Pork does not have to be well done
Revised cooking guidelines for meat were released by USDA. What does this mean in the kitchen or at the grill?
Most mothers and grandmothers taught their kids to cook pork until it
was well done. This caused it to be dry and have unfavorable eating experiences
for many consumers.
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) has recently revised
their cooking guidelines for whole muscle meats, including pork. Recommended
cooking guidelines for whole muscle cuts of meat is let the meat reach 145°F and then let it rest
for three minutes before eating. The rest period is important because it allows
for additional temperature rise and time for bacteria to be destroyed.
Previous cooking guidelines made pork dry because in recent years pork
has become leaner and contains less marbling. Marbling is the fat within a
muscle that contributes to juiciness and eating pleasure.
Trichanella spiralis is the
culprit for the previous believed need for higher temperature requirements for cooking
pork. Trichanella spiralis is a
parasite that was historically found in pigs. The parasite invaded the muscle
and was transferred through eating under cooked meat. It has been virtually
eliminated from the US pig population. The other good news is that it is killed
when cooked to 137°F.
The new cooking guidelines for pork chops should allow for juicier pork that
results in a more enjoyable eating experience for the consumer.
In addition to following the new cooking guidelines for steaks and
chops, there are other ways to prevent foodborne illness from infecting your
family. Ground meats still need to be cooked to 160°F (http://www.news.msue.msu.edu/news/article/cook_hamburger_to_160_degrees).
Use of a meat thermometer is the only way to ensure you are properly cooking
your meat. Insert a thermometer with a fine tip into the center of the meat,
often through the side of a chop, steak, or burger. Preventing cross
contamination where cooked meats and other foods come in contact with areas
previously used for raw meat preparation such as countertops, cutting boards,
and platters is also essential for proper food safety. Thoroughly disinfect
surfaces and utensils that come in contact with raw meat with hot, soapy water.
Do not let other foods, especially those that will not be cooked like fresh
vegetables and fruits, come in contact with surfaces contaminated with raw
- When grilling or preparing meat, remember the following requirements:
- Whole muscle meats need to be cooked to 145°F followed by a 3 minute
- Ground meats need to be cooked to 160°F (must reach this for at
least 1 second).
- Poultry needs to be cooked to 165°F.