How Long Can Cooked Pork Sit Out? Complete Guide!

November 6, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

You can keep cooked pork out for 2 hours. If it’s a warm day (above 90°F), then you need to store the pork in the refrigerator or freezer within 1 hour.

I’ve worked in a ton of restaurants, and food safety has been drilled into me. I take food storage seriously – food should provide happiness and joy. It should never make people sick! I preach the gospel of food safety.

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

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°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 1 hour. If it’s the dog days of summer, get that pork refrigerated pronto!

This timeline applies to both fresh pork and 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. Don’t let cooked pulled pork sit out for more than 2 hours if it’s below 90°F and 1 hour if it’s above 90°F.

This applies to all pork. Chops, pulled pork, bacon, tenderloin – every cut should follow these refrigeration instructions.

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Why Does Cooked Pork Go Bad When it Sits Out Too Long?

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. If pork is left out at room temperature for too long, you’re flying right into the danger zone, baby.

After the bacteria multiply, the risk of food poisoning goes up. This is true even if you decide to store cooked pork in the refrigerator after it’s sat out for too long. The bacteria are likely present, and they’ve left their toxins in the meat.

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, your meat should be considered unsafe to eat. Throw it in the trash or the compost pile. Don’t risk giving yourself or others a food-borne illness.

Cooked Pork Tenderloin with Cherry Tomatoes and Orange Slices

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.

But just because the meat doesn’t smell or look bad doesn’t mean it’s safe to eat. It is best to err on the side of caution and throw any cooked pork left out for over 2 hours (or 1 hour if it’s above 90°F).

Don’t take the risk with questionable meat.

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

Don’t store pork in the microwave – they are intended to rapidly heat food, not store food for long periods of time. Pork can be stored in an oven set to its lowest temperature – usually around 170°F – but doing this for extended periods can dry out the meat.

If you want to keep pork warm in the oven, put it in an oven-safe dish and cover the top with aluminum foil to prevent the meat from drying out. You can add liquid like broth to keep things moist. I wouldn’t store meat in the oven at low temps for more than an hour. The meat will get too dry. 

It’s better to stick it in the fridge and reheat the pork in the oven when it’s dinner time. Put the pork in an oven-safe dish, set the oven temp to 250°, and remove it when it’s hot enough to eat.

When Should You Put Away Leftovers?

I recommend putting away leftovers as soon as your meal is done. At this point, the meat should be cooled sufficiently so it won’t warm anything up in the fridge or freezer. You’re also getting the meat out of danger-zone temperatures within the 1 or 2-hour window recommended by the USDA.

What If You Reheat Cooked Pork Left Out Too Long?

Don’t try reheating pork that’s been left out too long. The heat will kill the bacteria, but the bacteria produce toxins. Heat won’t kill these toxins, so you can still get sick even if you cook your leftover pulled pork or pork chops to a high temperature.

How to Store Leftover Pork?

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

Are you planning on eating the leftover pork within 3 to 4 days? If so, it can be safely stored in the refrigerator. I like to label my leftovers with the cooked-on date – it helps me keep track of when food should be tossed.

If you aren’t sure when you can reheat and eat your pulled pork or pork chops, it is best to store it in the freezer. You will be able to keep frozen cooked pork in the freezer for 3 to 4 months without compromising taste or texture. Remove as much air from the container as possible. Air is the enemy in food storage – it speeds up the deterioration process.

I also label food that goes in my freezer with the cooked-on date (or the purchase date for fresh, uncooked foods).

Grilled Pork Ribs on the Wooden Board

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. I like to refrigerate or freeze leftovers as soon as I’m done eating.

Step 2

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

Step 3

Place the sealed pork in the refrigerator. Again, it should stay good for 3 to 4 days.

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 the pork in several packages. This way, you will not have to thaw out all the leftovers at once. This is particularly helpful if you’ve cooked a large quantity of pork. If I smoke a huge pork shoulder, I like to put the leftover pulled pork in several baggies.

Step 2

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

Write the date of freezing on the packaging. This will let you know how long that pork has been in the freezer. Again, it’s best to consume frozen, cooked pork within 3 to 4 months. Otherwise, freezer burn will creep in and the meat will taste lousy.

Step 3

Place the meat in the freezer. Minimize how often you open the freezer to ensure the cold temperature is maintained. Boom! You’re done.

How to Defrost Frozen Cooked Pork?

It is important to always defrost frozen pork properly before attempting to reheat it. If you try to reheat frozen pork, the meat will reheat unevenly.

The easiest way to thaw frozen cooked pork is to keep it in the refrigerator. Move the container with the pork into the fridge. Depending on the size of your pork, this can take a day or more.

If you’re pressed for time, you can thaw pork in your sink. Put the stopper on the drain. Fill the sink with cold water, and stick the packaged pork in there. Add ice every 30 minutes to keep the water temp below 40°F. This method should thaw the pork in an hour (although larger cuts might take a couple of hours).

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Reheating the Pork

Pork is best reheated on the stovetop or in the oven. You can use your microwave, but the meat won’t taste as good. Reheat the meat until it’s it reaches the right internal temperature (145°F for most pork, 203°F for pulled pork and ribs).

Pork Chop on the Frying Pan

Wrapping It Up

Now you know how long cooked pork can sit out before it needs to be stored in the refrigerator or freezer. It’s 2 hours if the temperature is below 90°F, and 1 hour if it’s hotter than 90°F. Follow this guideline to minimize your risk of food poisoning.

You also know how to store and reheat pork safely. You’re a bona fide pork expert! Go forth and preach the gospel of food safety!

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!
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