Is it OK to eat pork slightly pink?

Eating pork that is slightly pink can be concerning for many. Pork is typically cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F to 160°F to eliminate bacteria and pathogens like salmonella, E. coli, and parasites like trichinella. Undercooked pork may contain harmful microorganisms that can cause foodborne illness. However, pork today is much safer than it was in the past due to improved farming practices and processing methods. While it’s best to follow recommended cooking temperatures, pork that is slightly pink but was properly handled and prepared is generally safe for most people to consume.

Is pink pork safe?

Pork that is slightly pink inside after cooking is not necessarily unsafe to eat. Pork is considered safely cooked between 145°F-160°F, with a rest time after cooking. At 145°F, pork may have a hint of pink in the center but should not be red or bloody looking. The pink color is due to the pigment myoglobin in the meat. At 160°F, pork will be uniformly white throughout. So pork that is lightly pink could be right in the safe zone for temperature.

More important than color is ensuring the pork reached the proper internal temperature during cooking. Use a food thermometer to check the temperature, as color is not a foolproof indicator doneness. Pork between 145°F-160°F is generally safe from pathogens as long as it was handled properly during preparation.

Risk factors with pink pork

While pork today carries far less risk than decades ago, there are some factors that increase the chance of illness from undercooked pork:

  • Ground pork – Ground meats are more prone to contamination during processing. Ground pork should always be cooked to 160°F.
  • Improper storage/handling – Pork that was left out too long, undercooked, or contaminated after cooking is more risky.
  • Certain parasites – Trichinella is killed at 137°F. Freezing pork can also kill this parasite.
  • Immune compromised – People with weakened immune systems are more susceptible to foodborne illness.

If any of these risk factors apply, it’s best to cook pork to 160°F or until no pink remains. Otherwise, pork with a slight pink tint that reaches 145°F is likely safe for most people.

Is color an accurate indicator of doneness?

The color of pork is not a very reliable indicator of safety or doneness. Pork can turn pink for reasons other than undercooking:

  • Cooking method – Grilling, smoking, curing can cause a pink tint.
  • Ingredients – Nitrates/nitrites in curing salt can cause a pink color.
  • Myoglobin – This muscle pigment varies in amount and can affect color.
  • Freezer burn – Can denature meat pigment and cause pinkness.

So while raw pork is grayish pink, cooked pork can also appear pink due to various factors. Use a food thermometer for a more accurate reading of doneness.

Safe endpoint cooking temperatures for pork

Pork cut Minimum safe internal temperature
Fresh pork chops, roasts, tenderloin 145°F
Fresh ham (raw) 145°F
Fresh pork sausage patties 160°F
Ground pork 160°F
Fully cooked ham (to reheat) 140°F

Use these endpoint cooking temperatures for different cuts of pork as a guideline. Meat thermometers provide the most reliable doneness reading.

Is slightly pink pork safe to eat?

In most cases, pork that is ever so slightly pink but meets the minimum internal temperature can be safely consumed. To understand if it’s safe, consider:

  • Was the raw pork properly handled, stored, and prepared?
  • Was it cooked to at least 145°F and properly rested?
  • Is it slightly pink or undercooked looking?
  • Is it ground pork, which requires 160°F?

If you are uncertain and prefer to err on the side of caution, cook pork until no pink remains. But a hint of pink at 145°F is likely safe for most people.

Tips for safely cooking pork

Here are some tips to keep pork safe from pathogens and illness:

  • Cook pork to the minimum safe internal temperatures – Use a food thermometer to verify doneness.
  • Allow pork to rest 3 minutes after cooking – Resting finishes the cooking process.
  • Do not eat raw or undercooked pork – Cook pork thoroughly, especially ground pork.
  • Purchase fresh, high-quality pork – Buy pork that looks and smells fresh.
  • Store pork properly – Keep pork chilled at 40°F or below.
  • Marinate pork safely – Marinate in the refrigerator up to 5 days.
  • Avoid cross-contamination – Use separate cutting boards and utensils for raw pork.
  • Refrigerate leftovers promptly – Store leftovers within 2 hours.

Following safe handling, cooking, and storage methods helps protect against illness from eating undercooked pork. While a bit of pink isn’t necessarily unsafe if pork reached the minimum safe temperature, take extra care with certain higher risk groups like the very young, elderly, pregnant, and those with compromised immune systems.


Pork that is slightly pink may be safe to eat, but it’s ideal to cook pork to 145°F-160°F to be sure any bacteria or parasites are destroyed. Use a food thermometer to determine proper doneness, as color is not the most reliable indicator. While today’s pork carries much less risk than in the past when trichinosis was more common, it’s still smart to use proper safety precautions against potential pathogens when handling, cooking, and storing pork. If in doubt, cook pork until no pink remains. But pork that is ever so slightly pink could be safe if it reached the FDA recommended safe minimum internal temperature.

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