One of the most common meat misconceptions is that pink meat, such as pink pork, isn't cooked well enough and shouldn’t be eaten. But there are situations in which this isn’t true, and it’s safe to eat pork even if it’s pink.
I’ve been on a carnivore diet for over ten years, and pork is the most common kind of meat I eat. I checked the available online information and talked with a chef to find out if pink-colored pork is safe.
Here’s everything you need to know.
- Pork is safe to eat when the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees.
- There’s no reason for concern if there's a pink color after you finish cooking pork.
- Ground meat should be cooked at a higher temperature than 145 degrees.
Is Pink Pork Safe?
Yes, pink pork is safe. Most people think pork is pink because it’s undercooked, but it can also be pink for other reasons.
There are chemical reactions between amino acids in the proteins in pork. These chemical differences can make different meat cuts come out pinker even if you cook the pork for the prescribed amount of time.
For example, nitrates are chemicals used as additives to enhance the food color. The reaction between nitrates and protein stops the oxygen from releasing, and the pink color remains, although the pork roast is cooked.
Pork can be pink because of the specific cut you have. For example, pork belly is leaner than pork loin. It has more myoglobin, so there’s a higher chance it’ll stay pink.
Finally, your pork could be pink because of the cooking method. Grilling and searing the pork at a high temperature can make the proteins denature quickly. They don’t have the time to change color, which results in pink meat.
None of these mean you’re eating undercooked pork, but the pork is safe to eat.
Overall, color is an unreliable indicator of the doneness of cooked pork.
It’s always best to check the internal temperature to know if your meat is done. This way, you don’t have to eat undercooked pork.
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Why Do People Fear Pink Pork?
People fear pink pork because they think it has trichinosis. Trichinosis is a disease caused by eating pork because the meat has infected parasites.
Trichinosis was a common condition in domesticated swine in the US, and people were advised by the USDA to cook the pork until it reached 160 degrees.
This led to people assuming pork needs to be gray or brown and extremely well-cooked, to kill the infected parasites.
However, advances in modern farming practices resulted in very low trichinosis cases. Nowadays, there are higher chances of getting trichinosis from eating undercooked game meats than cooked pork.
The Safest Way to Cook Pork
The safest way of cooking pork is to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.
In 2011, the USDA lowered the safe cooking temperature for pork to 145 degrees and a three-minute rest time .
After the rest time, your pork chops and pork tenderloin should be pale white with a hint of pink. The pink doesn’t indicate the pork is unhealthy. It’s safe to eat as long as its temperature is 145 degrees.
“Cook pork, roasts, and chops to 145 ºF as measured with a food thermometer before removing meat from the heat source, with a three-minute rest time before carving or consuming. This will result in a product that is both safe and at its best quality—juicy and tender.”
Note: If you feel uneasy eating slightly pink pork, you can continue cooking it until it reaches 155 degrees. However, this pork roast won’t be as juicy.
Also, if you’re cooking ground pork, you should cook it until it reaches 165 degrees .
Grinding meat introduces air with potential bacteria into the meat, so it’s best to cook ground meat at a higher temperature than regular meat.
Here’s how to know each cut of pork is safe to eat:
- Pork loin — Cook it for 20 minutes until it reaches 145 degrees. It’s done even if there’s pink in the middle.
- Pork chop — Cook until the middle pork reaches 145 degrees. You’ll have flavorful meat if the outside is white and the inside slightly pink.
- Pork ribs — This pork is cooked when it turns white, and you can easily pull the meat off the bone. Sometimes ribs cooked at 145 degrees can be tough and chewy, so you can cook it until the pork temperatures reach 180 degrees.
- Pork butt — Is very thick and should be cooked until the temperature reaches 200 degrees.
Is It OK if the Pork is a Little Pink?
Yes, it’s OK if the pork is a little pink. This happens for several reasons, and pork chop is safe to eat if the internal temperature of the meat is 145 degrees.
How Do You Know if Pork is Undercooked?
You know the pork is undercooked if the juices that come from it aren’t clear or pink. Use a fork to poke a hole in the pork chops, and check if it's tender and what color the juices are.
How Pink is Too Pink for Pork?
If the pork is very pink, more than slightly pink in the center, it’s too pink for pork. Pork should be cooked medium rare and only slightly pink in the middle.
Should You Eat Pink Pork?
In most cases, pink pork is fine, and you can eat it. Always check the internal temperature. It’s best to use a digital meat thermometer, as it has the most accurate reading. Once the rare pork reaches 145 degrees, it’s cooked, even if there’s some pink color.
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