“Can you freeze cooked pork tenderloin?” Let me set the scene. So you bought a big piece of pork tenderloin and made a delicious spread with it. But you ended up not being able to finish the whole thing in one sitting, and throwing them away is such a big waste.
There are certain things that you will need to do in preparation for freezing your pork tenderloin and after you take it out of the freezer. I will be more than delighted to break down the process and mechanics of it all for you in this article.
Can You Freeze Cooked Pork Tenderloin?
The short version of the answer you are looking for is yes, you definitely can. But the subzero temperature will have an effect on your cooked pork in ways that, if you don’t do things correctly, will reduce the quality or even ruin your food.
What is Pork Tenderloin?
I will tackle the second part of the question first by filling you in on what is a pork tenderloin. Pork tenderloin is the strip of very lean, very tender meat that runs along the backbone of the pig. It is probably the leanest out of all the pork meat cuts.
The pig doesn’t utilize the group of muscle fiber that makes up the pork tenderloin when it moves around, which hinders the development of connective tissues. These tissues are very tender and tend to dry out when you expose them to heat over a long period of time.
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Remember: pork tenderloin is not pork loin at all. Those two cuts are different from each other. They are not usually interchangeable in use.
A crash course on the difference between pork loin and pork tenderloin.
Benefits Of Cooking Pork Tenderloin Before Freezing
There are a lot of benefits that you can reap from freezing your cooked tenderloin. It is quick, easy, and efficient for meal prepping, especially if you are a busy person with a hectic work schedule.
Enjoy Pork At Its Peak Freshness
It isn’t every day that you come across a freshly butchered piece of pork tenderloin that hasn’t sat out on the meat counter for hours on end, especially if you live in areas with poor product quality control.
So cooking the pork tenderloin when it is still fresh is one of the best ways to enjoy your food, especially if you’ve mastered the duration to cook pork tenderloin at 400 in the oven. Meanwhile, if you freeze raw pork for later, the subsequent thawing process will inevitably decrease the deliciousness of your pork.
Makes Meal Prepping Easy
Taking the time to go to the grocery store, buy the ingredients, and spend hours cooking and cleaning isn’t feasible for some people. Therefore, it’s a terrific idea to prepare your meals in bulk and thaw them out as you need.
Avoid The Hassle
Maybe you just hate that when you just need a little bit of cooked protein for the meal you are making, but they don’t sell it like that. Cooking your own protein and storing it in the freezer can save you all the hassle.
The Good And Bad Of Freezing Cooked Pork Tenderloin
While you can definitely freeze your cooked pork tenderloin, it certainly helps if you know about the ups and downs of freezing your food.
One of the most obvious advantages to freezing your leftovers is that you can extend the expiration date much longer. Besides, freezing will also preserve the flavor and texture of your food.
From an individual perspective, you can have more accessibility when it comes to your food if you have it cooked and frozen. On a larger scale, freezing your leftovers is helping the planet to minimize its food waste problem.
Improper food storage in the freezer can lead to freezer burn. Overdo it, and you will also turn your delicious pork tenderloin dry or ruin its texture.
Obviously, the flavor disintegrates over time as well. So be mindful of how and how long you are storing your leftovers in the fridge. Also, the freezer requires a large amount of energy, making its increased use less environmentally-friendly.
How Long Can You Keep Cooked Pork Tenderloin In The Freezer
The amount of time that a piece of pork tenderloin can stay in the fridge may vary depending on the method of preparation. Generally, a properly frozen piece of pork tenderloin can stay in the freezer for up to 6 months without going bad. (1)
However, pork tenderloin can usually stay edible much longer than that, perhaps as much as 12 months. The caveat is that the quality degrades over time. The more time it spends sitting in the freezer, the less palatable your cooked food will become.
The USDA recommends that cooked meat products should only be stored in the freezer for 2 to 3 months so that the integrity and quality of the meat aren’t compromised. You should always strive to use up your frozen tenderloin as soon as possible. (2)
How To Tell If Cooked Pork Has Stayed Passed Its Welcome In The Freezer
So how do you know if your cooked pork tenderloin has passed its peak when you store it in the freezer? You can reheat it and apply the usual tips to identify if pork has spoiled. Or you can judge from its frozen state right away.
Freezer burn is a phenomenon that you will find naturally occurring when you do not wrap and seal your cooked meat properly. Exposure to moisture and open cold air will cause the water in the meat to crystalize, weakening the connective tissue.
When you defrost the meat after getting it out of the freezer, those spots where freezer burn occurs will become dry and chewy. For such a lean cut as the pork tenderloin, you will want to avoid freezer burn at all costs.
You may have the misconception that no bacteria or microorganism can survive in such a harsh condition of your freezer. I am here to tell you that though freezing may inhibit or slow down the growth of those bacteria, it does not stop it completely.
If your marinade is rich in salt and sugar or the pork is extremely high in fat content, the freezing point of the cooked pork tenderloin will be lower, making it more viable for mold and bacteria to grow on it. So if you see something gray on the meat, throw it away.
It Has Passed The Recommended Time
This one may seem obvious, but I assure you that it is not. When deciding to store cooked pork tenderloin in the freezer, most people just put it in a Ziploc baggie and throw it haphazardly into the freezer. Though quick and easy, this practice does bring on some health risks.
You should always wrap the surface of your cooked pork tenderloin in either plastic wrap or tin foil to prevent freezer burn, and then write the date on the container before sticking it in the freezer. If a portion of food has passed its recommended storage time, then it will dry and bland.
How To Freeze Cooked Pork Tenderloin Properly
Have I scared you off with all the precautions that you need to keep in mind when it comes to freezing your pork tenderloin leftovers? Don’t worry too much because if you follow these three simple steps, everything will be in tip-top shape, ready for all your needs.
Step 1: Cook The Pork Until It Reaches 160℉
You should cook pork tenderloin around 400 ℉ because it doesn’t take too much time to cook at that mark.
Though the recommended internal temperature of the pork tenderloin is around 145℉. But for a longer storage period, some extra heat and time might be needed. To stop the spread of bacteria and possible contamination, cook the pork until it has the internal temperature of 160℉.
Step 2: Allow The Pork Tenderloin To Completely Cool
This step is crucial to safe food handling. If you put a piping hot pork tenderloin into the freezer, it will take much longer to cool down. Not to mention it will also bring up the overall temperature of your freezer, putting your other stored food at risk.
Step 3: Wrap It And Date It
It is important that you attach a label to anything that you store in the freezer. The label should contain the name of the product, cooking status (cooked or uncooked), and the date you freeze it. This will help you manage the content of your freezer and the quality of your food.
Additional Tips For Freezing Pork Tenderloin
You know the basics of how to properly freeze your leftover tenderloin, but there are still more things to learn about. Here are the tips and tricks that will transform the way you store your tenderloin in the freezer from now on.
- You should cut your pork tenderloin into smaller portions so you can defrost as much or as little of it as you need at a time.
- You should always wrap your pork tenderloin in a layer of plastic wrap or aluminum foil to prevent freezer burn from ruining the texture of your meat.
- Be wary of the temperature danger zone. Between 40℉ and 140℉ is the prime condition for harmful bacteria and microorganisms to prosper in your food. (3)
- Minimize the cooling downtime. Cool down your pork tenderloin as quickly as possible to avoid letting your food sit in the danger zone for too long.
- Be mindful of cross-contamination. Wear gloves and wash your tools and hands.
Apply these simple steps to your cooked pork tenderloin to enjoy them longer.
How To Defrost The Pork Tenderloin Like A Pro?
Just as you aim to freeze your pork tenderloin a certain way, there is also a right and wrong way of defrosting your pork tenderloin. If you do it too quickly, then you risk ruining the texture and flavor of your food; too slow, and it will still be frozen when you need it.
Here are three foolproof ways of doing it safely and efficiently, ranging from quickest to longest:
In the Microwave
This is a well-known method for defrosting meat in a time crunch. But there are certain steps that you need to take to prevent your microwave oven from becoming an incubator for harmful germs.
Step 1: Remove The Packaging
You should always check and remove any plastic wrap and tin foil that you may use in the freezing process. Plastic wraps may melt and ruin your food, while tin foil is a major microwave no-no and can be a fire hazard if you turn the oven with it inside.
Step 2: Put The Food In A Microwavable Container
It is always a safe practice to make sure the utensils and dinnerware that you are using are safe to use in the microwave. Place the frozen pork tenderloin in a shallow microwavable dish to make sure the meat juices don’t leak out and become a burnt residue in your microwave.
Step 3: Defrost By 1-2 Minutes Increments
This step is important for a number of reasons. You should defrost your food at smaller intervals so that the meat has the chance to warm up evenly, and you can manually check the doneness of your food. Practice safe microwaving!
Under Cold Water
Though you might think, “wouldn’t it be better if I defrost the pork tenderloin in some lukewarm or even hot water?” you aren’t entirely correct on that front.
It is always best to bring the temperature up as gently as possible to maintain the integrity of the texture. Running the cooked pork tenderloin under some cold water might do just that.
Step 1: Put It In A Sealable Bag
I am sure you won’t like the watery mess that your food is going to end up to be if you don’t put your cooked pork tenderloin in an airtight Ziploc bag. This also prevents the germs on the sink from getting on your food.
Step 2: Fill A Bowl With Cold Water
It is important that the water is cold so that the meat has time to warm up slowly. Especially if your food has been frozen for quite some time. If you warm the meat up too quickly, you risk damaging the structure of the meat further, making it less appetizing.
Step 3: Maintain The Temp Of The Water
You can do this by changing the water in your defrosting bowl every hour or so or when the water gets a bit too cold. What I like to do is to let the water run from the faucet in a trickle to let the water circulate evenly while maintaining the temperature.
Put It In The Fridge
This is something everyone has done and has been told to do by their mothers. If you want to cook something the next day, place the frozen food in the fridge and let it thaw out slowly overnight. This works the same way as the cold water bath but is slower.
Step 1: Take The Frozen Pork Tenderloin Out Of The Freezer.
This step is pretty self-explanatory. But you do want to plan ahead whenever you want to use your frozen food because it will take a long time. Give at least 12 hours in advance.
Step 2: Put It On A Shallow Dish.
Suppose your food is wrapped in some plastic wrap, foil, or in a ziplock bag. Leave the meat in the wrapping and put it on a shallow dish to catch all the juice that might leak out while it’s thawing out.
How To Reheat Cooked Pork Tenderloin In The Right Way?
Defrosting your frozen cooked pork tenderloin might not be enough. Though it is edible, it is a cold and dry thing that is just lifeless on its own. This can easily be fixed by reheating its heat using one of these three methods.
This little contraption is truly versatile in all its uses. Thawing, cooking, and reheating. To reheat your cooked pork tenderloin, let me show you how.
Step 1: Thaw Out Your Food
You will want to make sure that your food is at least thawed out before you cook it further in the microwave. If the meat is still frozen when you microwave it, it might still be cold on the inside when the outside looks like it’s burning. Not to mention the longer cooking time that is needed.
Step 2: Put It In A Microwavable Container With A Lid
The reason for a lid is that the pork tenderloin is already so lean as it is. Any moisture that you can retain in the meat will make it that much more tender. When it has already lost a significant amount of moisture in the initial preparation, it’s best not to lose more.
Step 3: Cook It At 5 Minutes Intervals
Remember when I said the outside might be burning when the inside is still cold. It is very common when you reheat things in the microwave. So allow shorter intervals to allow the heat to travel all the way through.
This might be the easiest and safest way to reheat your pork tenderloin. If you do it correctly with the right preparation, the meat will be just as juicy and tender as when you first make it.
Step 1: Thaw Out Your Frozen Food
Need I say why you should let your food defrost before you cook it? I think you have a pretty firm grasp on why by now. But in case you forgot, it is so that the food cooks evenly.
Step 2: Cover With Foil
You should really cover your pork tenderloin in foil when you reheat it in the oven to prevent the outside of the meat from browning even further. Since the initial cooking time, it has already taken on adequate colors. The goal, for now, is just to heat it up without drying it out.
Step 3: Broil
This step might sound counterintuitive based on the instructions that I just gave you in the last step. But after the pork tenderloin has warmed up thoroughly, it is best if you remove the foil and broil for 1-2 minutes just to crisp up the outside for more texture.
Along with being the quickest and the easiest out of all three options (you know that I save the best for last), warming up your pork tenderloin on the stove gives you a second chance to impart more flavor and tenderness to the meat.
While the previous two methods allow you to warm up a whole pork tenderloin all at once, this way requires you to plan a bit ahead. You might want to pre-cut your meat before you freeze them so that you don’t have to struggle to cut a solid block of frozen pork later.
Step 1: Thaw Out Your Meat
This step is optional for this method since the meat pieces are much smaller when you follow through with this option. But it is always good practice to let your meat come up to room temperature slowly before cooking it to preserve the nutrients.
Step 2: Heat The Pan On Medium-Medium High Heat
The pan should be ripping hot so that the meat won’t release all the liquids. You should aim for a good sizzling sound. If the pan is hot enough, the meat will start to caramelize before the juices get out, effectively retaining some moisture.
Step 3: Re-Season To Taste
A beautiful thing about this method is that you are essentially reheating the meat by stir-frying it. This is your opportunity to taste the meat before you serve it and add any additional seasoning of your choice. I find that a light sprinkle of Kosher salt solves everything.
Best Ways To Enjoy Your Reheated Pork Tenderloin
While we are on the subject of what you can do with your frozen pork tenderloin once you have taken it out of the freezer, allow me to show you some of the favorite ways that I like to eat them. Make sure you match them with suitable side dishes for pork tenderloin.
This is the simplest way of enjoying the leftover tenderloin that you have just reheated in the oven. This recipe is simple and requires minimal effort. Perfect for when you feel under the weather and want something hearty but not too heavy.
What can be better than using up all the extra bits of a leftover pork tenderloin to make a loaded pork fried rice? Pack it with some chopped vegetable of your choice and a fried egg, and it will cure all kinds of ailments (mostly emotional).
3. Moo Shu Pork
For those of you who are avid fans of Chinese takeouts, this pork tenderloin moo shu pork is a game-changer. You cannot go wrong with some pork and vegetable stir-fry with some heart-healthy root vegetables.
Okay, I admit that no list of recipes involving leftovers would be complete without at least a single mention of pasta. I mean, what is there not to love about pasta in creamy mushroom sauce. Pair it with a good red Pinot, and you have a party.
Let’s cut through all the noise and heavy dinner options and opt for a simple southern-style pork tenderloin salad. This southern style pork tenderloin salad is packed with heart-healthy greens and is great on a weekday dinner table.
Use up your leftover frozen tenderloin for this delicious pork tenderloin salad.
Can You Refreeze The Tenderloin?
The answer is yes, but you shouldn’t. Freezing cooked pork tenderloin will have a negative effect on the quality of your pork tenderloin. And refreezing your pork tenderloin is even worse than freezing it the first time.
Every time you freeze a piece of meat, the structure of the meat tissue breaks down a little bit, making it dryer and mushier every time. Not to mention that whenever you defrost the meat, more bacteria grow on it.
So if you really must refreeze your cooked tenderloin, you should always reheat your meat using one of the three methods mentioned above and then freeze it one last time. But really, just use what you can and discard the rest since it won’t be as good the next time around.
Congratulations for making it this far. If I were you, I’d have a few questions after reading all that information. Compiled below are the most common questions that people ask when they want to freeze their cooked pork.
You Need To Freeze Your Tenderloin Correctly
If you didn’t know, I hope you know now whether you can or should freeze cooked pork tenderloin. Just keep in mind the following elements, the quality of the pork, the seasoning, and the time you store it in the freezer.
So the next time you cook a bit too much and don’t know what to do with it, just toss it in the freezer. I’m sure your friends run into the same problem from time to time, and I hope that you and all your friends find this article helpful. Leave a comment and see you next time.
- Ask.usda.gov. 2022. AskUSDA.
- Foodsafty.gov. 2022. Cold Food Storage Chart.
- USDA. 2017. “Danger Zone” (40 °F – 140 °F).
Table of Contents
- Can You Freeze Cooked Pork Tenderloin?
- Benefits Of Cooking Pork Tenderloin Before Freezing
- The Good And Bad Of Freezing Cooked Pork Tenderloin
- How Long Can You Keep Cooked Pork Tenderloin In The Freezer
- How To Freeze Cooked Pork Tenderloin Properly
- How To Defrost The Pork Tenderloin Like A Pro?
- How To Reheat Cooked Pork Tenderloin In The Right Way?
- Can You Refreeze The Tenderloin?
- You Need To Freeze Your Tenderloin Correctly