A dieter’s go-to meat – chicken – can get old really fast, so you may decide to move on to pork for lean protein that is quick to cook and delicious. However, to keep pork juicy and flavorful, people often eat it when it’s still slightly pink in the center. Unfortunately, fear of getting sick has lots of home cooks charring their pork into oblivion, taking all the flavor with it. The debate surrounds dangerous bacteria that need to be cooked away, while still maintaining flavor.
Trichinosis parasites can reside in pork, though the experts say that they are very unlikely in today’s grocery stores and butcher shops. Trichinella parasites are killed, according to various food scientists and chefs, at 137 degrees. Therefore, lots of foodies call for at least 140 degrees, though most state 160 degrees Fahrenheit for finishing your chops. As long as you’ve hit the 140 mark, you should be in the clear! Freezing meat also kills some of those nasty microorganisms at -10 degrees Fahrenheit, so stocking up when pork is on sale is a great idea.
On the flip side, the USDA encourages you to cook pork to 160 or 170 degrees internally, despite the fact that Trichinella spiralis have been practically wiped out since 1950. The argument is also supported by the need for killing bacteria on the outside of the meat.
Get a Meat Thermometer
Buy a good quality meat thermometer at a cooking store. Pull meat off the heat and place the thermometer in the center. Let it sit for about a minute and check the temp. Put it back on the heat if it hasn’t hit your goal temperature of 140 degrees, or let it rest if it has.Â Be sure to clean the thermometer each time you use it, but do not submerge in water – that could compromise the accuracy.
Still a Skeptic?
If you are still concerned about food borne illness, and plan to keep cooking until well done, consider marinating your pork in tenderizing ingredients like vinegar or citrus juices. Rub pork chops with a mixture of minced garlic, yellow or Dijon mustard and rosemary, for example, and let sit in the fridge for 20 to 30 minutes. The vinegar in the mustard will help tenderize the fibers in the meat, giving the illusion of moister meat.
Steer clear of bone-in meat when you plan to put your pork on the grill. Boneless pork chops cook more evenly, ensuring that it is done all the way through, rather than overcooked in one part and pink near the bone. Try tossing your chops in the crock pot with a little chicken stock and spices or chopped chilies and make carnitas! Top them with veggies in a low calorie corn tortilla for a meal with minimal cleanup.
Slightly pink pork is not likely to make you sick. Take a few precautions or try alternative options to enjoy pork without the fear of illness. A little flavoring, and 160 degrees just may not bother you!