Pork is one of those tricky cuts of meat that we’ve never been quite sure about. A less than well-done piece of pork had always been considered unsafe meat likely to be contaminated with trichinosis—a potential disaster no one wants to deal with. However, recent improvements in the way pork producers care for their animals has us rethinking what safe pork looks like.
Advances in Raising Livestock Prompted Change
In recent years, advances in both food safety and nutritional content of pork has prompted the USDA to revisit their recommended pork temperatures. On average, most common cuts of pork are 16% leaner than they were 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27%. In fact, pork tenderloin is now as lean as a skinless chicken breast. (The recommended internal temperature for chicken sits at 165°F [74°C].)
As pork producers improved feeding and breeding practices to deliver leaner pork, in tandem with industry-wide efforts covering food safety, the Department of Agriculture decided it was time to make a change. The guidelines for pork now mirror doneness temperature advice for other meats.
New Lower Pork Temperature
The new USDA recommended temperature for pork is a significant 15°F (8°C) less than what was previously recommended, and will typically yield a finished product that is pinker than most home cooks are accustomed to. The new 145°F (63°C) recommended internal temperature (followed by a recommended 3 minute rest) might find you tossing out Grandma’s old recipes in favor of more juicy, tender and flavorful chops, loins and roasts. Interestingly enough, chef recommended temperatures and leading cookbooks have been suggesting cooking pork to 145°F (63°C) internal temperature for years.
Pink Pork is Safe to Eat!
Research performed by the National Pork Board has found that most at-home chefs have a tendency to overcook common cuts of pork, for fear of serving unsafe, undercooked pork. This overcooking results in tough, dry cuts of meat that will need to be doused with sauce to compensate for their lack of moisture.
These new guidelines will help alleviate some of the stigma associated with perceived undercooked pork and help people enjoy this “other white meat” at its most flavorful, juicy—and safe—temperature.
Ground Pork Temperature
The revised recommendation applies to pork whole muscle cuts, such as loin, chops and roasts. However, ground pork, like all ground meats, should be cooked to 160°F (71°C). Regardless of cut or cooking method, both the USDA and National Pork Board recommend using a digital cooking thermometer to ensure an accurate final temperature.
This is great news for home cooks who can now feel confident in preparing their chops, loins and roasts to a perfect medium. And you can bet that pork cooked to the USDA recommended temperature of 145°F (63°C) will be juicy, tender and perfectly pink.