If you’re faced with a sizable piece of roast pork, the remains of a pot of pulled pork or uneaten chops, consider yourself lucky, for this mild-but-tasty meat lends itself to a world of culinary possibilities. While reheating pork has the potential for dryness, plenty of leftover-friendly dishes and recipes bring out the full flavors and tender texture that made for a delicious meal the first time around.
Starting With Sandwiches
Fresh bread and an array of condiments elevate even the plainest piece of meat. Roast pork is a key ingredient in an authentic Cuban sandwich. You also need slices of ham, Swiss cheese, yellow mustard and pickles. Layer these inside Cuban bread or any crusty sandwich roll, spread the outsides with butter and toast it in a panini press or skillet until the cheese melts. Apples, cheese and pork are firm friends. Create an open-faced sandwich with sliced or shredded leftover pork, spread with applesauce and topped with thick slices of sharp cheddar. Broil this until the cheese is bubbly. A pork, brie and apple or pear panini is a fancy twist on ham and cheese. If you have pulled pork, keep it classic with barbecue sauce and coleslaw on a hamburger bun.
Two similar, slow-cooking American classics — pork and beans, and rice and beans — welcome the addition any kind of leftover pork. Throw a handful of shredded leftover pork into a pot of braised greens such as collard greens, kale or cabbage for a hearty side dish. Substitute pork for chicken in a comforting pot pie, and while you’re changing the classic recipe, switch it up with a sliced potato, biscuit or cornbread topping instead of pastry.
Pulled pork, or any leftover pork that’s tender enough to shred, makes an excellent topping for a homemade pizza. Pair it with sweet caramelized onions and briney olives; mushrooms and bell peppers; or spinach and mozzarella. Cube and dice leftover pork to use as well as or instead of bacon in a carbonara. Slowly simmer a tomato-based pork stew flavored with a lot of onions and garlic, herbs and red wine. Throw in chopped up pork and let it cook until the pieces start to fall apart. Serve the stew over pasta or with a piece of crusty bread.
Carnitas — seasoned pork for filling tacos, burritos and other Mexican favorites — is an ideal vehicle for leftover pork. Saute diced pork with a good glug of oil, salt, pepper, chili powder and a little cumin. Keep the heat high and cook the pork quickly, aiming for crisped edges. Serve the carnitas with warmed tortillas, salsa or pico de gallo, guacamole, lime wedges and fresh cilantro. Make pork chile verde, with chopped pork simmered in a sauce of fresh tomatillos, chicken broth, onions, cumin, garlic and cilantro. You also can find jarred chile verde sauces, making the job much easier. Pulled pork is great on nachos, especially if you also include a fruity salsa and jalapenos.
Pork is very much at home in East Asian cuisine, and chopped-up leftovers easily are incorporated into fried rice, ramen soups and quick-cooking stir-fries. Char sui bao, or steamed pork buns, require already cooked pork. Combine the diced meat with scallions and sauce, and stuff the mixture inside the dough balls. When steamed, the buns are white and pillowy, and when pulled open, are highly aromatic. Reheat a bowl of shredded leftover pork in the microwave for just long enough to make it steam. Serve the hot pork alongside julienned raw vegetables, and an array of Asian sauces such as oyster, satay and sriracha to fill lettuce wraps. Pork also is one of many traditional fillings for a Vietnamese bahn mi sandwich.
Avoid drying out cooked pork by using only appropriate reheating and cooking methods. Include leftover pork in dishes that are braised over a low heat with enough liquid to keep the meat moist and tender. With higher-heat methods such as sauteeing, cook the pork quickly so it doesn’t have time to dry out. Avoid grilling and baking.
Keep leftover pork in covered containers in the refrigerator for three to five days or in the freezer for up to three months. You can eat leftover pork cold, but if you heat it, aim for an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. Do not reheat leftover pork more than once. You also should only freeze it once.
References and ResourcesFine Cooking: Roast Pork for Today & Tomorrow
serious eats: What to Do With Leftover Pork Roast
the kitchn: Recipe -- Cuban Sandwich
Arizona Daily Star: Got Leftovers? Make Carnitas
bon appetit: Pork Chile Verde With Red Salsa
Saveur: Char Siu Bao (Roast Pork Buns)
USDA: Fresh Pork From Farm to Table