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Can a Cooked Pork Roast Be a Little Pink?

Anyone who has ever made a pork roast has probably used the color as part of their strategy for judging whether it is ready to eat or not, but sometimes, this can raise more questions than it answers. If the meat is still pink in places, is it safe for you to eat, or does it need more cooking?

Pork can still be a little pink when it is fully cooked, and a pork roast with some pink in it should be perfectly safe to eat. What matters more is the temperature of the meat. As long as pork has reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, it should be safe to eat.

Can You Eat Pink Pork Roast?

Yes, pink pork roast is safe to eat according to the USDA. You do not need to cook the pork until the meat has turned completely cream; it won’t hurt you to consume a little bit of pink meat. Even some pink in the pork’s juices should be safe. This might contradict what you have heard in the past, but it follows current food safety guidelines.

In the past, the USDA recommended cooking pork until it reached an internal temperature of 160 degrees F and had no pink color remaining. This was due to a bacteria known as trichinosis, which was sometimes found in undercooked pork.

However, this bacteria is almost non-existent in today’s world, and there are only a handful of cases each year in the US, with most coming from game meats, rather than from pork. The USDA therefore redefined its guidelines for cooking pork in 2011 and stated that it is safe to eat pork at 145 degrees F, with some pink color remaining in the center of the meat.

Note that the meat does then need to be rested for 3 minutes; this should not be skipped as it is part of ensuring the meat is safe to eat.

The 145 degree F level should be enough to kill E. coli and other bacteria that may still be found within pork, rendering the meat safe to eat.

Should You Eat Pink Pork Roast?

You might be wondering whether it is reasonable to revisit the guidelines, or whether it would make more sense to follow the old ones, just to be extra safe. The answer is that the old guidelines tended to leave pork tough, chewy, and over-cooked, and it’s better to cook pork following the new guidelines.

Pork that has only been cooked to 145 degrees F will be far superior in terms of taste, texture, and juiciness. It tastes better, and most people prefer it to the old version of pork roast.

It should also be noted that color isn’t actually a great way to tell whether pork is cooked. It does provide a good indicator for beef, but there are many things that can make pork roast pink even if it is perfectly cooked.

Pork can stay pink during cooking or turn pink after cooking, and neither tells you whether it is fully cooked or not. Pork with a high pH value may remain pink throughout the cooking process, or the pink may reappear once you slice the roast open, and even vacuum-packed cooked pork may regain its pink color.
In short, therefore, pinkness doesn’t tell you whether pork is done, and you shouldn’t use it to determine the safety of the meat.

How Can You Tell If Pork is Cooked?

The most reliable way to test if pork is cooked is to use a meat thermometer. Insert this into the thickest part of the meat and take a reading. If it reads 145 degrees F or higher, the meat should be fully cooked.

You should use this method over all other “tests” because it is the single best and most reliable way to tell whether pork is safe to eat. After all, the point of cooking pork is to kill bacteria, and the temperature is what kills the bacteria – so use this as your guide.

Does the 145 Degree Temperature Rule Apply to All Pork?

No, it is important to note that the 145 degree temperature rule does not apply to ground pork – it only applies to whole cuts. Ground pork presents a higher risk and should still be cooked to 160 degrees in order to be safe.

Pork chops, pork roasts, pork tenderloin, and other cuts can be cooked to 145 degrees safely, but don’t transfer this rule to processed pork.

If you aren’t comfortable with the 145 degree rule for any pork, as many people aren’t, consider cooking the meat until it reaches 150 or 155 degrees F.

This will help to reduce the pink color and may make you and anyone else who is eating the pork feel more comfortable about it. A surprising number of people are concerned by pink pork and the idea of only cooking it to 145 degrees F, so this may provide a good middle ground.

What Happens If You Over-Cook Pork?

Pork that has been cooked for too long tends to dry out and turn leathery, as most meats do. If you leave your pork roast in the oven for too long, you will find that the result is tough and unpleasant meat, because the juices inside the meat will evaporate.

Many people dislike pork because they have only ever eaten the tough, over-cooked version, and never enjoyed a truly juicy pork roast. The next time you cook pork, try reducing the cooking time (but don’t forgo the 3 minutes of resting time) so that it reaches a lower temperature. You will notice a difference in how juicy the meat is!

Final Thoughts

It’s fine for a cooked pork roast to be a little pink, and there are many things that could explain pink meat even if it is cooked to 160 degrees F. The acidity of the meat, the resting time, and the storage can all cause the pink color to creep back into the pork. Pinkness does not necessarily provide an indication of how well-done the meat is.