The package of raw pork in your refrigerator still looks pink, plump and healthy, but the date on the package has come and gone. Although foodborne illness from spoiled or improperly cooked pork is a serious concern, you may not need to throw out that pork just yet. Save yourself money and worry by knowing exactly what those dates mean, how to maximize the shelf life of pork, and when you really should throw it out.
With the exception of pork sausage, refrigerated raw pork should last 1 to 2 days past the date printed on the package; pork sausage may last as long as four days longer. In fact, the date printed on most proteins such as pork, beef, and chicken, is actually the sell-by date of the product, rather than the expiration date. These recommendations assume the pork is kept continuously refrigerated in an airtight container to keep out moisture and other contaminants.
Frozen pork will remain at near-optimal quality well past the sell-by date on the package, up to eight months; this applies to pork sausage, as well. In fact, frozen foods kept at 0 degrees Fahrenheit will remain safe to eat indefinitely, although the quality will deteriorate over time. Dull white areas of meat indicate freezer burn, but you can cut them off prior to cooking provided the freezer burn isn't too extensive.
How to Store
To maximize the shelf life of your pork and stave off bacteria and foodborne illness, keep your meat in its original packaging or an airtight container in the refrigerator until ready to cook. You can freeze it in its original packaging for up to two months. For longer storage, you should wrap the entire package in aluminum foil or plastic wrap, or seal it in an airtight freezer bag to minimize the risk of freezer burn.
When to Throw Out
Regardless of printed sell-by dates, expiration dates or any other guidelines, if you suspect your pork has gone bad, discard it. Signs of spoiled pork include discoloration -- turning from a healthy pink to brown or grey; a thick, slimy film; or sour odor. Never taste pork to determine whether it is spoiled. Frozen pork should be thrown out if freezer burn affects too large a surface area to reasonably cut off.
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