is a pinkish-red color will provide a better eating experience. Avoid choosing meat that is pale in color and has liquid in the package.
  • Look for pork that has marbling, or small flecks of fat. Marbling is what adds flavor.
  • Avoid choosing any meat that has dark colored bone.
  • The fat of the pork should be white with no dark spots.
  • The average serving size for pork is 3 ounces of cooked meat. Start with 4 ounces of boneless, raw pork to yield 3 ounces of cooked pork. A 3-ounce serving is about the same thickness of a deck of cards.

Handling Pork

Is it safe to eat leftover food that was left out on the counter to cool at dinnertime, then forgotten until morning?

No. Bacteria grow most rapidly in the range of temperatures between 40 and 140° F, some doubling in number in as little as 20 minutes. Some types will produce toxins that are not destroyed by cooking.

Pathogenic bacteria do not generally affect the taste, smell, or appearance of a food. In other words, one can’t tell that a food has been mishandled or is dangerous to eat. If a food has been left in the “danger zone” – between 40 and 140° F – for more than two hours, throw it out, even though it may look and smell good. Never taste a food to see if it is spoiled. It is always best to use the rule of “When in doubt, throw it out.”

What about trichinosis? 
Because of modern feeding practices, trichinosis is a no longer a concern. Although trichina is virtually nonexistent in pork, if it were present, it would be killed at 137° F. That’s well below the recommended end cooking temperature for pork, which is 145° F, followed by a 3-minute rest time.

Defrosting/Thawing Pork

What is the best way to thaw frozen pork? 
The best way to defrost pork is in the refrigerator in its wrapping. Follow these guidelines for defrosting pork in the refrigerator:

  • Small roast will take 3-5 hours per pound
  • Large roast will take 4-7 hours per pound
  • One-inch thick chop will take 12-14 hours
  • Ground pork needs to be estimated by package thickness

Can I use my microwave to defrost pork? 
Follow the microwave manufacturer’s guidelines for defrosting meat. Cook meat immediately after microwave-thawing.

Can I cook partially thawed pork?
It is safe to cook frozen or partially frozen pork in the oven, on the stove or on the grill without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about 50% longer. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. It is best if frozen pork roasts are cooked at an oven temperature of 325° F. Do not cook frozen pork in a slow cooker.

Storing Pork

Knowing how to store pork can cut down on waste, help ensure safety, and make food prep easier.

Refrigerator Storage

  • Check pre-packaged meat for usage dates
  • If not cooking meat right away, replace the butcher paper with plastic wrap or resealable bags

How long can I keep my pork in the refrigerator?

  • Ground pork: 1-2 days
  • Pork chops, tenderloin or roasts: 2-4 days
  • Smoked ham (whole and sliced): 3-4 days opened
  • Bacon: 5-7 days
  • Sausage, hot dogs and deli meat: 7 days opened

Freezer Storage

How long can I keep my fresh pork in the freezer?

  • Ground pork: 1-3 months
  • Pork chops, tenderloin or roasts: 3-6 months
  • Ham: freezing whole, cooked ham is not recommended but leftover ham can be cut up into slices or cubes and stored in the freezer for 2-3 months.
  • Bacon: 1 month
  • Sausage, hot dogs and deli meat — freezing not recommended

How do I properly wrap my fresh pork to keep it in the freezer? 
Follow these steps to help keep your pork fresh in the freezer

  • Use one of these freezer wrap materials: specially-coated freezer paper (place the waxed side against the meat); heavy-duty aluminum foil; heavy-duty polyethylene film; heavy-duty plastic bags.
  • Re-wrap pork in convenient portions: leave roasts whole, place chops in meal-size packages, shape ground pork into patties. Put a double layer of waxed paper between chops and patties.
  • Cover sharp bones with extra paper so the bones do not pierce the wrapping.
  • Wrap the meat tightly, pressing as much air out of the package as possible.
  • Label with the name of the pork cut and date.
  • Freeze at 0° F or lower.

Can pork be refrozen if it has thawed?
According to the USDA, once food is thawed in the refrigerator, it is safe to refreeze it without cooking, although there may be a loss of quality due to the moisture lost through defrosting. After cooking raw foods which were previously frozen, it is safe to freeze the cooked food.