Pork is probably one of the most consumed meats in the world. It is incredibly versatile.
From smoked pork shoulder to BBQ ribs, pulled pork, and roasted pork tenderloin, pork can be used in several dishes.
However, have you ever noticed how ham has a pink, reddish color?
How about how smoked bacon remains pink even after it has been smoked?
Most meats are cooked until they turn brown, so can pork be pink? Is it safe to eat pink pork?
Why Is Pork Pink After Cooking?
Curing is the biggest reason why pork can be pink. Curing is a food preservation method that uses salt, sugar, nitrates, or nitrates to cure food.
Curing extends the shelf life of meats, and it helps preserve their flavor.
Cured ham and pork chops will remain pink even if it is fully cooked because of the additives it was exposed to.
Additionally, spices and rubs, especially those containing paprika and cayenne pepper, can add a light pink tinge to pork.
Can Pork Be Pink?
If you had asked if pork could be pink 10-12 years ago, the answer would be a resounding no.
The pork was not cooked until it had a gray color and no signs of pink.
However, this gray color often meant eating tough, chewy, overcooked pork.
The reason why pink pork was not recommended in the old days was because of a disease called trichinosis.
Trichinosis is a food-borne illness caused by a microscopic parasite known as Trichinella.
Trichinosis can occur when people consume raw or undercooked meat from animals infected with Trichinella.
Initial symptoms of Trichinosis include abdominal pain, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, and vomiting.
However, more severe symptoms include aching joints, weakness, irritated, itchy skin, high fever, headache, chills, swollen eyelids or face, pink eye, and aching joints.
Severe symptoms of trichinosis may occur 2-8 weeks after you have ingested the tainted meat.
However, the risk of developing trichinosis is scarce these days. Rigorous methods have been put in place to minimize the chance of this illness occurring.
Thankfully, the USDA, which determines the minimum internal safe temperature for consuming food, revised the food safety guidelines regarding pork in 2011.
Today, pork is safe to consume once it has an internal temperature of 145°F.
This decrease in temperature got rid of gray tough, chewy pork chops and replaced them with tender, delicious pork.
Essentially cooking pork to 145°F cooks it long enough to neutralize any bacteria.
How To Tell When Pork Is Done?
Most people are apprehensive about eating meat that has a pink color. However, pork color is not reliable for testing the meat for doneness.
Pork has a pink color that becomes even richer once the meat has been cooked and exposed to air.
Furthermore, cooked pork chops packaged with a vacuum sealer develop a pink color even though they’re thoroughly cooked.
Therefore, the color is irrelevant when it comes to determining pork doneness.
The best way to determine pork’s doneness is by using an instant-read thermometer or a food-safe thermometer. Pork should always be cooked to 145°F.
Remember to insert the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the meat.
Once the pork has a temperature of 145°F, let it rest for at least 3 minutes.
Alternatively, you can poke the pork with a skewer or the tip of the knife to see if the pork’s juices run clear.
If the pork’s juices run clear, the pork is thoroughly cooked. If the juices are unclear, the pork must cook a little longer.
You can also touch the pork to test its texture. Cooked pork has a firm texture that springs back when touched.
In contrast, raw pork is softer and slightly jiggly and does not spring back when touched.
If you are going by the color, cooked pork has a pale white color with a tinge of pink.
Nevertheless, the thermometer is the best and safest technique for determining pork’s doneness. The other methods are less reliable ways to test pork doneness.
If you do not want to consume pink pork, cook the pork until it has a temperature of 155°F.
The pork will still taste delicious. However, it will not be as moist as if it were cooked to 145°F.
Nevertheless, you can always combat the pork’s dryness with a sauce.
Can You Eat Pork Rare?
If you have ever eaten at a steakhouse, you were probably asked how you wanted your steak cooked?
The waiter probably recited a list of degrees of doneness that included rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, and well-done.
Rare is a degree of doneness that refers to the temperature of cooked cuts of beef.
It is only natural to wonder if the same degrees of doneness apply to pork. In short, the answer is no.
Beef and pork are two different types of meats. Furthermore, there is a huge difference between rare pork and pink pork.
Rare is not an option when it comes to pork.
Remember pork must be cooked to 145°F. Rare temperatures range between 125°-130°F.
As you can see, these temperatures are well below 145°F, so consuming rare pork could lead to food poisoning in the form of E.coli, and Salmonella, which can be deadly in some cases.
Yes, both rare pork and pink pork will be pink. However, if you were to cook pork to rare, the exterior will have a pale white color.
The pork’s exterior may also be brown if you seared it. But most of the pork’s interior will be pink.
Fully cooked pork will have a pale white color with a few streaks of pink.
Moreover, the difference is pink pork will be cooked to the recommended temperature. Therefore, pork with a hint of pink is safe to consume.
We were subjected to eating tough, gray chewy, dry pork chops in the past because we were afraid of pink pork.
However, you no longer have to worry if pink pork is fully cooked or safe to consume.
You might also be interested in the following:
- Can Lamb Be Pink?
- Can Ribs Be Pink?
- Can Ground Beef Be Pink?
- Can Burgers Be Pink?
- Can Turkey Be Pink?
- Can Chicken Be a Little Pink?
- Can Sausage Be Pink?
I have been smoking and grilling meat from an early age and enjoy sharing my knowledge and expertise through the hundreds of articles I have written about BBQ. I hope to make everyone’s BBQ journey that little bit easier.