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I've got about 3.5kg (7.5lbs) of rolled pork (with lots of skin crackling) vacuum-packed in my freezer which has been there for just under a month. I've got around 20 coming to eat on Saturday for a buffet and I'd like to serve it as pulled pork, with separate crackling.

So, first question: when is it likely to need to come out of the freezer? 24 hours before cooking? Or 48, to be safe? It's pretty big.

And, second question: I'd normally do pulled pork for about 5 hours, but this is a larger joint than I've cooked before, and I'm wondering if I can cook it for perhaps 5 hours on the Friday, remove the crackling, then leave it in the fridge overnight, and put it BACK in the oven for another couple of hours on the Saturday. Is that hygeinic / healthy / possible? It'll do the crackling wonders but I'm thinking more about the meat.

Any other tips / advice appreciated, though bear in mind that unfortunately I can't leave it in the oven overnight since it's a temperamental old oven and I need to keep an eye on it :(

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You have accepted the answer too quickly, better answers may appear if you wait a few days –  TFD Jan 22 '13 at 19:09

2 Answers 2

up vote 3 down vote accepted

Your proposed method is possibly dangerous, you'd be warming it enough for botulism to thrive, but not enough to kill it. When you cook it, cook it properly and all at once. What I'd suggest is simply cooking it on Friday, then re-heating it saturday, or getting up early enough to cook it through on Saturday. As for when to thaw it if it's a truly heroic size I'd thaw it in the fridge starting 48 hours before you want to cook it.

As for how long I'd usually do 20 minutes per pound plus 20 minutes as long as the meat is room temperature to start with, so for 7.5 lbs, so that's near enough 3 hours as makes little difference. Not that long really, if you wanted to serve at 1pm you'd want to get it out of the fridge as early in the day as you can, get the oven on at 8:40 on 350F (375 F on a conventional oven), get the meat in at 9, roast till 12, then rest it for an hour. Crank the oven up to max for the last 20 minutes to get the crackling extra crispy.

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Two points: especially for pulled pork, there is no reason not to cut the single piece into several pieces before braising or roasting or barbecuing it. I also cannot endorse per-pound timings as they are essentially useless, not taking into account the shape or size of the cut. Instead, cut it down to pieces of 1.5-2.0 kg (3-4 lb), and cook with your preferred method. It should cook within your more normal timeframe. If I was braising it, I would go for about 2 1/2 to 3 hours, after browning. You haven't specified method, so it is hard to give more specific advise. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 22 '13 at 13:35
    
I should also note that the time estimate for braising is for sort of "average" shaped chunks, that braising is exceptionally good at transferring heat energy to the food, and exceptionally forgiving on the timeline. The true test is if it pulls apart with a pair of forks, not whether the time is up. Same test for dry roasting--it isn't even the final internal temp that is the true issue, as time at temp for collagen to gelatin conversion is necessary. However, by the time that has happened, and the meat pulls apart easily, it will be well in the safe temperature of 180 F or higher. –  SAJ14SAJ Jan 22 '13 at 13:48
    
This is a great idea! I'd never thought of cutting it up first. With regard to the crackling (which I know is more than a British thing, and I'm guessing you're from the US from the Fahrenheit temperatures), would you recommend cutting the entire thing off, or cutting that into pieces along with the meat? Should I cook that separately? I know the longer you cook it, the crispier it gets –  lukech Jan 22 '13 at 15:14
    
I thought you were from the US so I put in Fahrenheit, I'm actually in the UK. Although you can cut off the hard fat in a layer and cook the crackling separately it's a load of hassle and I always cook it on as I prefer to roast it. If you are going to braise it instead you will need to cook the crackling separately as it won't get crispy when braised. The trick to crispy crackling is to make sure it is dry before cooking. Score it, then salt it, wipe off the salt, then salt it again, wipe, repeat until it's dry. –  GdD Jan 22 '13 at 15:22
    
@lukech, which method to use (dry roast versus wet braise) depends on the cut you have. You say rolled, but not rolled what. If you have a lean, working cut like hand or leg then braise it, if you have a fatty, tender cut like loin, or shoulder then roast it. –  GdD Jan 22 '13 at 15:29

To defrost faster, you could put a vacuum-packed item in cold water. Just be sure to keep the water cold--either put the whole container in the fridge or change out the water periodically on the counter. If you don't use water, I'd allow at least 48 hours in the fridge to defrost.

Anyhow, please don't attempt cooking in two phases. Botulism is one possibility, but under this scenario, it's probably not at the top of your list of concerns. There are all sorts of bacteria that could be growing in a rolled roast. Once the meat get significantly above refrigerator temperatures for more than an hour or so, you really need to cook it until it gets at least to 130-140F (about 55-60C) for a while. Only once you get above 130F/55C will you begin to kill off bacteria at an appreciable rate. (The exact amount of time required to make the food safe will depend on the final temperature you reach.) If you don't get to a high enough temperature, a slow-cooked roast can end up teeming with bacteria.

If you then cool it again before it's fully cooked, some bacteria can produce toxins that may not be destroyed even when thoroughly cooked at a later time. You have three options if it can't be left unattended: (1) get up early and cook it all at once, (2) cut in smaller pieces to reduce cooking time (as others have suggested), or (3) cook completely ahead of time, cool rapidly and refrigerate, and then reheat to serve immediately.

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