How To Cook Pork, The Other White Meat
Choosing the Right Cut of Pork
Much like beef, pork has always been considered to be unhealthy and fatty and as a result, leaner breeds of pigs are being raised in the U.S. today. The flavor of pork is fairly mild and lends itself equally to savory, aromatic and sweeter, fruity preparations. As previously described with other types of meat, cooking techniques vary base on which cut is being used. There are leaner cuts like the tenderloin and chops, which are perfect for roasting and grilling. Less lean cuts like the shoulder and belly are at their best when cooked long and slow.
Follow these standards to purchase pork:
- The meat should be firm to the touch and reddish-pink in color and should never have a gray hue to it.
- The texture should be fine grained and the pork should not have an excessive amount of exterior fat.
- Any fat that is present should be white in color and never yellow or browning.
- Finally, pork should have a mild, sweet smell and should never feel slimy or sticky.
How to Cook Perfect Pork
Over the past century it has been drilled into the American mind that pork should be cooked until well done because of the possibility of contracting trichinosis, a parasite that at one time was prevalent in pigs in the U.S. Even though trichinosis has been almost completely eradicated in America today, the cooking guidelines for pork have not been updated to reflect this. These outdated cooking methods, combined with leaner breeds of pigs, often result in dry, chewy, overcooked pork. It is therefore important to have some knowledge of what the current acceptable cooking practices are.
A piece of lean pork like the tenderloin, for example, is at its best when it is cooked to a temperature of medium, thus retaining a bit of pink color in the center. To attain this, the meat should be cooked to an internal temperature of about 150 degrees. While the pork may appear shockingly undercooked to those who were taught to fear pink in their pork, it is perfectly safe to eat because the trichinosis parasite is killed at a temperature of 137oF, far below the final internal temperature of the pork. Cooking a piece of lean pork until it is well done results in something similar to shoe leather.
Recipes for Success
For more detailed instructions and inspiration for preparing perfect pork, check out the recipes to he right!
About the Author
After receiving degrees from the University of Wisconsin and the Culinary Institute of America, Andrea Rappaport moved into a full-time career in the restaurant business. For over 12 years, she worked in various culinary jobs, including as a cook for Wolfgang Puck at Spago, and ultimately as the executive chef and partner of the highly revered San Francisco restaurant Zinzino. For the past seven years, Andrea has worked as the private chef for one family in the San Francisco area, and continues to expand her culinary portfolio by catering, teaching, and consulting.