BBQ Pork – Can pork be a little pink?

You’ve grilled a nice pork chop or a peice of pork fillet cut into it and it’s a little bit pink in the centre, can pork be a little pink?

The short answer is yes pork can be a little pink, but you should be a little careful not to confuse a little bit pink with raw. Even though pork can served a little pink it should be done so with care. Undercooked food not just pork can make you unwell and even kill, if not cooked safely.

All of the information in this article is only relevant to big cuts of pork and not minced pork. Minced pork cannot be served any shade of pink!

Below is some tips to ensure you get it right every time!

Pink from smoking or grilling

When meat is grilled or smoked, especially pork or poultry will take on a pinkish tint to it around the outer of the meat, known as the ‘smoke ring’. That can be a combination of the smoke reacting with the meat or the marinade/rub set into the meat when cooking. This is perfectly safe, as long as the internal temperature of the meat has reached safe eating temperatures. It is very difficult to gauge the two but they aren’t to be confused.

Pork safe eating temperatures

Pork is safe to eat when the internal temperature has reached 145 Degrees Fahrenheit (63 degrees Celsius) nothing less. Below these temperature there are number of risks and illnesses that can be caught from consuming raw pork, E.coli and the parasite known as trichinosis can be found. These can either make you very unwell and even cause death.

There is a process called meat pasteurisation where all of the harmful bacteria may be killed in the meat by removing the meat about 10 degrees below and then resting for 5 minutes. Also known as cook and hold, however, this doesn’t ensure that the internal temperature has reached a guaranteed safe 145 Degrees.

How to check the internal temperature of pork

To check the temperature of pork place a digital thermometer into the centre of thickest part of the meat. Allow the temperature displayed to settle for a moment or two before deciding this is the reading.

Why can pork be a little pink?

Pork can be a little pink because at the desired cooking temperature of 145 all of the harmful bacteria found in pork has been destroyed. Leaving a ‘medium’ like finish to the internal of the pork. Before cooking, pork’s most harmful of bacteria can be found on the surface and to the outer of the cut of meat, these are killed during grilling and then heating the centre of the pork to 145 degrees kills the remaining harmful bacteria.

Pork cuts with less fat content to protect them such as tenderloin or fillet, can dry out very quickly when overcooked. Cooking to 145 Degrees and serving a little pink, ensure it is not dry. Pork should me moist and soft to eat. Overcooked tenderloin or fillet is grey, dry, chewy and tasteless. Just not a good eating experience.

Pork joints such as pork shoulder or butt have a very high fat content which is they are cooked through to much higher temperatures without drying.

slightly pink pork

The idea of pink pork not for you?

Some people can be put off by the sight of pink pork, up until very recently pork was deemed not safe to eat until it reached 160 Degrees Fahrenheit (71 Degrees Celsius). So it is easy to understand while some are still a little cagey. If that is you, it is ok to cook the pork further and remove from the heat at 150 Degrees Fahrenheit (65 Degrees Celsius) to rest. Any higher and you risk the pork drying out.

Decide by temperature only

Depending on the method used to cook pork or if it has been pre-cooked. Pork can suffer from ‘return to redness’ or ‘color reversion’ in which the pork returns to a pink color, this is perfectly normal. The issue is it makes pork very difficult to judge if its cooked by color only.

It should not be judged like a steak where you can cut into the meat to which the color of the internal of the meat or rawness decides on the finish, rare, medium-rare, well done for example. Checking the internal temperature is the only way pork should be checked for readiness.

Why is minced pork different?

Minced pork is different in that at 145 Degrees Fahrenheit (63 Degrees Celsius) it is not safe to eat and should be cooked through till 160 Degrees Fahrenheit (72 Degrees Celsius).

The reason minced pork is different is, quite simple. When a large cut of pork is diced or minced all the very harmful bacteria gathered on the exterior of the meat is mixed in with the centre parts of the meat where it could not get to before.

Final thoughts

To answer can pork be a little pink and safe to eat? The answer is yes! Pork should not be checked for rawness like beef steaks when grilling but checked by internal temperature. Thanks to Science pork can be grilled, enjoyed and taste much better than it did a few years ago!