Is Pink Pork Safe to Eat?

Even if your meat thermometer reaches a safe 145°F, can pork be pink? We'll explain.

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Growing up, the answer to “Can pork be pink?” was an absolute no. The only pork we ate was gray, tough, and chewy. That’s not a knock to my mother’s cooking; she followed the guidelines established at that time, cooking pork to the safe temperature of 160°F. Sadly, that “safe” pork was also overcooked.

Luckily for pork lovers, the United States Department of Agriculture—the organization responsible for determining minimum safe food temperatures—revised their recommendations in 2011. Now, pork is safe to eat when it reaches 145°F. The lower temperature means your pork will be juicy, tender, and delicious, but it may also have a hint of color. Pork is considered one of the safest types of meat to eat; do you know the others?

So, is pink pork safe?

In short, yes! We used to be afraid of pink pork because of a parasite known as trichinosis, but the risk of contracting it is virtually nonexistent these days. Like beef, pork temperatures are designed to cook the meat long enough to nix E. coli, which means it may have a little color in the middle. But make sure to avoid this mistake when cooking pork.

How do you know when pork is done?

The best way to know when pork is finished cooking is to use a meat thermometer (and to get the most accurate use out of the thermometer, make sure you’re cleaning it correctly). Sure, you can do a poke test or probe it with a skewer to see if the juices run clear, but these methods don’t tell you for sure that your meat has reached a safe temperature. (Taste of Home‘s Test Kitchen swears by the Thermapen Mk4.)

After you let the meat rest for at least five minutes, slice into it; it should be pale white with a hint of pink. That color doesn’t indicate anything nefarious—at 145°F, your pork is at a “medium rare” temperature. You would expect to see some pink in a medium rare steak, so don’t be surprised to find it in your pork chops!

If the pink color freaks you out, you can continue cooking it until it reaches 155°F. It will still be tasty, but it won’t be quite as juicy. Cook it much past this point, and you’ll want to serve it with a good sauce to cover up the dry bits. In case you’ve ever wondered, here’s what pork would tell you if it could talk.

What about ground pork?

It’s never OK to undercook any ground food products, like pork, beef, veal, or poultry. Grinding meat introduces air into the mix along with potential bacterial contaminants, so it’s safest to cook ground meat to 165°F. This is how long different types of meat last in the refrigerator. 

Originally Published on Taste of Home

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Lindsay D. Mattison
Lindsay D. Mattison is a professional chef and a food writer. After graduating from Cascade Culinary school, Lindsay became the Executive Chef at Jackson's Corner in Bend, OR, from 2013 to 2016. Her genuine passion for food and sustainable food practices led her to find the farmer in herself. She lives in Durango, CO, where she enjoys the trials and errors of small plot farming. Lindsay is currently working on a cookbook that teaches home cooks how to craft beautiful meals without a recipe, tentatively titled "The Art of Bricolage: Cultivating Confidence and Creativity in the Kitchen."