Pulled pork goes a long way, and has got to be one of the most versatile foods. You can turn a humble burger into a gourmet slider in a blink. Toss in an Asian or sweet summer salad, plunk a dollop of crème fraiche on top, and you have an amazing meal.
Because of the finer texture of pulled pork, and its ‘spread-ability,’ we tend to eat less of it than we would if it was sliced, and hence the left-overs, or you may have prepared the pulled pork ahead of time. Whatever the case you will need to reheat it.
So, what’s the trick to keeping your pulled pork tasty and succulent after heating it up?
You will get the best results from reheating if you prepare for that likelihood when you are cooking the pork. When you pull apart the pork, whether you are serving it immediately or not, cover the pork tightly with foil to keep it moist.
To cool down the pork quickly in preparation for storage, sit the pan (covered with foil) in a cold-water bath in your sink or larger container. You may need to transfer the pork to another dish for this, but make sure you also transfer the pan juices.
When the pan of pulled pork is cool to the touch, finish cooling it in your refrigerator. Once the fat has solidified, you can remove it. Apart from health reasons, removal of fat is important if you intend to reheat the meat in the microwave.
Mix the pan juices through the pulled pork. This coats it with flavor and moisture. If you do not want to use it in the next couple of days, freeze the pork mixed with the juices in plastic zip lock bags. Squash them flat, so they fit into your freezer nicely and save room, and take less time to heat through. Don’t forget to label and date the freezer bags.
There are several ways of reheating pulled pork, but I use any one of these three:
It will all depend on how quickly you need the pork, and how fussy you are about results. But let’s get into how to do it and you will see what I mean.
Reheating Pulled Pork in the Microwave
Place the pulled pork in a microwave safe dish with a loose fitting lid. The important thing to remember when reheating any food is to avoid it drying out too much, so a lid will aid in keeping in the moisture. Do not use plastic wrap as it can tear and cause moisture to escape.
Place the dish of pork in the microwave for 1-2 minutes. Take it out and gently turn and toss the meat, checking if it has heated through. You may need to heat it for another 30-60 seconds if it is a large amount.
Take the dish out, leave the lid on and stand for a few minutes to finish the heating process. Microwaving tends to dry meat, especially around the edges, which, for pulled pork, means pretty much all of it.
Reheating Pulled Pork in the Oven
Transfer your pork with the juices into another oven proof dish with a lid and refrigerate it. Do not use the one you cooked it in or anything stuck to the pan will burn when you reheat it.
When you are ready to reheat the pork, take off the lid and cover the dish with foil. Place the lid back on to tighten the seal of the foil. Remember, lock in moisture! If you are covering a dish that doesn’t have a lid, make sure you use enough foil to tuck under the dish, so there are no gaps for moisture to escape.
Now, it will all depend on the amount of meat you are heating and your timeframe as to what temperature you should heat it at. If you have more than an hour, then reheat in a slow oven at 2500F or 1300C until the meat itself reaches 1650F or 740C. If you want it to heat quicker, put your oven up to 3000F or 1500C.
This is a good method if you have other things to prepare
Reheating Pulled Pork on the Stove
My favorite way to reheat pulled pork is in a hot water bath on the stove top, and it’s the preferred method used by most restaurants.
Take a large pan and sit a small heatproof bowl turned upside down on the bottom. Fill the pan with water and place your zip lock bag of frozen pork in the water, resting on the bowl so it doesn’t sit on direct heat which will cause the plastic to melt.
Heat up the water and bag together. If it’s a large bag, take it out periodically (using tongs) and squish the contents around to distribute them and put it back in the water. The pork will heat perfectly with no moisture loss in 20-30 minutes, but the time will vary depending on how much pork you are heating, and how you have packaged it.
Another way to do this is to bring the water to the boil and turn off the stove. Place the bag of pork into the pot as above, and let it sit in the hot water for about 30 minutes.
Choosing which way to reheat your pulled pork depends entirely on your needs at the time. If you want a quick snack, the microwave is clearly the way to go. If you have quite a bit of other preparation to do and are heating the whole batch of pork, then the oven is a good option as it can take its time while you are busy with other things.
However, reheating on the stove top in a hot water bath is my favorite method as the timing fits in best with normal meal preparation, but most importantly it is the best way of locking in the flavor and moisture, giving you succulent pulled pork every time.