If you’ve always cooked your pork roasts to 160 degrees, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has changed its recommendation for cooking pork. The new suggested temperature is 145 degrees, but that temperature is only safe if the pork is permitted to rest for a full three minutes after removing it from the oven and before cutting into it and serving it.
The rest period is essential. It allows the roast to stay hot, or even continue heating, to be certain to eliminate any pork-related pathogens that can cause foodborne illness, including Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes, as well as Trichinella spiralis, which causes trichinosis.
Trichinosis in particular is associated with undercooked pork, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that over the last decade or two, the number of cases has greatly declined. In fact, between 1997 and 2001, only 12 cases per year were reported. Trichinosis is now more associated with eating raw or undercooked wild game than it is with pork.
The lower cooking temperature will help keep the roast from drying out. In fact, the rest period assists with that, as well. Letting meat rest for a few minutes between cooking and slicing and serving is often recommended as a way to help keep meat juices in the meat instead of running onto the cutting board or your plate.
It might look odd to you, but pork, like other meats, might remain pink even after it reaches a safe temperature. As with other meats, don’t rely on what it looks like to determine if it’s done or not. It’s always recommended to check doneness with a meat thermometer.
Still, USDA does offer estimates of cooking times for different cuts of pork on the Food Safety and Inspection Service’s “Fresh Pork from Farm to Table” Web page.
Finally, the new, lower cooking temperature does not apply to ground pork. That still must be cooked thoroughly to 160 degrees to be safe.
Chow Line is a service of Ohio State University Extension and the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center.