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Buying Handling and Storing Pork

Buying

The degree of leanness
Modern-day production has reduced pork’s fat content.In fact, pork is a major contender in the lean meat category and many cuts of pork are as lean or leaner than chicken. For example, pork tenderloin is just as lean as a skinless chicken breast with 2.98 grams of fat per 3 ounce serving and meets the government guidelines for “extra lean.” For the leanest cuts of pork, look for the words “loin” on the label.

How you’ll cook it
If time is limited, you’ll want to select a smaller cut, like pork chops that cook quickly. If you’re entertaining and have several other dishes to prepare, you may want to choose a roast that can be put in the oven and requires very little attention.

What Kind of Meat?
Listed first on every label, this indicates whether the cut is pork, beef, lamb or veal.

What Part of the Pig is this Cut From?
This is known as the “primal” or “wholesale” cut and specifies which part of the animal the meat comes from.This information is a good indicator of the relative tenderness of the cut and can help the shopper decide which method of cookery to use when preparing the cut.This part of the label may read shoulder, loin, leg, etc.


What is the Retail Cut?
This part of the label gives the shopper the specific name of the smaller cut taken from the primal cut.This part of the label may read blade roast, rib chop, sirloin roast, etc.

Number of people to be served
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 size of a deck of cards.

Cost
To get the most for your money, take the time to figure out the cost per serving. Some boneless cuts may seem more expensive, but actually are a better buy because you are not paying for the bone. Calculating cost per serving is a better measure of value and can be calculated with this formula:

Cost per serving = Cost per pound / # of servings per pound


Handling


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 degrees F or lower.



What about freezing ham?
The National Pork Board does not encourage freezing cooked ham, since it affects the quality and mouth-feel of the meat However, leftover ham for use in soups or casseroles can be cut up into slices or cubed and stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

Can I brown my fresh pork this morning, put it the refrigerator and finish cooking it tonight?
Never brown or partially cook any meat.

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 degrees 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 cannot 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 degrees F – for more than 2 hours, discard it, 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 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 
  • Chop, 1" inch thick 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 manufacture’s guidelines for defrosting meat. Cook meat immediately after microwave thawing.

My roast isn’t thawed completely, but I need to get my meal started. Can I still cook it?
It is safe to cook frozen or partially-frozen pork in the oven, on the stove or 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 degrees F. Do not cook frozen pork in a slow cooker.

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 foods

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 degrees F. That's well below the recommended end cooking temperature for pork, which is 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a 3-minute rest time.

Storing

How long can I keep my fresh pork in the refrigerator?
Sealed, prepacked fresh pork cuts can be kept in the refrigerator 2 to 4 days; sealed ground pork will keep in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 days. If you do plan on keeping the raw, fresh pork longer than 2 to 3 days before cooking it, store it well-wrapped in the freezer.

What length of time can I keep pork in the freezer?
Generally, fresh cuts of pork, like roasts, chops and tenderloin can be kept well-wrapped in the freezer up to 6 months. Well-wrapped ground pork can be kept for about 3 months in the freezer.

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 degrees F or lower.

How long can I store ham or other smoked products in the refrigerator?
Whole smoked ham and whole ham slices can be stored in the refrigerator for 3-4 days or the use by date on the label. Smoked sausages, hot dogs, bacon and other luncheon meats can be kept for up to 7 days.

What about freezing ham?
The National Pork Board does not encourage freezing cooked ham, since it affects the quality and mouth-feel of the meat However, leftover ham for use in soups or casseroles can be cut up into slices or cubed and stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months.

I have leftovers from a big roast, how long can I keep them?
Leftovers should be placed in the refrigerator within 1 to 2 hours of serving.  Store cooked leftovers in the coldest part of the refrigerator for 4-5 days. Well-wrapped leftovers can be kept in the freezer for up to 3 months.

Can I brown my fresh pork this morning, put it the refrigerator and finish cooking it tonight?
Never brown or partially cook any meat.

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 degrees 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 cannot 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 degrees F – for more than 2 hours, discard it, 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 is the best way to thaw frozen pork?
The best way to defrost pork is in the refrigerator in its original 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 
  • Chop, 1" inch thick will take 12-14 hours 
  • Ground pork needs to be estimated by package thickness

My roast isn’t thawed completely, but I need to get my meal started. Can I still cook it?
It is safe to cook frozen or partially-frozen pork in the oven, on the stove or 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 degrees F. Do not cook frozen pork in a slow cooker.

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 foods