(OKLAHOMA CITY - March 24, 2011) - Ever tried to cut into a pork chop and it was as hard as shoe-leather?
On Tuesday, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service announced that it is safe to cook pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit and let it rest for three minutes. They previously recommended an end cooking temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
This lower temperature will leave pork with a slightly pink center and it will also be melt in your mouth tender.
"This new temperature guideline confirms that today's pork is safe and there is no need to overcook it," said Roy Lee Lindsey, Jr., OPC executive director. "We hope all Oklahomans will notice this change and enjoy lots of tender, safe pork on the grill this summer."
Restaurants are regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which has allowed the lower cooking temperature for a decade.
The USDA made the change after several years of research and talks with producers and food safety experts. Producers proposed the change in 2008, based in part on new production methods that reduced the risk of pathogens, said Ceci Snyder, vice president of marking for the Des Moines, Iowa-based National Pork Board, citing improved feed and housing methods.
The revised recommendation applies to pork whole-muscle cuts, such as loin, chops and roasts. Ground pork, like all ground meat, should be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Regardless of cut or cooking method, both the USDA and National Pork Board recommend using a digital cooking thermometer to ensure an accurate final temperature.
The USDA guidelines for pork now mirror doneness advice for other meats.
"It's great news that home cooks can now feel confident to enjoy medium-rare pork, like they do with other meats," said Guy Fieri, a chef, restaurateur and host of several food-focused television programs. "Pork cooked to this temperature will be juicy and tender. The foodservice industry has been following this pork cooking standard for nearly 10 years."
The new recommendation reflects advances in both food safety and nutritional content of pork in recent years. On average, most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent. In fact, pork tenderloin is now as lean as the leanest type of chicken - a skinless chicken breast.
In addition to the new recommendation to cook pork to 145 degrees Fahrenheit, followed by a three-minute rest time, the USDA food preparation guidelines advise the following:
- Clean: Wash hands and surfaces often
- Separate: Don't cross-contaminate
- Cook: To proper cooking temperatures
- Chill: Refrigerate promptly