Cook pork so it is juicy and safe to eat

Cooking pork to 145 ° F and letting it rest three minutes makes it juicy and safe.

Pork is leaner today than ever before. This affects the way it should be cooked. Michigan State University Extension recommends that care be taken to not overcook pork. Since there is less fat to moisten and add flavor to the meat it can become dry with overcooking. It was once thought that pork must be cooked to an internal temperature of 185°F. In 2011 the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) changed its recommendation for cooking pork.

Research has shown that cooking pork to 145° F is safe as long as you let the meat rest for a full three minutes after removing it from the oven and before cutting and serving it. The rest period is essential. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens, microorganisms that can make us sick. The rest period allows the meat to not only be safe but also to be served at best quality, moist and tender.

Trichinosis in particular, has been associated with undercooked pork, but according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention the number of cases has greatly declined over the last two decades. According to the most recent data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 66 reported cases of trichinosis from 2002 – 2007. Of these 66 cases, the consumption of pork was responsible for 43 and the rest were caused by eating improperly cooked wild game or unknown sources.

Historically, consumers have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat. The USDA states that if raw pork is cooked to 145 °F and allowed to rest for three minutes, it may still be pink, but it is safe to eat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients or other factors. Cured pork, such as cured ham and cured pork chops, will remain pink after cooking.

Appearance in meat is not a reliable indicator of safety or risk. The only way to determine if meat has reached the temperature to be safe for eating, is to use a food thermometer. Any cooked and uncured red meats, including pork, can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

The lower cooking temperature does not apply to ground pork. Ground pork must be cooked to 160 °F to be safe.

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