Cooking pork so that 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 has implications on the way it should be cooked. Care should be taken to not overcook pork because there is less fat to moisten and to add flavor to the meat. It was once thought that pork must be cooked to an internal temperature of 185°F. In 2011 the United States Department of Agriculture 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 into 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. The rest period allows the meat to be cooked to a safe temperature and served at best quality and less likely to be dry.

Trichinosis, in particular, is 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. In fact, between 1997 and 2001, only 12 cases per year were reported. Trichinosis is now more often associated with eating raw or undercooked wild game than it is with pork. 

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 is safe to eat. The pink color can be due to the cooking method, added ingredients, or other factors. As always, 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 safe way to determine if meat has reached a sufficient temperature is 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.

Finally, the new and lower cooking temperature does not apply to ground pork. That still must be cooked thoroughly to 160 °F to be safe.

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