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Can You Really Eat Cold Pork?

Want to get the most out of your pork leftovers? Our guide teaches you how to safely enjoy those leftovers for the best flavor.

There’s one great debate when it comes to leftovers: should you heat them up or eat them cold, straight from the fridge? Today, we’re zeroing in on one specific dish: cold pork.

Maybe you’ve been pondering whether it’s worth reheating that container of pork roast sitting in your fridge. Or perhaps you’ve been tempted by that cold slice of last night’s pork chop.

Whatever pork dish brought you here, the question is one and the same: “Can I really eat this cold?” In this article, we’re cutting right through the uncertainty and serving up the facts on eating cold pork.

You might be surprised by what you learn—and probably be glad that you didn’t just dig right in!

Is It Okay to Eat Cold Pork?

So, just how safe is it to eat cold pork, if it’s safe at all?

It turns out it’s best to avoid eating cold pork, whether it’s packaged pulled pork from the grocery store or leftovers that you’ve cooked yourself and refrigerated. The reason is that cold pork may harbor harmful bacteria, such as Listeria monocytogenes, which can make you sick.1Thévenot D, Dernburg A, Vernozy-Rozand C. An updated review of Listeria monocytogenes in the pork meat industry and its products. J Appl Microbiol. 2006 Jul;101(1):7-17. doi: 10.1111/j.1365-2672.2006.02962.x. PMID: 16834586.2Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2019, January 29). Outbreak of Listeria Infections Linked to Pork Products. Listeria (Listeriosis). Retrieved July 21, 2023, from https://www.cdc.gov/listeria/outbreaks/porkproducts-11-18/index.html3(2017, October 12). Cooked pork chops may still contain Listeria, Salmonella pathogens. Healio. Retrieved July 21, 2023, from https://www.healio.com/news/pediatrics/20171012/cooked-pork-chops-may-still-contain-listeria-salmonella-pathogens

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety & Inspection Service recommends heating up refrigerated pork to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) before eating it to eliminate the disease-causing bacteria on it and ensure its safety.

Don’t skip this step. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 48 million Americans get foodborne illnesses every year. Out of those cases, 128,000 require hospitalization, and 3,000 result in death.

This is particularly important if you or somebody else in your household belongs to the at-risk groups for food poisoning. This includes children under 5 years old, adults aged 65 and above, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and individuals with a weakened immune system.

Why Cooked Pork Can Still Harbor Bacteria

You might be wondering, “Wait a minute, doesn’t high heat kill bacteria?” And you’d be correct, but there’s more to it than that.

Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), with a resting time of 3 minutes before carving or serving, eliminates most of the harmful bacteria on it and ensures that it is generally safe to eat.

With that being said, even if a few bacteria remain on the meat after cooking, they can multiply over time and reach potentially dangerous levels, particularly for individuals with a weakened immune system.

Remember, freezing, canning, and—for some foods—drying, are the only food preservation methods that completely halt bacterial growth. Refrigeration only slows down the growth of bacteria but doesn’t stop it completely.

How to Reheat Pork So That It’s Safe to Eat

If you’re about to eat packaged pulled pork, packaged sous-vide pork, refrigerated leftovers, or deli meats, it’s generally best to reheat them to an internal temperature of 165°F (74°C) or at least until they are steaming hot. This will help ensure that they are safe to consume.

Reheating Pork on the Stovetop

If you’re dealing with a dish that can easily be sautéed or simmered like pork stir-fry, pork curry, or pulled pork, then stovetop reheating will work just fine.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Place the leftovers in a pan over medium heat. Avoid high heat; it can dry out your pork quickly.
  2. If necessary, add a small amount of water, broth, or the dish’s original sauce to keep it from drying out. Just a tablespoon or two will do.
  3. Stir frequently to distribute heat evenly and to prevent the pork from sticking to the pan, especially if the pan doesn’t have a non-stick coating.
  4. Ideally, use a food thermometer to check the internal temperature. Make sure it reaches at least 165°F (74°C) to ensure all bacteria are killed.
  5. If you don’t have a meat thermometer, reheat for at least few minutes, on all sides.

Reheating Pork in the Oven

This method works best for solid cuts of pork, like roasts or chops.

Here’s how to do it:

  1. Preheat your oven to 350°F (175°C). While your oven is preheating, take your pork out of the refrigerator and bring it to room temperature for about 5 to 10 minutes.
  2. Place the pork in an oven-safe dish. To prevent drying out, add a splash of broth or a bit of the dish’s original sauce.
  3. Cover the dish with aluminum foil to keep the moisture in.
  4. Heat the pork for about 10-15 minutes, depending on the thickness.
  5. Ideally, use a food thermometer to check that the internal temperature has reached at least 165°F (74°C).

Reheating Pork in the Microwave

If you’re short on time or don’t want to dirty any dishes, using the microwave is a quick and easy option.

  1. Place the leftover pork in a microwave-safe dish and cover it with a microwave-safe lid or wrap.
  2. To ensure even heating, cut larger pieces of pork into smaller, bite-sized chunks.
  3. Heat the pork at 50% power for about 2 minutes. This slower heating helps to avoid drying out the meat.
  4. Stir the pork. If it’s steaming hot all over, continue microwaving in 30-second intervals, stirring each time.

Regardless of your reheating method, remember to let the pork rest for a couple of minutes before digging in. This allows the juices to distribute evenly, ensuring a tastier eating experience.

Bottom Line

So, the great debate about whether to eat your pork leftovers cold or hot comes to an end.

As we’ve uncovered, it’s not only tastier but also safer to reheat your pork to the recommended temperature of 165°F (74°C). This simple step can help you avoid potential foodborne illnesses and keep you and your family healthy.

Remember, it doesn’t matter how you prefer to reheat your pork—whether on the stovetop, in the oven, or in the microwave – what matters is reaching the safe internal temperature. Using a food thermometer can be a big help in getting this right.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.