Is it Safe to Eat Rare Pork?

Medically Reviewed by Christine Mikstas, RD, LD on June 06, 2023
4 min read

Eating uncooked and undercooked meat can make you sick. You can prevent this with good cooking practices.

Rare pork is undercooked. Both uncooked or raw pork and undercooked pork are unsafe to eat. Meat sometimes has bacteria and parasites that can make you sick. Thorough cooking kills any germs that might be present.

The most common germ linked to pork is the parasite Trichinella spiralis. Meat from wild meat-eating animals like bears or domestic meat- and plant-eating animals like pigs can be infected with the larvae from this worm.

If you eat uncooked or undercooked pork chops that have this parasite, you can get a disease called trichinosis, sometimes also called trichinellosis.

Cases of trichinellosis were high before the 1950s. Over the years, farming practices have improved and people are more aware of safe cooking practices. This has led to fewer cases of foodborne illnesses from eating pork. It’s still possible to get trichinosis from eating undercooked pork, but the risk from farmed meat is very low.

Other germs are commonly associated with uncooked or undercooked pork, including:

A dish called chitterlings is made with the large intestine of a pig. These intestines can have the Y. enterocolitica bacteria and cause a foodborne illness called yersiniosis.

If you get sick from eating uncooked pork, the symptoms may vary depending on the bacteria or parasite involved.

General symptoms of food poisoning include:

  • Nausea
  • Stomach cramps
  • Throwing up
  • Diarrhea

Other symptoms of trichinellosis include:

  • Fever
  • Tiredness
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Cough
  • Swelling eyes
  • Itchy skin
  • Sore joints
  • Sore muscles
  • Constipation
  • Trouble breathing
  • Heart problems

Signs of infection usually start with stomach symptoms within 1 to 2 days of eating infected uncooked or undercooked meat. Other symptoms can take 2 to 8 weeks to show up.

Some people might only have mild symptoms while others get very sick. Severe infections can be life-threatening. Anyone can get a foodborne illness, but some people are more likely than others, such as:

  • Pregnant women
  • Children
  • Older people
  • People who have a weakened immune system from diseases like diabetes, HIV, liver disease, or kidney disease

You can keep fresh uncooked pork in the fridge for up to 4 or 5 days after you buy it. Make sure to put your meat in the fridge as soon as you get home. Don’t let your groceries sit in the car, especially if it's hot out. If you have to travel for longer than 1 hour from the grocery store, pack fresh pork in a cooler.

If you plan to eat the pork at a later date, freeze it. If you prepare and freeze meats in serving sizes, wrap them in foil and seal them in freezer bags. Make sure the air is pressed out of the bags. Cook within 4 to 6 months.

You can keep cooked pork chops in the fridge for up to 4 days. Reheat leftovers to an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit. It should be hot and steamy.

Part of cooking pork safely is good preparation.

Clean. Make sure your countertops, dishes, cutting boards, and other cooking utensils are clean. Wash your hands before preparing food. This stops germs from spreading.

Separate. Keep fresh meat away from other foods and meats. The blood and juice from fresh pork can contaminate other foods. Use separate cutting boards and knives for meat.

Cook. Whole cuts of pork, including pork chops and roasts, should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit. You should check the temperature with a food thermometer before you take it out of the oven or pan. Let the meat rest for 3 minutes before cutting, serving, or eating.

Your meat might still look pink. However, don’t solely rely on the color of the meat to determine if it's fully cooked.

In 2020, the United States Department of Agriculture lowered the temperature guidelines for whole cuts of pork from 160 degrees to 145 degrees. This can only be safely done if you also let the meat sit for the full 3 minutes. This change doesn’t apply to ground meat. Ground pork must be cooked to 160 degrees Fahrenheit.

Chill. Put cooked food in the fridge within two hours of serving. If you’re serving pork outside and the temperature is above 90 degrees, refrigerate cooked pork within 1 hour. Make sure to thaw food in the fridge or in cold water. Germs can grow in heat or at room temperature, which can increase your risk for food illness.

Overall, you shouldn’t eat uncooked pork chops or other meats. Safe storing, preparing, and cooking practices can lower your chances of getting sick.