Cooking pork: It's all about 145

This photo shows the differences in pinkness on the inside when a cut of pork is cooked longer. Experts say a little pink is safe to eat as long as the temperature reaches 145 degrees. (Photos courtesy of Iowa Pork Producers Association)

Pork tenderloin is among the cuts that should be cooked to between 145 and 160 degrees.
Pete Temple
Express Sports/Ag Editor

     The key number is 145.

     That is, 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which according to experts is the recommended internal temperature to make sure your cooked pork products are not only safe to eat, but are also delicious.

     “I think there are many people who simply don’t know what the internal temperature of their pork needs to be, to be safe, so they err on the ‘safe side’ and overcook it,” said Kelsey Byrnes, consumer outreach director for the Iowa Pork Producers Association (IPPA).

     Byrnes said that for whole muscle cuts, such as the pork loin and pork chop, the recommended internal temperature is 145.

     “Not only does this result in a safe product, but also one that is juicy, tender and delicious,” Byrnes said.

     “When cooked to 145 degrees, the pork will be slightly pink in the center. A little bit of pink is completely fine. It is a sign of a juicy, tender product, and as long as it has reached 145, is completely safe to eat.”

     Byrnes, who grew up on a pig, corn and soybean farm outside of Wellman, Iowa, has worked with the IPPA for two years. With the association, she is in charge of social media and youth programs. During October, she also assists with the promotion of pork products as part of the IPPA’s #porktober18 campaign.

     She said overcooking the meat subjects it to drying out.

     “The leaner the cut, the more susceptible it is to getting dried out,” she said. “However when cooked properly, these cuts are just delicious.”

     Other cuts are less prone to overcooking.

     “The pork shoulder is less susceptible to drying out because there is more intermuscular fat,” Byrnes said. “The same goes for other roast cuts. These cuts are typically cooked longer, beyond 145 degrees, and are really great after a few hours in the slow cooker; perfect for these chilly months.”

     To check doneness properly, use a digital cooking thermometer to measure the temperature at the thickest part of the cut without touching any bone.

     The IPPA also recommends that once the desired internal temperature has been reached, remove the product from heat and let it rest for three minutes before serving.

     “Another common mistake would be cutting the meat too early,” Byrnes said. “That three-minute rest period after cooking the meat is worth the wait, as it helps hold the moisture in.”

     Byrnes recommends cooking pork loin, tenderloin and chops to 145-160 degrees, and ground pork to 160 degrees. Ribs and roasts should be cooked until tender.

     As for preparation methods, the IPPA suggests the following:

     • Grilling for both small cuts cooked over direct heat and large pork cuts cooked with indirect heat.

     • Broiling for small cuts such as chops, kabobs and pork patties.

     • Sauteing for small pork cuts such as chops, cutlets and strips.

     • Pan-broiling for chops, tenderloin medallions, ham slices, bacon, and ground pork patties.

     • Roasting for large pork cuts – loin roasts, shoulder roasts, ham, and leg roasts.

     On the IPPA website, it is noted that today’s pork products are leaner than those in the past, and thus more prone to overcooking.

     “Pork has certainly become more lean,” Byrnes said. “In fact, pork has 16 percent less fat and 27 percent less saturated fat than it did in 1991. Farmers have bred pigs to be more lean due to consumer demands in the 1980s and ‘90s.

     “This makes the 145 cooking temperature even more critical with the super lean cuts.”


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