If you're one of those pork connoisseurs who prefers your chop or tenderloin to be pink in the middle, rest assured: As of Tuesday, the USDA says you're in the clear as far as food-borne illness is concerned.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food Safety and Inspection Service has lowered its temperature recommendation for cooking pork to 145 degrees -- down from 160. (This means that pork will be held to the same standard as beef, veal, and lamb.) Moreover, it is recommended to let the pork rest for three minutes after removing it from the grill or oven; the temp will continue to rise slightly while killing any remaining pathogens.
Of course, there's an inherent irony in the fact that the USDA is lowering pork's minimum temperature ...
It's that professional chefs have been cooking pork this way FOR YEARS! Now home cooks and backyard barbecuers can finally catch up to the restaurant standard without worry. But the question is: Will they?
The USDA's longstanding 160 degrees recommendation is so ingrained in our minds, it may be difficult for some to adjust to the new temp, explains Rob Weland, a chef at an upscale restaurant in Washington:
People have been taught this for generations and it's going to take a long time to get this removed ... It will be good for the next generation not to be so fearful so they can enjoy pork in a way they may not have been able to in the past.
Pork producers have been lobbying the USDA for years to lower the recommendation, arguing that improved feed and housing methods -- namely, moving hogs into bird- and rodent-proof buildings -- reduced the risk of pathogens and disease. From the consumer point of view, it's surprising to learn they were successful this time around given all the recent horror stories in the media about how factory farms are harmful to animals, the environment, and most important, the public.
But if there's nothing worse to you than a piece of overcooked pork, news about the lower temp recommendation will surely make your day. Bring on the pink pork!
What temperature do you cook your pork to?
Image via VirtualErn/Flickr