The Ultimate Guide to Thawing Pork Shoulder

Pork shoulder is a fairly decent cut of meat that is carved from the shoulder of a pig’s forelimb. It is relatively affordable and often sold with the skin on and a layer of fat. It is perfect for stews and can also be fried, roasted, and even ground up.

It can be sold with or without the bone and it typically weighs between five and ten pounds. This makes it excellent for feeding many people or even storing for different meals later on. When you have frozen pork shoulder, it is important to know what to do when you’re ready to use it.

Freezing raw pork shoulder

If you’ve got a whole pork shoulder, it’s best to cut it up to conserve space in your freezer. Removing the bones prevents tears in the bag when it’s in the freezer. You want the bag to remain air-tight to prevent freezer burn.

Take a look at the following steps to begin the freezing process.

  • Cut up the pork shoulder to minimize space.
  • Wrap the meat in aluminum foil or freezer paper. This step helps prevent the spread of bacteria within the meat.
  • Put the meat in an airtight freezer bag or a vacuum-sealed bag. This way the meat stays protected and leakage is minimized.
  • Make sure to seal out any air inside the bag while also making sure that the bag sticks to the meat.
  • Label the bag with the freezing date. Note the date and contents of the bag and stay alert.

The pork shoulder should last for six to eight months in the freezer if stored properly. If you notice a change in color or smell after taking it out, you should dispose of the meat. Do not risk eating spoiled meat as this could harm you.

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Can you freeze cooked pork shoulder?

We’ve looked at how to freeze pork shoulder, now let’s take a look at the cooked version. Both methods are similar with just a couple of differences. Let’s take a look.

  • Allow the meat to rest. You should avoid freezing the pork shoulder right after cooking, let it cool down.
  • Freezing it hot will affect the taste and texture so just let it sit at room temperature for a bit.
  • Put the meat in an air-tight container. Get a quality plastic or glass container instead of a bag and close it properly.
  • Label container with freezing date and place in the freezer. A temperature of 0 degrees Fahrenheit is ideal for the meat.

The meat will last between four and six months. Be mindful of the freezing date and throw any rotten meat away.

Can you keep pork shoulder in the fridge?

If you do not have long-term plans for the pork then you can keep it in the fridge. It should stay good for two to three days. That is not a long time so you should keep it in the freezer if you aren’t cooking it yet.

How to thaw pork shoulder

There are a couple of ways to properly defrost frozen pork shoulder. You should never attempt to let the meat thaw at room temperature. It could attract food-borne bacteria if it sits out for too long so it’s best to follow these steps.

Using the fridge 

This is the best way to thaw pork shoulder or any kind of meat. You have to plan as the process can take some time. 

  • Remove pork shoulder from the freezer.
  • Place on a sheet pan that’s lined with paper towels. Use a pan that’s high enough to catch any moisture during the thawing process.
  • Put the pork shoulder on the bottom part of the fridge. This will prevent any leakage from reaching other items.
  • Leave the meat in the fridge until it is fully thawed. This should take 24 hours for every five pounds of meat.
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After defrosting the pork, endeavor to use it within five days. It is recommended that you use the meat as soon as possible to retain the freshness.

Using cold water

This method works great if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands. You’re going to need a large enough container for the pork and a lot of water. 

  • Put the frozen pork shoulder in the container.
  • Fill the container with water and make sure that the meat is covered entirely.
  • After thirty minutes, replace the water and rotate the pork as needed.
  • Repeat this process and the meat should thaw at the rate of 30 minutes per pound.

This is a very convenient way to thaw your pork shoulder if you want to cook it the same day. Remember that it is not a good idea to refreeze pork that has been thawed. Cook the meat right away as this is safer for your health.

Can I thaw pork shoulder in the microwave?

It is normal practice to thaw meat in a microwave. That being said, it is probably not smart to do this with pork shoulder. 

The cuts can be quite large and they likely won’t defrost evenly in a microwave. You’d find that some parts of the pork could start to cook while other parts like the center are frozen. So refrigeration and cold water remain the best options.

Can you cook pork shoulder without thawing it?

While you can certainly cook some types of meat while frozen, you shouldn’t do this with pork shoulder. It might seem like a great way to save some time especially if you didn’t prepare beforehand. Doing this will increase the cooking time significantly and you’d just end up using up more of your time. 

Frozen pork will take around 50 percent more time to cook if the thawing process is skipped. This means you could spend up to ten extra hours cooking the meat. Might want to rethink the whole thing and probably allow the meat to defrost.

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Grilling your pork shoulder

So you’ve successfully thawed the pork, it’s time to get grilling.

  • Fire up the grill and set it to 225 degrees Fahrenheit.
  •  If you want to crank things up because of time then 275 degrees F will do. 
  • Remove the defrosted pork from the fridge or water. Make sure to avoid spilling any of the juice on any surfaces. 
  • Disinfect any surfaces that might have been affected.
  • Trim off any excess fat but not too much to prevent the meat from drying out. 
  • Pat the meat dry with paper towels.
  • Coat the outer layers with some yellow mustard or whatever you’d prefer.
  • Apply the seasoning rub all over.
  • You could try a combination of brown sugar, some seasoning or salt, black pepper, garlic powder, and cumin.
  • Alternatively, you could use a store-bought blend or get creative with any ingredients you have.
  • Place the pork shoulder on the smoker fat side up. 
  • Close the lid and allow the meat to cook for two hours per pound.
  • You could use a thermometer to check when it’s done. You should aim for 195 degrees F.
  • When the pork is done, wrap it in some aluminum foil and allow it to rest for about an hour.
  • Unwrap the meat and enjoy.

In Conclusion

To get the best out of your pork shoulder, you have to let the meat cook for a while. It also helps to season the meat in advance while it’s thawing in the fridge. This enhances the flavor and allows the meat to soak in the spices resulting in delicious pork! 

This, in addition to thawing the pork, will save you a great deal of time when you’re ready to cook. So all you’ve gotta do is sit back and let your grill do the rest of the work.