Pork that’s still pink in the middle freaks people out. But we have great news: If you’re used to cooking all cuts of pork to 165°F, you don’t have to (over)cook it that high anymore!
Here’s what to know.
At What Temperature is Pork Done?
Here are the current USDA recommendations:
- Pork chops, pork loin, and pork tenderloin: Cook to 145° F (63° C), then rest 3 minutes.
- Ground pork: Cook to 160° F (71° C). Grinding pork exposes more surface area to bacteria, so it needs to be cooked to a higher temperature than other cuts of pork.
Keep in mind that pork cuts like pork shoulder and ribs have a much better texture and flavor when cooked to 180-195° F. These cuts need higher temperatures to break the collagen down and make them melt-in-your mouth tender.
But pork loin, pork tenderloin, and pork chops? Those you can—and should—cook to only 145° F.
The Legendary Pork Loin recipe in my book Tasting Ohio comes from no less a pork authority than the Ohio Pork Council. It’s tender and juicy and the best pork loin ever, largely because it’s pulled off the grill at 145° F. Today’s pork is bred to be much leaner, so it’s easier to overcook than it was years ago.
How to Take Pork’s Internal Temp
- Use an instant-read thermometer. Trustworthy models can run under $10 and have a dial (analog) or a digital readout. Often you can pick one up at the grocery store.
- Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the pork. Ensure the thermometer stem doesn’t touch any bones, which can throw off the temperature reading. Leave it there until the temperature holds steady.
- Wash the thermometer thoroughly with hot, soapy water after every use. Do not reuse the thermometer without washing it first, since it can cause cross-contamination.
What’s Trichinosis, and Do You Need to Worry About It?
In short, nope. Phew!
If a meat lover can name one parasitic infection, it’s trichinosis. It’s contracted when people eat raw or undercooked meat from animals carrying the larvae of Trichinella worms.
Even though trichinosis has been eradicated in pork for decades, fear about it persists. Why? Well, it’s memorably disgusting—parasitic worms!
How did we stop trichinosis in pork, anyway? Starting in the mid-20th century, producers stopped including raw meat in pigs’ feed.
Current chances of contracting trichinosis from pork are very low. Between 2011 and 2015, there were 16 trichinosis cases per year on average, and those were mostly from wild game, not pork.