Thanks USDA: No More Hockey Puck Pork Roasts at My House

Great news from USDA! It’s lowered its recommendation for the final internal temperature for cooking pork roasts, chops and tenderloins.

The old number was 160 degrees – the new one is 145 degrees – with the requirement that you let the meat rest for three minutes before digging in.

On average, most common cuts of pork are 16 percent leaner than 20 years ago, and saturated fat has dropped 27 percent. Pork tenderloin is now as lean as the leanest type of chicken – a skinless chicken breast.

USDA says the new cooking recommendation reflects advances in both food safety and nutritional content of pork in recent years. The Food Network’s Guy Fieri says the food service industry has been using the lower temperature for 10 years.

There’s no meat I like better than a well-prepared roasted pork tenderloin, but my attempts at home have been disappointing, so I rarely cooked one.

My last experience was about 10 days ago. I put the tenderloin in the oven after church and expected it to be ready by high noon, based on the 30 minutes-per-pound guideline on the package: 24 ounces = 45 minutes, right? No.

I used my instant-read thermometer at 45 minutes, but the internal temperature was still below 140 degrees.  I put the roast back in the oven, checked 5 minutes later – still not anywhere near 160.  I delayed dinner, put the meat back in, pulled it out at about 155 degrees, let it rest – and I finally had a-160 degree tenderloin. A very dried out, tasteless 160-degree tenderloin. The slices looked kind of a like a hockey puck.

So I’m excited that USDA says 145 degrees is okay. That means a juicy, flavorful, safe tenderloin. However, it’s very important that you give the roast that three minute rest after you pull it from the oven – so the temperature can rise some more. I can do that. And, 160 degrees is still the rule for ground pork.

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