When it comes to pork, the guidelines have shifted in terms of what’s considered a safe internal temperature. If you’re still confused about whether it’s safe to consume pork that’s cooked to 150 degrees, we’re here to help you out.
Can You Eat Pork at 150 Degrees Fahrenheit?
Pork is considered safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. At this point, the bacteria that cause food-borne illness can’t survive for long enough to do any damage. However, certain cuts of pork will require a longer cooking time in order to make them palatable.
At What Temperature Is Pork Considered Safe?
When pork reaches a minimum of 145 degrees Fahrenheit, you can safely remove it from the heat. Prior to 2011, the recommended safe temperature was 160 degrees, but that changed due to advances in farming and technology.
For years, pigs that were being bred for slaughter were raised outside, where they were free to consume whatever they chose. This increased the likelihood of exposure to trichinella, the parasite that causes trichinosis.
In order to destroy the trichinella parasite, pork needs to cook to 160 degrees. That’s why the USDA recommended this temperature for so long, even though it often resulted in dry pork.
These days, pig farmers take special safety measures to minimize the risk of exposure to trichinella. Most facilities are indoors, where the animals are kept in clean stalls. The air filtration systems are improved, and monitoring programs notify farmers of any issues that might arise.
You can still cook pork to 160 degrees if you prefer the meat well-done. In general, pork cooked to 145 to 150 degrees is medium-rare, while the range from 150 to 155 represents medium-cooked pork. In between 155 and 160, the pork is considered medium-well.
Why It’s Important
Although the risk of contracting trichinosis from uncooked pork is minimal, you should still cook the pork to at least 145 degrees. At lower temperatures, the E. coli bacteria could still be thriving. As always, it’s better to err on the side of caution.
Can The Pork Be Pink In The Middle?
Pork cooked to medium-rare may still have a pinkish tinge in the center. This is perfectly normal. It’s better to rely on temperature than appearance, which is why it’s best to keep a calibrated instant-read meat thermometer on hand.
When pork has a high pH level, it will stay pink even when it’s cooked to 160 degrees or higher. If this is the case, you’ll notice that the pink color is even more pronounced once you’ve carved the meat into slices.
The bottom line? Never go by color alone when you’re deciding whether to take pork off the smoker. The thermometer is the tool you should rely on.
What Types of Pork Can You Eat at 150 Degrees?
Whole muscle cuts, such as pork loin, bone-in or boneless chops, and pork tenderloin are all safe to consume at 145 degrees. At this temperature, the meat should be tender and juicy. Remember to let the pork rest for a while before you cut into it.
Ground pork, meanwhile, still needs to reach an internal temp of 160 degrees before you dig in. Why the difference? It has to do with the nature of the bacteria that you’re trying to destroy.
The bacteria that cause food-borne illness exist primarily on the surface of the meat. When you cook a whole muscle cut like a pork chop, the surface is exposed to high temperatures, which means the potentially hazardous bacteria were killed off.
With ground meat, the contaminated surfaces were broken up and spread throughout the mixture. Some could still be lurking in the center. That’s why you need to cook the meat to a higher temperature—to kill off any bacteria that might remain.
Is It Safe To Eat Ribs or Pork Butt at 150 Degrees?
It is safe, but it’s unlikely that you would want to. Cuts like pork butt, pork shoulder, spare ribs, and baby back ribs should all cook to around 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Here’s why.
These cuts contain a great deal of collagen, which doesn’t break down until it reaches about 160 degrees. If this hasn’t happened yet, the pork will be tough and dry, because the rendered collagen hasn’t had a chance to spread through the meat.
Pork butt, pork shoulder, and spare ribs are also very fatty cuts. Pork fat renders at 130 to 140 degrees, but the process takes a long time. That’s why it’s important to give these cuts the low-and-slow treatment.
If you’re making pulled pork or smoked pork ribs, wait until the internal temperature has hit the 195-200 degree range before taking them off the smoker. Your taste buds will thank you.
How To Handle Leftovers
Once you’ve taken the pork off the heat, let it rest before you serve it. Small cuts like pork chops will only need about 5 minutes, but you can rest a pork butt for up to an hour at room temperature.
Always refrigerate any leftovers within 2 hours. If cooked meat is allowed to sit out for longer than that, it will creep into what experts call “the danger zone”—the space between 40 and 140 degrees Fahrenheit. At these temps, bacteria can multiply quickly.
Seal your leftovers tightly, forcing as much air as possible out of the packages. Keep the pork on the lowest level of the fridge, toward the rear. Never store leftovers on the door—they’ll be subjected to bursts of warm air whenever you open the fridge.
Consume any leftovers within 4 days. If you don’t think you’ll be able to finish them off by then, consider freezing the cooked pork instead. The meat should retain its integrity for up to 6 months in the freezer.
Back in the olden days, we had to suffer through numerous meals of overcooked pork, all in the name of food safety. Thanks to improved farming practices, we can now enjoy pork in all its juicy, tender glory.