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New Pork Cooking Guidelines Similar for Beef

Don’t forget to use a meat thermometer when cooking pork or beef.

New cooking guidelines for pork can help people cooking beef, too.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced this week that pork steaks, chops and roasts are safe to eat if they are cooked to a minimum internal temperature of 145 F and allowed to rest for three minutes before carving or consuming them. The USDA previously recommended those pork cuts be cooked to at least 160 F.

The new guidelines for pork are the same as for beef roasts and steaks, which should reduce confusion and help people remember the correct temperature, according to Julie Garden-Robinson, North Dakota State University Extension Service food and nutrition specialist.

Ground pork, like ground beef, still needs to be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F, however.

Pork muscle cuts such as chops, roasts and steaks still may be pink even if they reach the proper internal temperature. The USDA says the meat should be OK to eat if it has reached 145 F throughout.

The guideline change comes at the time of year when pork becomes a popular menu item and North Dakotans are firing up their grills.

“So whether you head to the grill or cook indoors, don’t forget your food thermometer for both safety and quality reasons,” Garden-Robinson says.

The new recommendation evolved from a 2007 Pork Checkoff-funded research project that Ohio State University conducted to measure consumer eating preferences, NDSU Extension swine specialist David Newman says. Ohio State researchers also tested how various cooking temperatures affected eating preferences.

That led to the question of whether pork cooked to temperatures below 160 F would be safe to eat if that turned out to be consumers’ preference. Texas A&M conducted a Pork Checkoff-funded risk assessment to evaluate the food safety implications of cooking temperatures in the 145- to 160-degree range.

Researchers found that cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145 F and maintaining the temperature for three minutes was equivalent to cooking it to 160 F.

Newman thinks the revised guidelines are good news for pork producers.

“Consumer research shows that people tend to overcook pork, and the new guidelines will help people eat pork when it is juiciest and tastiest, which should increase the demand for pork,” he says.

Garden-Robinson says that in addition to cooking pork to the proper internal temperature, cooks should follow these food safety rules:

  • Select pork just before checking out at the grocery store, and put the raw meat into disposable plastic bags, if possible, to contain any leakage that could contaminate other food.
  • Cook raw pork within three to five days of purchasing it or freeze it.
  • Store raw pork in the coldest part of the refrigerator or meat drawer. Keep it below ready-to-eat foods to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Thaw pork in the microwave or refrigerator, not in the sink or on the counter. Microwave-thawed meat should be cooked immediately.
  • Wash your hands for 20 seconds with soap and warm running water before and after handling food.
  • Keep cutting boards used for cutting raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods.
  • Marinate pork in the refrigerator in a covered container for up to five hours.
  • Never brown or partially cook pork, then refrigerate it and finish cooking it later. However, you can precook pork partially immediately before transferring it to a hot grill to finish cooking it.

For more information on handling and cooking pork, check out NDSU Extension’s publication “Now Serving: Lean Pork!” at http://www.ag.ndsu.edu/pubs/yf/foods/fn1475.pdf.

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NDSU Agriculture Communication - May 25, 2011

Source:Julie Garden-Robinson, (701) 231-7187, julie.garden-robinson@ndsu.edu
Source:David Newman, (701) 231-7366, david.newman@ndsu.edu
Editor:Ellen Crawford, (701) 231-5391, ellen.crawford@ndsu.edu
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