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Whole Cuts of Pork Should be Cooked to an Internal Temperature of 145 degrees, with a 3-Minute Rest Time

May 25, 2011 -- Just in time for the start of grilling season, the U.S. Department of Agriculture has updated guidelines for safely preparing pork. The USDA recommends that pork be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

The federal agency says it is lowering the recommended safe cooking temperature for whole cuts of pork from 160 degrees to 145 degrees and adding a 3-minute rest time.

That temperature should be measured with a food thermometer placed in the thickest part of the meat, then allowing the meat to sit for three minutes before carving or eating.

The safe temperature for beef, veal, and lamb remains at 145 degrees, but the USDA says it is adding a 3-minute rest time to its preparation recommendations.

New Guideline Does Not Apply to Ground Meats

The USDA says the change does not apply to ground meats, including beef, veal, lamb, and pork, which should be cooked to 160 degrees. The safe cooking temperature for all poultry products, including chicken and turkey, remains 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

“With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform 3-minute stand time, we believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation,” USDA Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen says in a news release. “Now there will only be three numbers to remember -- 145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats, and 165 for all poultry.”

Making Sure of Microbiological Safety

It says cooking raw pork, steaks, roasts, and chops to 145 degrees with the addition of a 3-minute rest time will result in a product that is microbiologically safe and at its best quality.

Rest time is the amount of time the product remains at the final temperature after it has been taken off a grill, oven, or other heat source, the USDA says. During that 3-minute period, the temperature of meat remains constant or continues to rise, destroying pathogens.

Let It Rest

The USDA says its Food Safety and Inspection Service determined that it’s just as safe to cook cuts of pork to 145 degrees as it is to cook them to 160 degrees, as long as there is a 3-minute rest time.

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