Lower pork temps get OK

USDA urges need to let meat rest before eating



Just last month, the U.S. Department of Agriculture lowered the safe cooking temperature to 145 F for whole cuts of meat, including pork. The agency also recommended following the cooking with a 3-minute rest period.

Previously the recommendation was to cook pork to 160 F, which remains the recommended safe temperature for cooking ground beef, veal, lamb and pork.

The USDA said the new single-temperature recommendation for whole cuts will make it easier for consumers to remember the proper numbers.

“Now there will only be three numbers to remember: 145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry,” said Under Secretary Elisabeth Hagen in a news release

The rest time is important because it allows the temperature to continue to rise and kill pathogens and allows the juices to seep back into the meat.

The USDA said pork cooked to 145 F might still have a pinkish hue, but it’s safe to eat.

To take the temperature, push the probe end of an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat.

If you don’t have an instant-read thermometer, you should invest in one. It’s a kitchen tool to always have handy because it will save you from overcooking meats. You can buy them for as little as $5 at big box retailers and kitchen stores.

In many cookbooks, pork recipes recommend 160 F as the final cooking reading. But as the meat rests, the temperature keeps going up.

For this recipe, I used boneless pork loin chops and stuffed them with a dried fruit-and-cheese mixture. These took just about 10 minutes to cook to the recommended safe temperature. You can grill them or cook them in a skillet.

I paired the dish with grilled asparagus and nectarines. As a side dish, the celery salad provided a nice, cool crunch. It’s adapted from the June issue of EveryDay with Rachael Ray.

To make the salad, whisk together 2 tablespoons cider vinegar, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste, and ¼ cup olive oil. Thinly slice about 6 to 8 celery ribs, with leaves, ¼-inch thick and place in a bowl. Add ½ cup crumbled blue cheese and chopped walnuts or pecans. Drizzle the dressing over the salad and toss to coat.

Grilled Stuffed Pork Loin Chops

Serves: 4 / Preparation time: 15 minutes. Total time: 40 minutes

Adapted from “Grill it! Secrets to Delicious Flame-Kissed Food” by Better Homes and Gardens (Wiley, $24.95). Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

4 boneless pork loin chops about 3/4 – to 1-inch thick

1/2 cup blue or feta cheese

1/4 cup dried cranberries, blueberries, cherries or raisins

1 tablespoon fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon crumbled dry oregano

2 teaspoons fresh rosemary or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2 cloves garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper plus more to taste

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup bottled cherry or raspberry-chipotle barbecue sauce or favorite barbecue sauce

Preheat or prepare the grill for medium heat. Make a horizontal slit on the side of each pork chop, cutting in to make a deep pocket, but do not cut all the way through. In a small bowl combine the cheese, cranberries, oregano, rosemary, garlic, crushed red pepper, 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.

Evenly divide the stuffing mixture and place in the pocket of each pork chop. Press down slightly on the pork chop so it’s an even thickness.

Brush both sides of the chops with oil and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Grill on one side about 4 minutes, depending on the thickness. Turn over, brush the top with barbecue sauce and continue grilling on the second side, another 4 to 5 minutes or until the internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. The timing will depend on the thickness of the pork chops.

Remove from the grill and place the chops on a plate. Cover with foil and let rest 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Per serving: 347 calories (34 percent from fat), 13 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 19 grams carbohydrates, 37 grams protein, 993 mg sodium, 82 mg cholesterol, 1 gram fiber .