Does pink pork pose problems?
July 13, 2010 11:15 AM   Subscribe

Can pork be eaten when it is still pink inside?

Please help settle a discussion we're having. Does pork have to be cooked until it is white inside? Is pink ok?

In this particular case we've got pork fillets, but information for other cuts welcome too. We're talking about cooking raw pork, not smoked or cured.

Googling leads to differing opinions.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South to Food & Drink (28 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Slightly pink last week and I'm still here.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 11:18 AM on July 13, 2010

Yes. I've eaten raw pork a few times and never suffered any ill effects.
From McGee: "Uncooked garbage was banned as pork feed in 1980, and since then the incidence of trichinosis in the US has declined to fewer than 10 cases annually. Most of these are not from pork, but from game meats such as bear, boar, and varmints."
posted by sanko at 11:20 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

That was "yes, it can be eaten," not "yes, it poses problems."
posted by sanko at 11:21 AM on July 13, 2010

FDA Answer - no it cannot be eaten pink

Real World answer - yes - trichinosis from pigs has not been seen in years and that's why they tell you to cook it well.

Me personally I come down somewhere in the middle - if it is quality pork from a small scale producer (and it is a solid muscle of course) I cook it pink but if it is anonymous supermarket pork I cook it well(usually in a braise of some sort so it is not cardboard like). My understanding is that the risk is similar to non-well done beef.
posted by JPD at 11:21 AM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

Yes, if it's lightly pink and not bloody. Interesting (and surprisingly old) article here, given that the fashionability of eating pinkish pork is relatively recent.

The quality of your supplier matters. If you don't trust your supplier then don't. If you have a problem, the most likely scenario will be worms.
posted by MuffinMan at 11:22 AM on July 13, 2010

When in doubt, buy a digital food thermometer and check for 160 degrees Fahrenheit.
posted by royalsong at 11:23 AM on July 13, 2010

In my experience, white all the way through usually equals dry and/or tough if you're not using a "low and slow" method like smoking or braising.

In the future, cooking with an instant-read thermometer is super easy and produces perfect portions more often.
posted by supercres at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Your parents and grandparents, from whom you likely learned to cook, wisely prepared their pork well done, due to well-founded fear of trichinosis. It was, definitely, a good practice then, but is unnecessary now.
posted by MrMoonPie at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2010

If you cook it just to 150-155 and let it rest to come up another 5 degrees or so, my experience is that it will still look a little pink inside. By which I mean, not that gelatinous raw texture of a rare steak, but slightly rosy rather than white.
posted by cabingirl at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Both are ok, per the USDA, as long as it has reached an internal temperature of 160 °F. You should always check meats with an internal thermometer and not rely on appearance to determine if it is safe to eat.

"Cooked muscle meats can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. If fresh pork has reached 160 °F throughout, even though it may still be pink in the center, it should be safe. The pink color can be due to the cooking method or added ingredients."
posted by stefanie at 11:24 AM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: The USDA recommends cooking pork until an internal temperature of 160 fareinheit, although some sources say that the tricninea are killed at 145. At 160, that leaves you with a slightly pink center, close to medium, and 145 is considered medium rare. I personally prefer my pork medium to medium rare because of the flavor and texture.

The general consensus is that pork in the US is generally safe from food bourn parasites, but safer is better than sorry. There is a trend among restaurants to actually ask how you prefer your pork.
Some links
USDA guidelines
Bon appetit discusses pork temperatures
posted by teleri025 at 11:25 AM on July 13, 2010

Best answer: It kind of depends where your pork is from. In the UK, for example, there haven't been any cases of Trichinella from pork since the 1970s.

If your pork has been reared in South Africa (a guess based on your profile), you might want to check official government advice.

The information here suggests that Trichinella genotype T8 is found in SA, but according to this, that hasn't been identified in humans.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 11:27 AM on July 13, 2010

160 is not pink
posted by JPD at 11:29 AM on July 13, 2010 [3 favorites]

Trichinella is actually killed at 137, which most people would find inedibly rare. I cook pork tenderloin to 150 and it rises to 155 as it rests. It's still quite pink then, but is 100% cooked and juicy.
posted by peep at 11:33 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

160 degrees is not the temperature at which trichinosis is killed; trichinosis bacteria is killed at 137 degrees fahrenheit. 160 degrees is the traditional "well done" temperature. Citation from Serious Eats.

160 degrees seem to have been suggested as a "better safe than sorry" measure which doesn't necessarily yield the best pork. So yes, get a thermometer, but realize that 160 is not the cut off temp. It is actually quite a bit lower.

I eat pink centered pork all the time. For tenderloins or roasts, you have to go far above 160 to get gray/white meat, in my experience.
posted by shownomercy at 11:37 AM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

We always follow the recommended temps, but usually find that pork loin is still vaguely blushing pink in the middle when it reaches the appropriate temperature. The thermometer is more trustworthy than the color.
posted by vytae at 11:46 AM on July 13, 2010

I generally cook pork to about 140-145, depending on how big the piece is and it works out just fine. A large piece like a pork loin roast will rise more as it rests than a small one like a pork chop or pork tenderloin. This is with American pork, so as le morte de bea arthur mentioned, I can't say this is a good idea with your local.pork.
posted by mostlymartha at 11:46 AM on July 13, 2010

When I buy pork from unknown sources I freeze it. Freezing kills everything. Then the next day I thaw it and cook it. Pink inside, well done. Makes no difference.
posted by uauage at 12:15 PM on July 13, 2010

I sous vide pork all the time at 141 F. It comes out completely pink and had no issues.
posted by wongcorgi at 12:32 PM on July 13, 2010

When I buy pork from unknown sources I freeze it. Freezing kills everything.

posted by eas98 at 12:36 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

That's not true uauage.

"Freezing may kill some of the present forms of bacteria. But for the most part, bacteria may simply freeze the growth state and then continue to grow once food has been thawed. A perfect and well known example of bacteria that cannot be killed through freezing is Salmonella. "
posted by royalsong at 12:40 PM on July 13, 2010 [2 favorites]

When I buy pork from unknown sources I freeze it. Freezing kills everything. Then the next day I thaw it and cook it.

Freezing takes some time to kill trichinae; overnight is not sufficient. The CDC says to freeze meat that is less than 6 inches thick for twenty days at 5°F (that's -15°C) in order to kill the parasites that cause trichinosis. Cuts of meat that are thicker than 6 inches would take longer, so they don't recommend it for larger pieces. It's probably more important for bear than for pork.
posted by Ery at 12:42 PM on July 13, 2010

My rule of thumb: as long as it's at least 145F, it's ok to eat. It's usually still pink at this temperature.

I find once it's white, it's too tough to eat.
posted by Koko at 1:11 PM on July 13, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: Thanks everyone, for all the information and citations.

le morte de bea arthur - the link you gave shows Trichinella to be present in South Africa only in certain game meats, so I think I'm safe there. Interestingly, it also says that certain strains of Trichinella are not tolerant to freezing, even if freezing won't kill all other bacteria.

You learn something new every day.
posted by Gomez_in_the_South at 1:30 PM on July 13, 2010

... trichinosis bacteria is killed at 137 degrees ...

Trichinosis is caused by trichina worms, not by bacteria.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 2:49 PM on July 13, 2010

Yeah, a good rule of thumb is that freezing in a kitchen freezer isn't going to kill anything. I wouldn't bet a week on the toilet on it, that's for sure. You would be hard pressed to find a standard freezer that is set at 5 F. It would probably go down that low if you set it for that, but it might start freezing things in the refrigerator portion.

Trichinae may be killed at 137 f, but I bet it is not instant. My memories from food service safety class is that most of those things are on a continuum. So, 160 kills it instantly, but it might need to stay at 137 for a number of minutes to do the same job. That's why sous vide at 141 is perfectly fine, as it stays at that temperature for a very long time.
posted by gjc at 3:48 PM on July 13, 2010

Yeah 160 is very, very well done. Boo.
posted by carlh at 7:32 PM on July 13, 2010

Ooops! I guess I learned something today. Thanks everyone. That said, I'm still alive.
posted by uauage at 1:18 AM on July 15, 2010

« Older How do I use dried oysters?   |   Meds, Exercise & Diet: Who wins? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.