Your grandmother probably always cooked pork ultra done. Perhaps your mother did, too. Funny, though, how those cooking shows often show pork looking a little pink around the edges or more. And folks eat it, right? Yesterday, the USDA put out new meat temperature guidelines for home cooks. Those of us without a Food Network show can now safely say, “Medium,” when asked how we’d like our pork chop cooked. We always knew done-done, dry pork tenderloin just wasn’t so tasty, despite the incredible sauces available for it. But someone in the crowd would often cry foul, or turn up their noses at “underdone” pork. We are now on our way to a great 2011 grilling season, friends. Run to Kowalski’s up on Grand Ave., grab those thick boned-in chops, and light that fire in your Mac-Groveland or Merriam Park backyard. We aren’t saying pork will be the next sushi, but we do have the latitude for a bit of adjustment. Just in time for Memorial Day.
You can ask the USDA questions about food safety, cooking meat, etc. at Ask Karen–
“Ask Karen” is a knowledge base with information for consumers about preventing foodborne illness, safe food handling and storage, and safe preparation of meat, poultry, and egg products. Mobile phone users can access m.askkaren.gov | En Español
To make our temperature-taking easier (and hey, the thermometer sellers are going ape-wild), there are now only
THREE TEMPERATURES TO REMEMBER:
1. 145 degrees Fahrenheit for whole pieces of meat, including pork–plus a three minute resting time after the meat is at 145.
2. 160 degrees Fahrenheit for any ground meat, including pork,lamb, veal, beef
3. 165 degrees Fahrenheit for poultry (still a bit high, but better than the old 180 that killed our roasting chickens and turkeys)
I would recommend trying the 145 for pork once, but would then try a few degrees higher–just to see how you like it. And, this is a big “and,” I like larger pieces of meat to rest longer than three minutes. A large pork tenderloin or a rib roast could rest more than a bit longer than a chop or a pork tenderloin–according to my lights, that is.
TAKING THE TEMPERATURE
Make sure you insert a thermometer (I like instant read thermometers–dishwasher safe ones, in fact) into the thickest part of the meat and wait a few seconds for the temp to “come up.” The thermometer should not be touching bone. If you’re cooking a steak or chop, try inserting the thermometer from the side instead of the top. See below for a thermometer tutorial.
Remember to adjust temperatures and cooking times for old recipes, including this author’s.
For more information:
Read more: LA Times article, “USDA Changes Guidelines for Cooking Pork”
Read the press release from the USDA about the new meat temperature guidelines
List of USDA Fact Sheets about meat preparation safety
Read a tutorial on how to use a thermometer for meat
Recipes and info from The National Pork Board
Fahrenheit/Celsius converter table
Memorial Day activities in St. Paul and Minneapolis