Overcooking vs. undercooking: How to tell when pork is ready

May 27, 2022 / MIN READ

Mastering the art of cooking a piece of meat to be “just right” is one of the most important skills you can hone as a chef in your own kitchen. We all know just how thin the line between overcooked and undercooked can be — one second, your meat looks raw, the next, you have a piece of charcoal on your plate. 

When it comes to pork, the USDA recommends cooking to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit. However, given how lean pork products are, it can be easy for even the most experienced chef to veer into the territory of overcooking. 

Read on to learn how to tell the difference between under and overcooked and how to ensure your pork is as flavorful and juicy as can be:

Is it ok if my pork is slightly pink?

The short answer to this common question is yes! Due to the ingredients and natural preservatives found in many pork products, it’s entirely possible that your meat may still be slightly pink even when it’s fully cooked. In fact, pork can even be enjoyed medium-rare.

One way to determine your porks’ doneness is by the color of the juices that come out of it when you poke a hole in it with a knife or fork. If the juices run clear or are very faintly pink, the pork is done cooking. If they’re mostly or entirely pink or red, it’s best to continue cooking. 

Perfectly cooked pork

How to always know when pork is ready: Use a meat thermometer

It’s important to remember that based on the size and type of pork product you’re working with, your cook time will vary. With that in mind, the best way to ensure your meat is fully cooked and ready to enjoy is by using a meat thermometer.

Although raw pork can be easy to spot using the method above, we recommend sticking to the following USDA guidelines to ensure your meat is fully cooked:

  • Medium-rare: 145 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium: 150 to 155 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Medium-well: 155 to 160 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Well: 160 degrees Fahrenheit

Cooking your pork to any of these stages is entirely up to your personal preference. However, remember that going above 160 degrees Fahrenheit may dry up your meat, taking away from some of its natural flavor and juiciness. 

First, estimate how long you’ll need to cook pork using the instructions on your product’s package. When you think your pork is nearing completion, insert the thermometer into the center of the meat. As the thickest part of your pork, this is usually the coolest piece and the last to fully cook. If you’re working with a bone-in product, be sure that the thermometer isn’t touching a bone, as this could cause the reading to be inaccurate. 

After your pork reaches your desired temperature, take it off the heat and let it rest for at least three minutes before digging in.

Looking for more tips and tricks when it comes to plating up the perfect piece of pork? Explore our recipes and remember: The adventure starts at home!