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How Long Does Pork Shoulder Take to Thaw in the Refrigerator? (Explained)

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The thawing of the pork shoulder is the first step in the smoking process, and there are very few shortcuts to thawing frozen pork faster without risking spoiling the meat.

Thawing a pork shoulder in the refrigerator is the most effective and safest method. Raw pork can be stored in the refrigerator for up to five days. So, defrosting it in the fridge for 24 hours is no problem. 

Plan ahead of time for this because thawing a frozen pork shoulder can take up to 24 hours. Pork shoulder, on average, requires 24 hours of thawing time per 5 pounds of meat. As a result, a 10-pound pork shoulder will take about 48 hours to completely thaw.

This is why, if you’re going to freeze a larger pork shoulder, you can portion it off into 3–6-pound pieces for a quicker thaw.

How to Thaw Pork Shoulder in the Fridge

Pull the pork from the freezer and place it directly in the baking dish after lining it with paper towels. A tray or large bowl can also be used, as long as it has raised sides to catch any moisture released by the pork while thawing.

Cover the baking dish with plastic wrap or foil and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator. The bottom wrack is preferable in case drippings escape leak from the tray. 

Simply leave it to thaw completely, periodically checking on it every few hours or so.

When it’s thawed, remove it from the fridge to check for ice crystals or frost. You can also use a skewer to probe the pork shoulder to check that the centre is completely defrosted.

Can Pork Shoulder Cook from Frozen?

Smaller cuts of pork, such as tenderloin or chops, can be cooked without defrosting, though this is not recommended. This will necessitate adjusting the cooking time. If it is frozen, it is best to increase the cooking time by half.

As a result, a one-hour cook time should be increased to two hours if frozen. 

The issue with pork shoulder is that it is much larger in size. Attempting to cook it from frozen will almost certainly have disastrous results.

It will most likely cook unevenly, sometimes leaving some parts of the shoulder fully cooked while others remain under 140 degrees (F).

If you do decide to cook frozen pork, always use a slow cooker or an oven. You could even use an air fryer if the pieces are small enough.

Smoking a frozen pork shoulder should be out of the question. It can already take up to 15 hours to smoke. A frozen pork shoulder would then take roughly 30 hours to smoke, which is often unrealistic. It also has the potential to over smoke the meat.

Besides, melted frost would add far too much moisture to the smoker. It would suffer from severe evaporative cooling and demolishing any chance of developing a healthy bark.

Can Frozen Pork Shoulder Thaw Outside of the Fridge Overnight?

Pork, whether raw or cooked, should not be allowed to sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours. So, no, you should not thaw frozen pork shoulder on the counter overnight.

It takes much longer than 2 hours to thaw a frozen pork shoulder. It will thaw first on the outside and then progress to the centre. However, while the centre of the pork shoulder is still thawing, the outside will reach unsafe temperatures and enter “the danger zone.” 

(The danger zone for pork is between 40 and 140 degrees(F). If either cooked or raw pork falls between these temperatures, it is unsafe to eat.)

Can You Re-Freeze Thawed Pork Shoulder?

Don’t be upset if you accidentally defrost too much pork shoulder. It is safe to refreeze pork as long as it was properly thawed in a refrigerator and hasn’t been thawed for more than 2-3 days.

However, expect it to lose some of its quality, and become a little dry. 

Final Thoughts 

It is never a good idea to try to cheat when it comes to thawing pork. Not giving pork enough time to properly defrost is bad not only for the meat’s quality, but also for your health.

Keep the following points in mind:

Always defrost pork shoulder in the fridge. It’s the safest and most effective method for preparing meat in a smoker.

•Never defrost the pork on the counter. Because the outside and inside of the shoulder thaw at different rates, the outside will remain in danger while the centre remains frozen.• If you don’t have a fridge, try a cold-water bath to defrost the pork. It’s a safer method of thawing the pork without exposing it to direct room temperature. Never use warm water, it will create a breeding ground for bacteria.