Lower Safe Pork Cooking Temp Means Juicier Meat for All

The United States Department of Agriculture has always been more concerned with health and safety than enabling the creation of delicious meals—but on Tuesday, they made a decision that will improve the way pork has been prepared for generations.

The announcement that the USDA would be lowering pork's safe cooking temperature from 160 degrees to 145 degrees Farenheit was met with applause. Chefs and cookbook authors have been championing slightly rarer pork for quite some time, noting that lean pork cooked to the formerly recommended 160 degrees became tough and dry due to its lack of fat. Diners can now dig into a pork chop with a slightly pink center, worry-free.

In the days before this revision, judging the doneness of your pork was a matter of cooking it until it any traces of pink had vanished. With this new temperature guideline in place, cooking pork is now similar to cooking lamb, beef or veal (all of which have the same 145 degree safe cooking temperature).

Once the desired internal temperature is reached—checked by inserting a thermometer into the thickest part of the cut—the USDA recommends letting the meat rest for three minutes before eating. In this time, its temperature will rise a few additional degrees, killing any remaining pathogens, and allowing the juices to redistribute, making for a moister, tastier piece of pork.

Consumers who are concerned about rosy pork harboring harmful bacteria should note that large producers have been working to improve the safety of feed and living conditions in which the animals are raised. Some producers have opted to raise their pigs indoors, away from birds and rodents that are responsible for spreading some forms of disease.

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