Rare Pork


Nicely Marbled Ham Steak

In a very interesting development the USDA has changed their recommendations on cooking meat by lowering the recommended cooking temperature from 165°F to 145°F. This is a very surprising and pleasing move from our fearless leaders. It is extremely unusual for government to backdown and admit that they were wrong. I wonder whether it was the scientific evidence or perhaps the push from food lovers that has led to new rules. Maybe a combination. It isn’t clear. The changes are appreciated as I always felt bad reciting the old rules that say to cook everything until it tastes like shoe leather. Without further ado, here are the new official rules:

USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperature for All Whole Cuts of Meat, Including Pork, to 145 °F

Cooking Temperature for Ground Pork, Beef,
Veal, Lamb remains at 160 °F

Kathy Bernard (301) 344-4764

WASHINGTON, May 24, 2011 – The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is updating its recommendation for safely cooking pork, steaks, roasts, and chops. USDA recommends cooking all whole cuts of meat to 145 °F as measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allowing the meat to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming.

This change does not apply to ground meats, including ground beef, veal, lamb, and pork, which should be cooked to 160 °F and do not require a rest time. The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including ground chicken and turkey, remains at 165 °F.

“With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform 3 minute stand time, we believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation,” said Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen. “Now there will only be 3 numbers to remember: 145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry.”

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USDA is lowering the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 °F to 145 °F and adding a three-minute rest time. The safe temperature for cuts of beef, veal, and lamb remains unchanged at 145 °F, but the department is adding a three-minute rest time as part of its cooking recommendations. Cooking raw pork, steaks, roasts, and chops to 145 °F with the addition of a three-minute rest time will result in a product that is both microbiologically safe and at its best quality.

Why the Rest Time is Important

A “rest time” is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature, after it has been removed from a grill, oven, or other heat source. During the three minutes after meat is removed from the heat source, its temperature remains constant or continues to rise, which destroys pathogens. USDA’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has determined that it is just as safe to cook cuts of pork to 145 °F with a three minute rest time as it is to cook them to 160 °F, the previously recommended temperature, with no rest time. The new cooking suggestions reflect the same standards that the agency uses for cooked meat products produced in federally inspected meat establishments, which rely on the rest time of three minutes to achieve safe pathogen reduction.

Appearance of Cooked Pork

The new cooking recommendations clarify long-held perceptions about cooking pork. Historically, consumers have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat. 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 (e.g., cured ham and cured pork chops) will remain pink after cooking.

Appearance in meat is not a reliable indicator of safety or risk. Only by using a food thermometer can consumers determine if meat has reached a sufficient temperature to destroy pathogens of public health concern. Any cooked, uncured red meats – including pork – can be pink, even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature.

For more information about raw pork, including storage information, see our fact sheet. Consumers can also “Ask Karen,” FSIS’ virtual food safety representative, at AskKaren.gov or m.AskKaren.gov.
FSIS USDA Press Release NR_052411_01

Will wonders never cease. So, I’ve updated the cooking notes on the Roasters page in the menu bar above. I do have a couple of roasters and suckling pigs on hand for people who have upcoming events. Get them while they last!

Outdoors: 79°F/50°F Sunny
Tiny Cottage: 77°F/62°F

Daily Spark: “Farming is the worst way in the world to make a living but it’s the best way in the world to raise a family.” -farmer Matt Farmer of Lamesa, Texas quoted in Los Angeles Times article VNews 20110530C

Yes, that really is the farmer’s name. Cool, huh! I keep a list of these.

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About Walter Jeffries

Tinker, Tailor...
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5 Responses to Rare Pork

  1. David Mcmera says:

    I like my burgers rare. I dont think they get up to the full 160F. Did you hear that they are having another food disease out break in eourope? They have traced it to sprouts. I find it very ironic that the vegans make all this loud noise about meat being unsafe to eat but most of the diseases I have read about have been in vegetables. Think about it. Peppers. Mellons. Strawberries. Lettuce. Spinach. Peanuts. Sprouts. There have been many repeated huge recalls on these things for samonella and ecoli.

    • Yes, vegetables certainly aren’t immune to the scourge of spreading disease.

      Interestingly, there was a study put out by the USDA that showed that vegetables were actually more likely to be the source of disease than the various meats. Most of the disease on the vegetables was from the workers handling the produce. Some of the problem came in from poor worker sanitation in the picking fields.

      I suspect another difference is that meat is generally cooked, which kills of most pathogens, while veggies are often eaten raw.

      The problem is primarily one of scale. When something goes wrong at the large farms it affects a lot of people both because they do things in much larger batches to be contaminated and because there are so many more people eating from their products. Small farms are less likely to have this issue and in the rare cases when they do fewer people are affected. Buy locally, buy from small farmers, support your neighborhood in ever expanding circles.

  2. Sheila Z says:

    I’ve been cooking my pork the way they are now finally recommending for a long time. The rest period is the critical part. The juices stay in the meat when you let it sit a few minutes before cutting into it.

  3. Ed says:

    Good news to hear indeed! Especially since my boots are rubber soled now. :->

  4. David Lloyd Sutton says:

    ‘Way back when, my father told me, in the thirties, the public health people recommended cooking to colorlessness for pork because of the risk of Trichina, hookworm. Just one hundred and fifty degrees F for one minute kills trichina cysts. As usual the overcooking was governmental overkill and treating people like dumb peasants.

    Of course, Trichina has become rare in this country, even in the deep south where it was once endemic. I’ve been cooking my pork medium rare for over forty years now. I do wish I lived closer to outlets for your pork, Walter . . . except when I see your snow and ice photos, anyway . . .

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