My sister took a parasitology class in college that led to the ruin of any steak that would cross her plate for the rest of her life. Seriously, those pictures in her textbook are to blame for the horse saddles that she calls well-done steaks.
I can also remember her being icked out by trichinosis, a parasitic disease caused by eating raw or undercooked pork. And who could blame her? I certainly do not want trichinosis. For years, the United States Department of Agriculture has recommended that pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill the bug.
Until now! The big news in food safety circles this week is that the USDA has lowered the recommended cooking temperature for pork to 145 degrees with a 3-minute resting period, which puts it in line with the recommended temps for beef, lamb and veal. You know if the USDA has decided to make this change, they have probably studied the issue ad nauseum.
Here are a few important points to remember:
* As part of the new guidelines, pork should be cooked to 145 degrees, tested with an accurate meat thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the cut, and then allowed to rest for three minutes. The rest time is important because the temperature either holds or rises during that time, ensuring the destruction of evil bugs.
* Beef, veal and lamb also should be allowed to rest for three minutes after they reach 145 degrees.
* The USDA still recommends that you cook any GROUND pork, beef, lamb, veal or a mixture of those meats to 160 degrees.
* The USDA still recommends that poultry be cooked to 165 degrees to ensure safety.
* The new cooking temperature recommendation means that your pork may still be a bit pink inside even if it is safe to eat. So the old idea that pink pork means undercooked pork is not necessarily true. The only way to know for sure is to invest in a good meat thermometer (I recommend digital) and use it.
I’m not sure this new recommendation is going to change everyone’s behavior. For one thing, some people already felt that 160 degree pork was overcooked, so they took the risk in order to have juicier, more tender pork. Second, some people are never going to feel comfortable eating pink pork no matter what the USDA says.
Do you fall into one of those groups? Will this change the way you cook pork?