Considering just how long we’ve been cooking cuts of meat, people have come up with a number of tricks and rules for telling if meat is cooked properly. Knowing how to cook your meal to perfection is important for far more than making something that tastes great—undercooked pork can cause foodborne illnesses. The safest answer for how to check if your pork is cooked thoroughly is to use a meat thermometer.
With a Thermometer
Reaching an exact temperature requires having a tool to accurately measure it. Digital and analog meat thermometers have become more common in the home, and with good reason.
The USDA, as of 2020, recommends that pork becomes safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperate of 145°F and, importantly, rests for three minutes before eating. Measure the temperature of your pork while it’s still in the heat source (oven, smoker, etc.) and allow it to rest outside of the heat source once it reaches the desired temperature.
Note: Cook ground pork until it reaches an internal temperate of 160°F.
One downside of using a meat thermometer is that sticking it into the meat can cause juices to squeeze out, carrying some flavor with them.
Without a Thermometer
If you do not own a meat thermometer, there are still many ways that you can estimate when a cut of pork is finished cooking.
Looking at the Meat
A gentle poke or small slice into the meat can tell cooks a lot about how far along the pork is. A few key things to look for are:
- Clear juices or a lack of myoglobin when cut
- Opaque, solid color to the meat with an only slight pink tint
- Meat that is tender to the touch or “bounces back”
Some cooks use a face method to gauge the pork’s doneness. The idea is that certain areas of our face feel the same as pork at various levels of its cook time. If the meat feels the same as your middle cheek, it’s rare, and if it’s as firm as your forehead, it’s well done. Just be sure to wash your hands between touching your face and touching the food!
Cook Time and Temp
The simplest way to cook pork is to trust the time and temperature for which you put it in. Follow the recipe’s instructions on how long to cook your specific cut of pork for and at what temperature. While you may still need to rely on other methods to feel confident in your pork’s cook, you can put some trust in the folks who have cooked the recipe before you.
If you still find yourself asking how to check if your pork is cooked thoroughly, it’s not a bad idea to speak to an expert butcher. When you’re ready to get cooking, guarantee a hand-cut, high-quality piece of meat and buy pork online with Little Italy’s own Vincent’s Meat Market.