When cooking any sort of meat, both professional and home chefs need to bring dishes to a minimum temperature. This is a basic food safety guideline. The Chartered Institute For Environmental Health states that undercooked pork may be the leading cause of a 39% increase in human cases of Hepatitis E between 2011 and 2012, according to a report from the Department for Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs. Research suggests that, to kill Hepatitis E, food needs to be cooked to a consistency of 70 degrees Celsius (158 degrees Fahrenheit).
The Guardian reports that this minimum of food safety is actually being contended by critics. While the critics say they’d never sell pork as pink as a steak, a little bit of pink “can make a world of difference to the succulence of the meat”. They report on a clear trend that many restaurants, especially Spanish-influenced ones, that serving their pork “on the pink side” has led to impressed reviews. The ones serving the pork say the trick is to only have the highest-quality pork.
The Ibérico pork I serve at Pizarro and José is of seriously high quality and out of all my suppliers that one is the relationship I probably nurture the most. These pigs are reared on acorns and are thoroughly spoilt. The resulting meat is tender, soft, tasty. It is so different to that sort of leathery, chewy finish you can often get on a pork chop. It is my signature dish and my customers absolutely love it.
Chef José Pizarro, who runs two titular restaurants on England (José and Pizarro), lives and thrives by this mindset.
Hepatitis E can lead to acute liver failure, which can be fatal in humans, especially pregnant women. Despite this worry, the Food and Drug Administration in the United States reduced the minimum temperature requirements for cooked pork by 15 degrees Fahrenheit. The concept of sous vide, in which dishes are cooked at a low temperature sealed in plastic bags submerged in water for extended periods of time, has also lead to pink pork being a possibility, or for many, a goal. If not done correctly, sous vide can allow pathogens to live and grow.
Would you ever consider serving pork that pink? For selling in the United States, you definitely need to follow the FDA’s minimum temperature for cooking, 145 degrees Fahrenheit for fresh pork, followed by a three minute rest period. Ground pork needs to go 15 degrees higher, as the grinding of pork can introduce and allow more bacteria to thrive and grow. Outside of fish and pre-cooked ham, pork resides with fresh beef, veal, and lamb as some of the lowest temperatures required by the FDA for food service. In the case that you do consider serving pork this pink, make sure to follow common food safety guidelines; don’t cross-contaminate, store appropriately, and check the temperature.