Passion for Pork

Pork Should Be Pink, Not Pasty

Vancouver - Friday, August 17, 2012

As someone who believes cooking beef past medium rare is sacrilege and thinks that if it’s cooked, it isn’t sushi, it amazes me that I went through most of my life believing that pork needs to be cooked, cooked and overcooked if I don’t want to get sick. I grew up thinking that dry, well done pork was normal and that if I didn’t want to spend a lot of time with the porcelain god, that’s the way it had to be. It actually wasn’t until relatively recently that I learned that a spot of pink wasn’t going to kill me and that it was actually the best way to enjoy pork.

I’m sure some of you are reading this right now thinking to yourselves “What? You can’t undercook pork…” and you’d be right. There’s a big difference between pink and raw. Pink means cooked but there’s a touch of rosy hue emanating from the center rather than being straight up stark, dense, dry white. Raw…well, you don’t want your pork medium rare. You want it closer to medium well and just before well done. My point is…there is such a thing as overcooking pork now.

Don’t believe me? How about some words from one of the most famous chef’s in the world?

“Yes, that’s right, granny. Pink.”

It’s quite appropriate that Ramsay calls out our grandmothers for telling us pork needs to be well done. The perceived need to cook pork to oblivion started generations and generations ago, mainly because before modern discoveries and advancements in the way that pork was produced, it was quite likely that pork carried all sorts of things that could make you very sick if not cooked throughly to 165F but today, with pigs being raised in buildings free of birds and rodents as well as strict guidelines on feed and shelter, pork is safer than it’s ever been.

Chefs have known this for years and have been serving pork just this side of pink for years, likely getting many of those dishes back from uninformed diners that think slightly less cooked and far more juicy pork was going to give them leoprosy or ebola. It’s not really the diner’s fault, though, since this is what they’ve been told since the beginning of time and only recently did governing bodies like the USDA declare 145F to be a safe temperature for pork.

Still not convinced? Well, that’s fine too. I’m sure there are those who will still refuse to cook this way, insisting that the proper way is the safest way rather than the most delicious way. That’s entirely true in the same way that bungee jumping is significantly more dangerous than not bungee jumping or taking a plane to get somewhere rather than not going at all. There is obviously the risk that Godzilla could smash us right out of the sky but it’s far more probable that you get to your destination safely. The same goes for pork. There is always the risk of food poisoning just like there is with any other meat but the way pork is produced today, you’re much more likely to get sick of how awesome moist, juicy pork is rather than actually sick.