Is Pink Pork Safe to Eat?

America s Test Kitchen

The pork of yesteryear was always cooked till gray, but that pork was a lot fattier than what's on the market today. Selective breeding has made today's pork much leaner, and if you cook it till gray, the meat will be dry and tough. We think the leanest cuts (like tenderloin) are best cooked to 145-150 degrees. At this point, the meat will still have a tinge of pink in the center.

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What about trichinosis? Better farming practices have all but eliminated the trichina parasite from American-raised pork. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the number of trichinosis cases averages 12 per year -- and most of those cases have been linked to wild game, not commercially raised pork. Also, the trichina parasite is killed when the temperature of the meat rises to 137 degrees, so cooking pork to 150 degrees should do the job.

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Pink pork isn't completely without risk. All meat (including beef) may be subject to cross-contamination with several pathogens, such as salmonella. This can happen during processing, at the supermarket, or in your home. To reduce this risk, some food safety experts recommend cooking all meat to 160 degrees -- that is, until it is well done. But if you think it's worth taking the small risk to enjoy a rosy steak, you might as well to do the same with pork.

If you've decided to serve pinkish pork, remember that the pork continues to cook even when it's removed from heat. So take it off just before it hits the right temperature. If you take out a roast when it's only 135-140 degrees, it's too pink to immediately eat; but after letting the meat rest for 15 minutes so that the juices can redistribute themselves, the temperature will rise about 10 degrees. The meat will then be perfectly cooked -- with just a hint of pink.


There are many herbed roast pork tenderloin recipes, employing techniques such as crusting, marinating, and stuffing the pork with sundry combinations of herbs. In our recipe testing, we found that herb crusts were problematic because the herbs came close to combusting on the outside of the meat, while marinating the meat in an herb-infused oil was time-consuming and the herb payout was minimal. Stuffing the meat with an herb paste seemed like the most promising method. Instead of using olive oil in the herb paste, we chose butter, which tasters preferred for its rich flavor. Heartier, drier herbs, like sage and thyme, worked best in the paste in our recipe. To butterfly the tenderloins, we laid them flat on a cutting board and sliced down the middle of each. We left about 1/4 inch of meat intact, then opened the flaps like a book to spread the interior of each tenderloin with the herb paste. A rub applied to the exterior of the roasts caramelized in the oven to create a nicely browned crust.

Serves 4 to 6

Pork tenderloins can vary greatly in weight; try to find 2 large roasts for this recipe. We prefer to remove the tough silver skin with a paring knife before butterflying.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 pork tenderloins (about 3 pounds total)
1 teaspoon olive oil

1. Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 450 degrees. Using fork, beat butter, mustard, lemon zest and juice, garlic, herbs, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in bowl until combined. Reserve 3 tablespoons butter mixture. Combine sugar, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in small bowl.

2. Pat tenderloins dry with paper towels and, following photos, butterfly tenderloins, spread interior evenly with herb-butter mixture, interlock tenderloins, and tie securely with kitchen twine at 1 1/2-inch intervals. Rub pork with oil and sprinkle sugar mixture evenly over exterior.

3. Roast meat on rimmed baking sheet until exterior is golden brown and meat registers 140 degrees, about 35 minutes, flipping pork halfway through cooking. Transfer to cutting board and brush top of pork with reserved herb-butter mixture. Tent with foil and let rest 10 minutes. Remove kitchen twine. Slice and serve.

This recipe was originally published in Cook's Country magazine. Subscribe today and get a free gift.