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How Long To Thaw Frozen Pork Shoulder? (Explained)

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As a smoker, you know how time-consuming it is to cook a pork shoulder. Unfortunately, defrosting it is as well…

The only way to extend the shelf life of pork shoulder beyond a couple of weeks is to freeze it.

When frozen, uncooked pork can be kept for up to a year! Although it may lose some of its quality, it should retain the most of its freshness.

However, if you’re going to freeze pork, you should know how to thaw it and how long it will take. This article will discuss how to defrost pork shoulder.

How Long Does Pork Shoulder Take to Thaw?

Depending on how it’s being defrosted, the rate pork thaws can vary.

To begin, always try to defrost pork shoulder in the refrigerator. It’s the most common and safest method of thawing most meats.

It ensures that the raw shoulder does not reach unsafe temperatures. 

Thawing a pork shoulder in the fridge should take (on average) about 24 hours per 5 pounds of meat.

So, a 12-pound pork shoulder, for example, would take somewhere around 60 hours to defrost completely. The duration should be no problem because raw pork can be safely stored in the fridge for up to 5 days. 

When thawing larger cuts, just make sure to give yourself plenty of time to defrost ahead of the smoke. 

When working with a particularly large pork shoulder, most smokers will cut it into 4-to-6-pound portions.

So, even if you defrost the entire pork shoulder, it will defrost faster because it has been divided into sections. 

“How Can I Tell if My Pork Shoulder is Fully Thawed?”

First, check the pork shoulder for any remaining frozen patches or ice crystals. The shoulder may be moist, but if it’s slimy, it’s already spoiled.

Next, use a skewer (or the rod of a meat thermometer works just as well) to probe the centre of the pork shoulder to ensure that it has completely defrosted all the way through. 

It’s best to cook it as soon as it’s completely thawed. If you aren’t going to use it right away, you can still keep it fresh in the refrigerator for up to 3 to 5 days.

Can You Refreeze Thawed Pork Shoulder?

You can absolutely refreeze the pork shoulder if it has been thawed in the refrigerator. Just make sure that if you decide to refreeze pork, you do so within 3-5 days of thawing.

While refreezing pork is safe, it may become slightly dry and lose some quality, but it should still have a great flavor. Try reheating it in a slow cooker in this case. You can add a little moisture to help the meat hydrate. 

Is Freezer Burnt Pork Shoulder Safe to Eat?

Freezer burn is the term used to describe frozen foods that have lost too much moisture while being stored, causing the meat to become tough and sometimes discoloured.

When frozen meat sits in a freezer, it will occasionally release small amounts of moisture. If too much moisture begins to escapes, it freezes onto the meat, significantly reducing its quality.

However, even if it does not look or taste the best, it is completely safe for human consumption. Freezer burn does not pose a risk of foodborne illness on its own.

Is There a Quicker Way to Thaw Pork Shoulder?

Cold Water Bath

While you should always try to thaw a frozen pork shoulder in the refrigerator, a cold-water bath can be a safe and quicker way to defrost pork.

Before you begin, make sure the pork shoulder is airtightly wrapped. Vacuum seals will work best for this. 

  • To begin, place the wrapped pork shoulder in a container and fill it with cold water. Make sure the container is deep enough to completely submerge the shoulder.

(If you don’t have a deep enough container, you’ll have to rotate the pork every 30 minutes.)

  • Every 30 minutes, drain the water from the container and replace it with fresh cold water. This will keep the pork shoulder from getting too warm and entering the danger zone.

This can really speed things up, increasing the defrost rate to about 30 minutes per pound.

So, a 6-pound pork shoulder that would normally take 24 hours to thaw will thaw in 12 hours. It allows you to defrost and smoke on the same day.

Note: pork that has been defrosted in a cold-water bath should be cooked right away and should never be refrozen.

Can Pork Shoulder be Cooked from Frozen? 

Certain cuts of pork, such as chops from the loin, can be cooked from frozen. Sadly, pork shoulder is not one of them.

Shoulder is a larger cut that will be difficult to cook evenly if frozen. It will be difficult to bring the entire cut up to temperature at the same time.

Besides that, pork shoulder is commonly smoked, which is nearly impossible with a frozen cut.

When cooking something from frozen, you must double the cooking time. This could imply that smoking a frozen pork shoulder could take up to 40 hours, which is unrealistic.

Final Thoughts

To summarise, you should always try to thaw frozen pork shoulder in the refrigerator.

It will take longer, but it is the safest and best option for keeping it tasty. It may take longer, but by planning your smokes ahead of time, you will be able to pull your pork shoulder with plenty of time to thaw.