Pulled pork is a pillar of smoked barbecue food. But how do you get the most out of the next day's leftovers? Here's how to reheat pulled pork while letting it stay moist, tender, and delicious.

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Pulled pork is glorious. Taken from the butt, which is (counterintuitively perhaps) taken from the upper shoulder of the big, it can be a large cut of meat. So it’s natural that it is prone to creating leftovers.

Why is dry meat so bad?

Having to reheat meat can be the bane of any cook’s existence as it’s so easy to get it wrong and leave your meat dry.

In the case of smoked meat this is especially infuriating.

What makes meat smoking so beautiful is that it gets the very best out of meat. It has delicious juices stored in the fibres of the meat, the fat has rendered to produce a sweet and salty taste, and meat’s textures have broken down to make it tender and succulent in the mouth.

To lose this through bad reheating is to lose everything that’s so perfect about smoked meat.

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Pulled pork is one of the most elite kinds of meat you can serve up with your smoker. When done right, it’s beautifully tender and succulent.

It’s easy to make too much of the meat though, and inevitably you end up with plastic containers full of the stuff in your fridge or freezer.

Planning on serving up some pulled pork? Check out my guide on how to work out the perfect amount of pulled pork to serve.

Smoked tenderloin can take anywhere between [check my post on smoking tenderloin] hours to smoke, so it’s important to make the very most out of every last ounce of meat. What good is spending all of that time slaving over your smoker if you’re just going to chuck any leftovers in the garbage?

In this article I’m going to outline six of the best ways to reheat pulled pork, and grade them on how effective they are at retaining meat flavor, texture, and overall quality.

Firstly, a quick word on storing it.


How to store pulled pork

Storing meat correctly will make or break its taste and texture quality when you come to eat it, so really the process of reheating it properly starts the moment you have finished cooking it the first time round.

After you have smoked and served it up, gather any leftovers and portion them between plastic containers. You may only need one container, or you may need several. In either case once you have portioned them, pour any remaining juices into the containers as well. This infusion of extra flavor will help the meat retain its moisture and taste once reheated.

Seal the lids on the containers, and transfer them to the refrigerator. This is great if you are planning on serving it the next day, but if you're hoping to serve them beyond this, transfer the containers to the freezer. Pulled pork can stay frozen for up to about 3 months before it starts to lose its quality (source).

Just a couple of final notes. When the pork has been left to chill, the juices will form a fatty layer on top. When you're ready to reheat it, try to get rid of this layer. It doesn't serve much purpose during reheating.

Finally, if you have chosen to freeze your meat then I recommend defrosting it by leaving it in your refrigerator overnight. This will allow it to thaw safely, without leaving the meat vulnerable to the effects of bacteria.

Now that’s out the way, let’s get into the 6 best ways to reheat pulled pork.

Method #1: On the grill

A method often favored in professional kitchens is via sous vide, whereby we vacuum pack meat before then submerging it in boiling water.

When it comes to grilling, there are two main methods of cooking: One by grilling directly; the other by grilling directly.

Direct grilling exposes meat to extremely high temperatures, which will just suck the moisture out of the meat.

Indirect grilling however, cooks the meat through a steadily managed ambient temperature.

This is exactly what we want.

Step 1. If you have a charcoal grill, arrange your coals under one side of the grill. Light them and close the lid of your grill to bring the temperature up to 225°F. Once it has reached our target temperature, place the pork on the other side of the grill away from the hot coals.

Step 2. If you have a gas grill, simply replicate this by lighting on burner on high, and place the meat over one of your unlit burners.

Step 3. Double wrap the pork in foil, and add about one-third of a cup of water into the wrap. Wrap it up and place in your indirect heat zone.

Step 4. Once your meat reaches 155°F, remove the pack from the grill and unwrap it. If you want to give the meat a quick sear or a bark-like finish, put it over direct heat for a couple of minutes.

Method #2: Oven

While it might not be as quick as using your microwave, it is just as easy and in fact healthier and much more efficient at retaining meat moisture and quality of taste. It’s also especially useful if you have a large amount of pork to reheat.

Step 1. Preheat your oven to 250°F (120°C). Remove any remaining fat layer from the chilled pulled pork, and add a little apple juice if the meat needs more moisture.

Step 2. Transfer the meat to an oven-safe bowl and cover with aluminum foil. Place the bowl in the oven and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the meat has reached an internal temperature of 165°F (75°C). 

Method #3: Crock pot/slow cooker

It should come as no surprise that using a crock pot is a great way to reheat pulled pork without letting it lose much of its moisture or taste. The added benefit is that, although it’ll take longer to cook, you can leave it to do its thing for a few hours before coming back to it when ready to serve.

Step 1. Transfer the meat to the crock pot. Add the remaining juices and apple juice. It’s important to add a little more moisture here because of the long cooking time and the amount of steam that the slow cooker will emit.

Step 2. Set the crock pot to warm, and allow to cook for a few hours. It’ll be ready to serve once the internal temperature reaches 165°F.

Method #4: Steam

This method might strike you as slightly unusual, but its extremely effective at reheating meat without letting it lose too much of its juices or flavor.

It will require the use of a large pot, as well as a steaming basket to go on top of the pot.

Step 1. Place the pot on top of the stove, and pour in a generous amount of apple juice. Place the steaming basket on top of the pot, and bring it to the boil.

Step 2. Place the pork in the steaming basket, and allow the steam for 20-30 minutes or until we reach our target internal temperature.

Method #5. Sous vide

A method often favored in professional kitchens is via sous vide, whereby we vacuum pack meat before then submerging it in boiling water.

The reason why this method is so good is that by sealing the meat, it preserves the meat in the juices, preventing it from drying out and by keeping it submerged in flavors.

Step 1. Pour the juices over the meat before then vacuum sealing it.

Step 2. Bring a pot of water to the boil. Transfer the packed meat to the water and submerge it.

Step 3. Turn off the heat and leave the meat to cook. This should take about 20-30 minutes, but again we need to wait until we achieve our target internal temperature of 165°F.

Method #6. Microwave

Undoubtedly the quickest and easiest way is using a microwave.

The convenience of using a microwave does come at a price however, as microwaving meat - particularly high quality specially bought and prepared meat - tends to dry it out and lose a significant amount of its flavor.

If you are in a rush however then sometimes there’s no getting around it. So here’s a way to do it that will limit the loss of quality you might normally get when microwaving meat.

Step 1. After removing the top fat layer of juices, stir the pork slightly to allow more of the unsolidified juices to permeate more of the meat. This is important for retaining moisture so be sure not to skip this step. If you don’t think you have enough juices, then add a few drops of apple juice to help moisten the meat.

Step 2. Transfer the meat to a microwave-friendly bowl, before placing in the microwave. Heat on high for one minute before stirring the meat. Heat for a further minute and stirring again. Take a temperature reading with a meat thermometer. Aim for an internal temperature of 165°F. Repeat the process until you achieve this.

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