Can you eat pork if it’s pink in the middle?

Quick Answer

Pork should always be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 145°F to kill potentially harmful bacteria like salmonella, E. coli, and parasites like trichinella. If pork is pink in the middle when you cut into it, it’s not fully cooked and may not be safe to eat if the internal temperature is below 145°F. Using a food thermometer is the only way to accurately determine if pork is cooked to a safe internal temperature.

What Temperature Should Pork Be Cooked To?

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking pork to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F with a 3 minute rest time. This temperature kills any dangerous bacteria that may be present.

Some of the harmful bacteria that can be found in undercooked pork include:

  • Salmonella – Causes salmonellosis food poisoning with symptoms like diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.
  • E. coli – Can lead to illness such as bloody diarrhea, vomiting, and severe stomach cramps.
  • Trichinella spiralis – Causes trichinosis which can have symptoms like diarrhea, muscle soreness, fever, and abdominal discomfort.

Cooking pork to an internal temperature of 145°F kills these bacteria, making the pork safe to eat.

Why You Shouldn’t Eat Pink Pork

When you cook pork, the proteins start to denature and coagulate, changing from pink to white as the temperature rises. If the pork still has a pinkish tinge when you cut into it or bite into it, it means the proteins have not fully coagulated throughout and the meat is undercooked.

The issue with eating pink pork lies in the potential presence of live, disease-causing bacteria. If the internal temperature does not reach 145°F, any harmful bacteria that may have contaminated the raw pork can survive. Consuming this undercooked pork puts you at risk of foodborne illness.

Even tiny amounts of invisible bacteria on pork can multiply to dangerous levels as the meat rests after cooking. This is why the USDA recommends allowing pork to rest for 3 minutes once it reaches 145°F before consuming. The residual heat will help kill off any remaining germs.

Eating pink pork is simply not worth the risk of getting violently ill from a foodborne bacteria or parasite. Pork needs to be fully cooked through without any pink coloration to be considered safe to eat.

Is Pink Pork Ever Safe to Eat?

There are a few instances where pink pork may be safe to eat:

Cured Ham

Cured ham, like prosciutto and Parma ham, are safe to eat pink due to the curing process. Cured meats are injected with salt and nitrates which prevent bacterial growth. The USDA states cured meats can be safely consumed even when pink.

However, the curing agents penetrate to varying depths based on the thickness. So it’s still best to avoid eating the very center of a thick cured ham if it’s still pink.

Steaks and Roasts

For thick cuts like pork chops, roasts, and loin chops, it’s common for the very center to remain pink even after thorough cooking. This pink center is safe as long as the meat reached the proper internal temperature of 145°F.

Use a food thermometer to test the thickest part of the meat to ensure doneness. The color alone is not an accurate indicator.

Fresh Ground Pork

Raw ground meats always require thorough cooking to 165°F since bacteria is ground throughout and can survive lower temperatures. Do not eat fresh ground pork that is still pink inside.

However, pre-formed hams, tenderloins, and chops that are enhanced with curing solution (like water, salt, sodium phosphate) can safely be cooked to 145°F even though they may still appear slightly pink.

How to Tell if Pork is Done Without a Thermometer

Using an instant-read food thermometer is the most reliable way to determine if pork is fully cooked to a safe internal temperature. But there are some visual cues that can help in a pinch:

Color Change

Fully cooked pork becomes opaque and white throughout with no pink coloration. If you cut into a piece of pork and it’s still pink inside, it needs more time to cook.

Keep in mind that some pink tinge may remain even when pork reaches 145°F, so color alone is not a perfect indicator. Rely on a thermometer for accuracy.

Juices Run Clear

When pork is cooked through, slicing into it should reveal clear juices running from the meat, without traces of pink liquid. Raw pork will release pink juices full of myoglobin and blood.

Check the juices in several spots on the pork to be sure since clear juices do not always mean the meat has reached the proper temperature.

Texture Changes

As pork cooks, the proteins shrink and the meat becomes firm. Undercooked pork that still contains pink areas will have a soft, mushy texture.

Well done pork is firm throughout when poked with a finger or knife tip. However, tenderloin and loin cuts stay tender and juicy even when thoroughly cooked.

Relying solely on visual signs without a thermometer can lead to undercooked and unsafe pork. Use a food thermometer for certainty when cooking pork.

What if Pork Reaches 145°F but is Still Pink?

It’s possible for pork to reach the safe internal temperature of 145°F and still retain a pinkish tinge in the center. This is especially common in thicker cuts.

If checking the pork with a food thermometer confirms it has exceeded 145°F:

– Let it rest 3 minutes before cutting into it. This allows heat to distribute evenly and kills germs.

– Avoid eating the very center if it remains pink. Cut off and discard the pink portions.

– Consider cooking the pork to 150-155°F next time for uniformly white meat edge to edge.

As long as the thermometer indicates safe temperature, pink pork is okay to eat. The pink color means it was slightly undercooked but not to an unsafe level. Still, removing the pink meat provides an added margin of safety.

Can You Get Sick from Slightly Pink Pork?

There is some risk of illness if you consume pork that is slightly pink after cooking even if it registers above 140°F. This is because:

– Bacteria can start dying but still survive at temps between 140-145°F.

– The meat may not have rested long enough for heat to distribute to the center.

– Your thermometer may have given an inaccurate high reading if placed in an area that cooked faster.

– Pathogens are not always distributed evenly and may have survived in pink areas.

So while pork reaching 145°F should kill harmful bacteria, the margin of error means undercooked sections still pose some degree of risk.

To stay safest, pork should have no pink and reach an internal temperature closer to 155°F. If it’s at all pink when you cut into it, continue thoroughly cooking it before eating.

Tips to Avoid Undercooked Pink Pork

It’s easy to accidentally serve pork that’s still pink inside if you rely on the color instead of temperature. Here are some useful tips:

– Invest in a good digital food thermometer and check temps in multiple areas.

– Cook pork to at least 150°F for a wider safety margin.

– Cut into pork near the bone to check for pinkness where it takes longest to cook.

– Let pork rest at least 3 minutes after removing from heat before cutting.

– Avoid very thick cuts which can be tricky to cook through fully.

– Turn pork frequently while cooking for even heating.

– Track cooking times and temperatures to learn how long different cuts take to reach doneness.

– Check for doneness toward the end of the recommended cooking time.

Thoroughly cooking pork until it is no longer pink inside ensures it won’t make you sick. When in doubt, whip out your food thermometer for guaranteed safety.


Eating raw or undercooked pork is never recommended due to potential contamination with harmful bacteria like salmonella. Pork should always be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F as determined with a food thermometer.

If pork still appears pink or red when you cut into it, it should be cooked longer until no traces of pink remain and the juices run clear. The only exceptions are cured pork products and very thick cuts like chops and roasts, where a faint pink center is normal after thorough cooking. Still, these meats should reach safe temperatures.

Relying on visual indicators without verifying doneness with a food thermometer can lead to undercooked pork and potential foodborne illness. When cooking pork, use a thermometer for certainty and safety. If the pork has any pink coloration, cook it longer until it is completely white inside with an internal temp of at least 145°F.

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