While pork is easily one of the most well-loved meats in the world, cooking pork isn’t always easy, and depending on the cut of pork you’re using, the cooking time will vary. As such, you may end up overcooking or undercooking your pork with disastrous consequences. Below, we provide a guide to getting perfectly cooked pork while addressing the question, “is it safe to eat pork at 145 degrees?”
What is the Recommended Temperature for Cooking Pork?
When you reach the safe internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, you can remove it from the heat source to eat pork. Before 2011, 160 degrees was the recommended cooking temperature by the United States Department of Agriculture but this changed due to technological and farming advancements. The USDA guidelines have since provided new recommendations as follows:
- For medium-rare pork, cook it between 145 to 150 degrees
- For medium-cooked pork, cook it between 150 to 155 degrees
- For medium-well pork, cook between 155 and 160 degrees
- For well-done pork, cook to 160 degrees
If you want to cook according to pork cuts, the National Pork Board recommends using a meat thermometer to follow these pork cooking temperature guidelines:
- Whole muscle cuts such as pork roasts, pork chops, pork loin, bone-in chops, and pork tenderloin should be cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145° F, and 3-minute rest time.
- Ground pork will need to be cooked at 160° F.
- Fresh ham needs to be cooked to 145° F while pre-cooked ham should be reheated up to 140° F.
- Pork ribs, pork shoulder, and pork butt should all be cooked up to 200° F because these cuts contain a lot of collagen which only breaks down at a higher temperature.
Know Food Safety Before You Eat Pork
Harmful bacteria such as E. coli that cause foodborne illness will usually live on the surface, which is why it’s important to cook and eat pork at a safe temperature. Cooking pork at a lower temperature may allow Trichinella spiralis to survive which can then result in trichinosis, an infection that causes food poisoning. While only 13 cases were recorded in 2015 by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), potential bacterial contaminants and other kinds of parasitic worms in meat need to be neutralized using a high temperature to prevent infection.
The best way to cook ground meat is to use a food thermometer — be sure to take a long time and observe the proper cooking temperatures, paying close attention to the center of the meat. Some bacteria may still be lurking, so you will need to implement safer food preparation practices.
What About Pink Pork?
Pork that has a pink color isn’t necessarily raw meat — when it’s cooked to medium-rare, you may see the color pink around the center and this is normal. Some pork products have a high pH level and will keep their pink hue even after it reaches the recommended temperature or higher. You’ll also notice that this color will be more pronounced when you cut off a piece of meat.
However, when working with whole cuts of pork, it’s better to work with a digital thermometer to get an accurate reading and use it on the thickest part of the meat. Depending on the cooking method you’re doing and the type of meat you’re using, you should be able to maintain the proper temperature to eat pork safely.
What to Do With Pork Leftovers?
According to the new guidelines of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, it’s best to let the meat rest after taking it off the heat. Small cuts such as pork chops won’t need more than five minutes, while bigger cuts may need up to one hour when at room temperature. Any leftovers should be refrigerated no later than two hours after it was served — any amount of time after this will expose the meat to the danger zone.
This refers to temperatures between 40 to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, where bacteria can multiply exponentially. When packing your leftovers, be sure to seal them tightly, making sure that air leaves the containers, and keep them at the lowest level in your refrigerator. You should never leave your leftovers by the door of the fridge, since this will expose them to the warm air outside.
Consume all your leftovers in the next four days and if you can’t finish them off by this time, consider freezing the cooked pork. Doing this will ensure that the meat will maintain its quality for as long as six months.
It’s Important to Learn Your Pork Temperatures
For the best quality pork dishes, knowing what temperature to cook a particular cut of meat is a must. Not only will you avoid getting overcooked or undercooked pork, but you’ll also save your family from potential food-related illnesses that may result from neglecting to cook at the right temperature. Thanks to the guidelines outlined above, you can enjoy any cut of pork in a more tender and juicy way.
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