USDA Sez You Can Stop Cooking Your Pork Chops to Death


American home cooks have been cheerfully ignoring the Department of Agriculture's guidelines for cooking beef for decades, enjoying burgers with juicy centers and rare steaks. But those same beef rebels turn into wimps when it comes to pork, cooking their pig to a consistency that makes the other white meat taste more like an alternative to traditional footwear. This crime against chops is committed many, many thousands of times a day in American homes thanks to a massive public awareness campaign about the dangers of pork-borne trichinosis.

new USDA spokespig?

Turns out, science sez pink pork is OK after all. This is something high-end chefs have known for years. Especially after breaking the bank on top-of-the-line fancypants pork product, it seems morally wrong to cook it to death. So they quietly started a pink pork pride movement. But really, even your run-of-the-mill plastic and Styrofoam chops are perfectly safe at a much lower temperature than the official recommendation.

On Tuesday, the USDA decided to lead by following, revising their guidelines to make pork that's pink inside a government-approved taste treat. The new rules appeared in a press release with this headline pairing (which made me slightly jealous of the people who write USDA press releases). 

USDA Revises Recommended Cooking Temperature for All Whole Cuts of Meat, Including Pork, to 145 °F

Cooking Temperature for Ground Pork, Beef, Veal, Lamb remains at 160 °F

Here's the skinny:

The new cooking recommendations clarify long-held perceptions about cooking pork. Historically, consumers have viewed the color pink in pork to be a sign of undercooked meat. If raw pork is cooked to 145 °F and allowed to rest for three minutes, it may still be pink but is safe to eat. 

And of course, the USDA officially reminds you about the color of ham:

As always, cured pork (e.g., cured ham and cured pork chops) will remain pink after cooking.

Thank god government officials are working tirelessly to keep us safe and well-informed.

Enjoy (for the second time today!) one of's grosser videos featuring a mound of decidedly undercooked pork:

Via tipster queen Courtney Knapp.

NEXT: Tyler Cowen Review: "This is the up-to-date statement of libertarianism"

Editor's Note: We invite comments and request that they be civil and on-topic. We do not moderate or assume any responsibility for comments, which are owned by the readers who post them. Comments do not represent the views of or Reason Foundation. We reserve the right to delete any comment for any reason at any time. Report abuses.

  1. That’s right, waiter, make my pork chops medium rare.

    1. I can’t even get anywhere but steak houses and very good restaurants to give me a “rare” burger or steak. Well, sometimes the steak will end up medium rare. But even though I say “I want it rare. I mean bloody“, they just ignore you and overcook it.

      That’s why I just do it myself. Or make steak tartare instead.

      1. I’ve been noticing that. Our cafeteria at work has a notice that they won’t serve anything less than medium. I’ve encountered it in a couple of chain restaurants, too.

        I generally like beef medium rare, but I mean just medium rare, not almost medium.

      2. I mostly just make my own steaks as well, at this point.

        But I had a student who was also a hostess at the fancy steak place in town. I explained my concerns and she said to use the lingo so that the waiter and the cook staff knows that I know what I’m ordering. I ask for “rare plus.” Which is what I consider a home-cooked medium rare.

        Your lingo may vary.

        1. If you ask for the steak “blue” you will also get it rare like you (I) want. “Very rare” will also work.

          1. “Alive” works for me.

        2. When you say “make”, you don’t mean that you create them in some underground laboratory. Because that’s what I envision.

          Also, do you order your haggis rare or well-done?

          1. I do cackle a lot while cooking. And I verbally abuse my sous chef, Igor.

      3. How does squirrel steak taste? You haven’t eaten your kitten tartare too?

      4. Send it back. Make a scene.

        1. I agree with Pro L as far as how I like my steaks/burgers cooked. I’ve also been cooking pork “medium” forever. My friends and family think it’s like chicken and that it has to be cooked throughout. There have been many debates about this. Maybe they all work for teh USDA.

      5. It’s not that they ignore you, they’re just incompetent cooks. I assuming you’re talking about the Applebees or Texas Longhorns type places, though it’s beyond me why anyone would order a steak there. Either go to a decent steakhouse or make it at home. I’ve got a digital thermometer and they come out a perfect mid-rare every time.

  2. Pork must first be brined, then cooked to a delicious medium rare.

    1. Exactly. I do a nice brine of my thick chops from the Ruhlman book, “Charcuterie,” then sear on both sides at about 6-700*, then cook to a nice medium doneness at 400*. Ain’t nobody gotten sick yet.

      1. Yes. Brining. Gives even incompetent cooks a fighting chance.

      2. Yeah, I’m a big fan of brining chops or tenderloin. I usually cook them in a stovetop smoker with apple or hickory. Finish on a cast iron grill or under the broiler. I shoot for 145-150 internal temperature. Juicy, pink, and delicious.

  3. If I could only eat one animal for the rest of my life….

    1. If I could only eat one animal for the rest of my life…. It would be a baby cow that is intraveneously fed Wild Turkey, and bathed daily in melted butter.

    2. I’d have to go with a whale. If you only get one animal, then volume is my main concern.

  4. I had actually gotten quite skilled at cooking pork exactly as long as it took for the center to have just become opaque and absolutely no further. So much better when the juices just pour out of a pork chop when you cut it as opposed to being bone dry.

    1. Grilled just right, they’re DY-NO-MITE!!!

    2. Pork is a great meat. I thank God daily that I’m not Jewish or Muslim. No pork, no lobster, no way.

      1. Yeah, you have to be insane to not eat pork. Think of what that includes: jamon, prosciutto, bacon/pancetta, pork chops, chorizo, ham, the list goes on.

        1. Yeah, my wife was a vegetarian when I met her, and then I finally got her to try some tasty artisanal bacon. Her reaction was “Oh my God, I can’t believe what I’ve been missing!” She’s been a full-on carnivore ever since.

          1. All it took for me to convert my wife was a blue steak. She didn’t care for beef before, but had a similar reaction (“can I have another one tomorrow?”).

        2. Maybe we should, as a national policy, ally strictly with pork eaters. That would end our involvement with the Middle East, right there.

        3. A wonderful magical animal.

      2. I know lots of Jews who eat pork. “Jew” is a state of mind. Enlightened “Jews” renounce the superstitions of their elders and eat well.

        1. Joke. Making joke. For humor purposes.

          1. Noted. No disclaimer required.

            1. Okay then.

              I dated a Jewish girl some years ago. Ate whatever, except with her family on holidays. Went with her to visit her family during Passover–strict dietary conformity required. However, I found that they hadn’t kept kosher at all until fairly recently, and even that only applied to eating at home, not anywhere else. So, apparently, God’s culinary rules don’t apply to restaurants. Or something.

              To be honest, I was confounded by the whole thing. No doubt they felt the same about me, since I couldn’t resist the urge to say–during the Seder–“Hey, this is just like the Last Supper!”

              1. IIRC, the last supper was all men; so your girlfriend was a man. Cool with that 🙂

                1. There may have been some other distinctions as well. For instance, I’m not Jesus.

                  1. You already told us you weren’t a jew

                    1. My lack of Jewishness may not be the only point of difference between me and Jesus.

                    2. We already knew you had a god-complex

                    3. You’re not circumcised?

                2. the last supper was all men

                  Look more closelier.

                3. Evidently you never saw the DaVinci Code.

        2. Jew eat yet?

          1. I thought you were into Korean?

  5. I’ve finally just started asked the waiter for the chef to make the pork ‘as rare as he can’.
    Amazingly, I’ve gotten good results.

    1. I’m not convinced this is always a great idea… but when asked how I’d like my pork or beef, I occasionally say “whatever the chef thinks is best.” It has always yielded superior results, but I’ve only tried it in fancy places.

      And, I swear I think they give you a better piece of meat.

      1. That’s a good idea. I’ll have to try that.

        1. There is something for beef you might try as well… order it “black and blue.” Properly done, it should come out with a dark sear (black) and with a bluish center (blue). IIRC, it comes from searing a very cold steak and letting it spend no time in an oven before resting.

          You have to have a very hot heat source to pull it off. I get close to the effect at home with using an undumped charcoal starter (with lump charcoal) as a blow torch. You also have to dry brine the steak in the fridge, rather than rest it on the counter while the salt forms a pellicule.

        2. Never heard of this, but Pittsburg Rare is “black and blue” in some areas.

  6. Great. To be libertarian now I have to have roundworm? Next you’ll be demanding we undercook everything to spite the government. Say hello to trichinosis’ poultry cousin, chickenosis.

    1. Cast aside your shackles, brother!

    2. Because of inflation, it will be quadchiosis.

      Sadly (or fortunately, as you prefer), because this article was posted yesterday, no one will read this.


  8. Save Medicare! Cut the USDA!

Please to post comments

Comments are closed.