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Jun 13, 2002 01:13 PM

The Truth: at what temperature is pork safely cooked...

  • t

and at what temperature does it taste "best."

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  1. I was going to say an internal temp of 160-170F, but thought I'd better check. Anyway, the attached link to "The Other White Meat" site, agrees. They also agree that a bit of a blush to the pork will give you a juicier product. Today's pork just too darned lean.

    Click on "all about pork" and then on "food safety". Pat


    6 Replies
    1. re: Pat Hammond

      It might be worth remembering that the internal temperature of a roast, and even a chop, will rise 5-10* while resting after being cooked and before being served.

      I'd also HIGHLY recommend brining any supermarket-bought pork in a salt/sugar solution before cooking. I find it makes an awfully big difference in taste and texture, and especially in moistness.

      1. re: Pappy
        Peter Hertzmann

        Next time you brine a pork roast, measure the weight before and after brining. I'm finding an increase of 6 to 8% by weight. This accounds for the moister texture of the finsihed product.

        1. re: Peter Hertzmann

          Brining is not quite as simple as added water. The link will take one to an extensive, perhaps exhaustive, review of the process.


          1. re: Tom Hall

            Great article.
            I primarily BBQ pork, and never liked the results I get when brining first. The last line of the article summed up my feelings:
            "With brining, the flavor change in red meat produces a ham-like flavor. While desirable in smoked pork chops, ham, bacon, corned beef, prosciutto, and pastrami, this change in the meat's flavor is not appropriate for traditional forms of barbecue meat, such as pork ribs, pork shoulder and beef brisket."

      2. re: Pat Hammond
        bill pisarra, jr

        Last weekend I was at a farmer's market in Iowa and came upon a pig farmer selling "specialty pork" that he raises. This pork is from a breed called Berkshires, which are not, he assured me, one of those new-fangled lean pigs (which he refuses to raise.) This pork, he went on, is well marbled, and no water added, and would cook and taste like the pork I remember. I bought four rib chops and he was right.

        I'm not sure how well this pork is distributed around the country, but those of you who are lamenting about lean pork might find a source. The link below gives some info about the breed, but not much about where to get it. Perhaps someone has more time than I to research it.

        If you're in the Quad Cities area, the pork I got is from Geest Farms in Blue Grass. They're at the Davenport farmer's market on Saturdays. They sell a number of different cuts, as well as several types of sausage. Looking foward to exploring these as the summer progresses.


        1. re: bill pisarra, jr

          Polyface Farms, located in Virginia, comes to the Dupont Circle producers farmers' market in DC on Sunday mornings. They are "green" raisers of pork, beef, lamb and chicken. The pork they sell is exceptionally delicious, well-marbled and juicy. I don't know which variety of pig they raise, but whenever I prepare and eat some of the meat, I think, 'This must be what pork tasted like in the 18th and 19th century.' Several quite tony restaurants here feature Polyface meat. It costs a lot more than supermarket pork, but it's an entirely different experience, well worth the extra cost.

      3. 135-140 degrees kills trichnosis. 160 degrees is for salmonella and the like, which are historically more of a problem for poultry products than for minimally processed pork (though the vendor needs to adhere to good butcher hygiene, as always).

        Given today's pork, 150 degrees seems reasonable if you find a reputable supplier. It's often worth it to find ethnic butchers who supply a less lean pork than is commonly found in supermarkets; it makes such a difference. Frankly, I find "modern" pork pretty much worthless, and prefer tofu to it (that is not a slam against tofu; I like tofu, though I don't love it).

        1 Reply
        1. re: Karl S.

          There are people in this country who eat pork (and other meats) raw. They claim trich has been eradicated in farmed animals, and the only time you have to worry about it is in boars and other wild pigs. You can find more info in books related to the neanderthal or caveman diet.

        2. p
          Peter Hertzmann

          I've been researching this subject for an article I'm writing and the answer is not as simple as you might expect. The US Government publishes two sets of numbers, one for consumers and one for professionals — the professional number can be significantly lower. It also can vary by cut of meat and manner of preparation. Also, the temperature is not absolute. A lower temperature for a longer time can be as effective as a higher temperature for a short period of time. Furthermore, the surface temperature will be higher for most of the cooking than the internal temperature and it is on the surface that most bacteria you are concerned with reside. The link below is to the portion of the US Food Code that deals with temperatures.

          There is also the concern as to which bacteria you wish to kill — all of which have different temperatures required for their death.

          All that being said, I cook boneless pork roasts in a 425°F oven to an internal temperature of 125°F. At this point, the external temperature is about 160°F. After 10 minutes of resting, the internal temperature will have increased to 145°F and the surface temperature will have fallen to a number slightly less than that. The flavor and texture seem to be optimum at these temperatures.


          1. several years ago i did a story tracking the origin of the 180-degree internal temperature recommendation for turkey that the USDA has established. after days of talking to bureaucrats, it turned out that although all of the harmful bacteria would be killed at something like 5 minutes at 160 degrees, they added another 20 degree "fudge factor" because, they reasoned, most people didn't know how to use thermometers correctly. I think it would take an advanced degree in logic to parse that!

            With pork there are two factors determining temperature: food safety (mainly trichinosis), and palatability. For sheer safety, I'm satisfied that the meat is safe at an internal temp of 140 degrees. But i find that pork cooked to that temperature still has a metallic flavor that i don't like (frequently, in scientific literature, this is described as "serumy"). On the other hand, of course, if you cook pork too far, it will have the texture of wallboard. To my taste, an internal doneness of 150 to 155 degrees, with a rest to 160 to 165 is right. YMMV.
            Also, there is a difference in cuts. Roasting the butt is much less temperature-sensitive than the loin because it has a much higher percentage of fat, making it stay moister much longer.

            2 Replies
            1. re: russ parsons

              Correct. For some reason, my prior post on this point, which appeared, then disappeared with no explanation....

              I frankly find "modern" pork to be useless, and prefer tofu to it (I like tofu, but don't love it); I seek out ethnic butchers who have a customer base that prefers pork closer in style to old fashioned pork.

              1. re: Karl S.

                Sorry, Karl, there's a technical problem with your first post. It does show up as a reply to the original post, but no where else. We're looking into the problem.

            2. I've also heard that freezing pork kills the trichosis worm (can anyone confirm), so you could then cook it to a lower temperature. or even carpaccio the baby...

              Have had medium pork (pink inside) in a couple of decent joints (gavroche in london, evans gourmet cafe in south tahoe)


              3 Replies
              1. re: Jon Tseng

                It does not work for large cuts (say, more than a few inches thick); you need to freeze below 5 degrees F for at least 3 weeks. So, you need a very reliable thermometer and must set your freezer fairly low to reach that temperature consistently.

                1. re: Jon Tseng
                  Peter Hertzmann

                  It is my understanding that the standards set by the USDA for commercial packers of raw pork products, such as producers of dry sausages, is that the pork must be frozen at -20°F for 6 ot 12 days, or -10°F for 10 to 20 days, or at -5°F for 20 to 30 days. These temperatures kill any trichinae present. They also die at 137°F. Commercially raised hogs fed cooked feed should be free of trichinae anyway.

                  1. re: Peter Hertzmann
                    Karl Plumridge

                    Is it safe to freeze pork cassarole which has been cooked with fresh pork?