By Brian Montgomery
Get ready to serve up more of "the other white meat"... the U.S. Department of Agriculture recently confirmed that pork can be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit and allowed to rest 3 minutes before eating. The previously recommended internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit often resulted in dried out, overcooked pork chops and roasts with the texture and flavor of shoe leather..or at least when I'm cooking! Check out the new pork preparation guidelines on the USDA's site.
The new lower cooking temperature, partially a result of advances in food safety and handling, should result in juicer, more flavorful meat, said to be similar to cooking red meat to a "medium" level of doneness. Changes in breeding practices have made modern-day pork very, very lean yet high in protein. A pork tenderloin trimmed of fat is leaner than even chicken--these new cooking guidelines will help chefs and backyard grill masters alike stop the cooking process while much of the flavor remains!
Perhaps more consumers looking to lower their red meat intake will give pork a second chance, if chicken or turkey was their former go-to? The National Pork Board hopes so I'm sure.
As when cooking and handling any meat, it's important to maintain safe storage and handling practices when preparing pork to these new guidelines. And be sure to check for proper doneness with a good probe thermometer to make sure you've reached 145 degrees Fahrenheit at the thickest part.