Is pork safe to eat medium?

Eating pork that is cooked to a medium doneness is generally not recommended by health experts. Pork needs to reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F to be considered safe to eat. At medium doneness, the internal temperature typically only reaches 140-145°F, which means harmful bacteria may not be fully killed off.

What is Considered “Medium” Pork?

For pork, the USDA defines the different levels of doneness as:

  • Rare: 145°F or lower
  • Medium rare: 145-150°F
  • Medium: 150-160°F
  • Medium well: 160-170°F
  • Well done: 170°F or higher

So pork cooked to a medium doneness has an internal temperature between 150-160°F. At this stage, the meat is light pink in the center and releases clear juices.

Why Pork Should be Cooked Thoroughly

There are a few reasons why it’s important to cook pork beyond the medium stage:

  • Trichinella spiralis: This parasitic worm can infect pork and cause the disease trichinosis when undercooked meat is consumed. Trichinella is killed at 137°F.
  • Toxoplasma gondii: The Toxoplasma gondii parasite may be present in pork and can cause toxoplasmosis. It is killed at 145°F.
  • Salmonella and E. coli: Undercooked pork can harbor Salmonella, Escherichia coli (E. coli), Staphylococcus aureus, and other dangerous bacteria. These pathogens are destroyed at 160°F and higher.

Cooking pork to 160°F and above ensures any pathogens are killed and makes the meat safe to eat.

USDA Recommendations for Pork Safety

The USDA provides the following guidelines for cooking pork safely:

  • Cook all raw pork steaks, chops, and roasts to a minimum internal temperature of 145°F as measured with a food thermometer.
  • Allow 3 minutes of rest time after removing pork from the heat source before carving or consuming.
  • Cook ground pork to 160°F.
  • Keep raw pork separate from other foods and refrigerated at 40°F or below to prevent cross-contamination.
  • Wash hands, utensils, and surfaces with hot soapy water after handling raw pork.
  • Cook pork thoroughly when reheating it. Heat it to 165°F.

Following these guidelines helps eliminate the risk of foodborne illness when cooking and consuming pork products.

Should You Eat Medium Pork?

It’s generally not advisable to eat pork at medium doneness due to the health risks explained above. The ideal internal temperature for pork is 145°F with a 3 minute rest time, or 160°F if it is ground pork.

While the odds of getting sick from medium pork in a developed country may be low thanks to regulations and modern farming practices, there is still a risk of contamination at slaughterhouses or during storage and handling. Cooking to the recommended safe internal temperatures helps provide an extra layer of protection.

Some people may choose to eat higher quality pork at medium doneness because they prefer the taste and texture. However, this is an assumption of risk and goes against food safety recommendations.

Bottom Line

The bottom line is that pork is generally only considered safe to eat when it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F with a 3 minute rest time, or 160°F for ground pork. Cooking to a true medium of 150-160°F may not destroy all potential parasites, bacteria, and viruses that can cause foodborne illness. While the chances of getting sick are low, some risk remains.

Most food safety experts advise playing it safe by cooking pork beyond medium to the recommended safe internal temperatures. This ensures any pathogens are killed off and provides peace of mind when consuming pork.

Signs Pork is Undercooked

It can be tricky to know if pork is thoroughly cooked, especially if you are used to checking color to determine doneness. Here are some signs that pork may be undercooked:

  • The meat is still pink or has a reddish tint in the middle
  • Juices run clear but are tinged pink when poked
  • The meat feels soft and squishy when pressed
  • The meat doesn’t reach the minimum safe internal temperature when checked with a thermometer

Trust your thermometer over visual signs when checking pork doneness. Check the thickest part of the meat in multiple spots to ensure even cooking. The pork should reach the safe minimum internal temperature for at least 15 seconds.

How to Cook Pork Safely

Follow these tips to cook pork properly and reduce the risks of foodborne illness:

  • Use a meat thermometer to monitor the internal temperature.
  • Bring the meat to room temperature before cooking.
  • Preheat your oven or pan before cooking.
  • Cook pork to the recommended safe internal temperatures.
  • Allow meat to rest before carving or eating.
  • Use the rest time to make a sauce or prepare any side dishes.
  • Double check the internal temperature again after resting.
  • Wash hands and anything the raw meat touched to prevent cross-contamination.

Taking these precautions helps ensure your pork reaches appropriate temperatures for food safety.

How to Tell When Pork is Fully Cooked

It can be difficult to determine if pork is fully cooked and safe to eat. Here are some ways to tell:

  • Use an instant-read thermometer to check the internal temperature in the thickest part of the meat. It should reach 145°F.
  • The meat is firm throughout when pressed with tongs or a finger.
  • The juices run clear when poked with a fork or knife tip.
  • The color is pale throughout with no pink spots.
  • Ground pork is browned throughout with no traces of pink.
  • The meat pulls apart easily with a fork.

Checking the temperature in multiple parts of the pork with an accurate thermometer is the best way to confirm safety and doneness. Visually inspecting pork can be unreliable.

Safe Finishing Temperatures for Pork

Here are the USDA-recommended safe finishing internal temperatures for different cuts and types of pork:

Pork Cut Safe Internal Temperature
Fresh pork, including chops, roasts, and tenderloin 145°F with 3 minute rest time
Pre-cooked ham, to reheat 140°F
Fresh ham, raw 145°F
Ground pork 160°F
Pork shoulders and ribs, for pulling or shaping 145°F

Always use a food thermometer to check these safe finishing temperatures when cooking pork. This helps eliminate foodborne illness risks from bacteria that may be present.

Tips for Cooking Pork Perfectly to Proper Temperatures

Follow these handy tips to help you cook pork properly to safe internal temperatures every time:

  • Use an accurate digital instant-read thermometer and calibrate it regularly.
  • Insert the thermometer into the thickest part of the meat, away from any bones.
  • Take temperatures in more than one spot to confirm even cooking.
  • Aim to cook meat until it reaches 5°F above the desired safe temperature for the best results.
  • Let the meat rest before carving for at least 3 minutes.
  • Double check with the thermometer again after resting.
  • Clean the thermometer probe thoroughly between testing different foods.

With some practice using a good thermometer, you’ll be able to cook any pork properly to the right temperature. This helps ensure delicious, moist, and safe results every time.


Eating pork cooked to a true medium-rare or medium doneness poses some risks of foodborne illness according to health authorities. This is due to potential parasites, bacteria, and viruses that may be present which require thorough cooking to higher temperatures to destroy.

To be considered safe, fresh pork should reach an internal temperature of at least 145°F and rest for 3 minutes. Ground pork requires cooking to 160°F. Relying on visual indicators alone to determine if pork is cooked through can be unreliable.

For maximum safety when cooking pork, always use an accurate meat thermometer. Cook the pork to the proper USDA recommended safe internal temperatures based on the cut to eliminate the risks of worms and microbial pathogens. This provides reassurance that your pork is fully cooked for optimal flavor and enjoyment.

Leave a Comment