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Can a Pork Chop Be a Little Pink in the Middle?

Are you worried that the pink pork chops you just made may be undercooked? Here’s everything you need to know about pork safety.

Imagine this: you’ve just finished making stovetop pork chops and you’re finally ready to dig in.

You’re confident that you’ve done everything right. But as you cut through the meat, your heart sinks—you notice a pink tinge in the center. All of a sudden, doubts start to creep in. Is pink pork safe to eat?

In today’s digital age, it’s no surprise that our first instinct is to reach for our phones and scour the Internet for answers. So you did what anyone else in your situation would do. You took hold of your phone and typed “is pink pork safe to eat?” into Google, hoping to find a quick and definitive answer.

Can Pork Chops Be Pink on the Inside?

While it’s crucial to ensure that your pork chops are cooked all the way through to avoid foodborne illness, a slight pink tinge in the chops may not necessarily be a cause for alarm.

To put any doubts to rest, the US Department of Agriculture (USDA) says that pork chops are safe to eat once they’ve been cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) and allowed to rest for at least 3 minutes, even though they may still have a slightly pink color in the center.1USDA (2019, July 17). Is pink pork safe? AskUSDA. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://ask.usda.gov/s/article/Is-pink-pork-safe

Of course, relying on color alone isn’t a good way to gauge pork safety.

It’s essential to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the internal temperature has been reached, and to allow the pork to rest for a few minutes before serving to ensure that any remaining bacteria gets destroyed by the residual heat.

Are Pink Pork Chops Safe to Eat?

Pink pork may or may not be safe to eat depending on how it was prepared.

If you cooked the pork to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C), as measured by a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the cut, and rested it for at least 3 minutes before serving, then yes, pink pork is safe to eat.2USDA (2020, May 11). Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart. Food Safety & Inspection Service. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://www.fsis.usda.gov/food-safety/safe-food-handling-and-preparation/food-safety-basics/safe-temperature-chart

What’s essential from a food safety point of view here is to use a meat thermometer and verify that the safe temperature for the consumption of pork has been reached. By taking this extra step, you can ensure that your meal is not only delicious but also safe to eat.

Can You Eat Undercooked Pork Chops?

Eating undercooked pork products can put your health at risk.

While it’s tempting to cut corners or rush the cooking process, doing so can have consequences. To keep yourself and your loved ones safe and healthy, follow proper cooking guidelines and cook pork to a safe temperature.

Pork has been known to harbor harmful bacteria such as Salmonella, Listeria, and E. coli, which can cause severe and potentially life-threatening cases of food poisoning. This risk is especially high for those who are most vulnerable, such as children younger than 5 years, pregnant women and their unborn babies, and the elderly aged 65 and above.

What If I Don’t Have a Meat Thermometer?

If you’re unsure if your pork chops have been cooked to the safe minimum internal temperature recommended by the USDA and want to ensure their safety, one option could be to finish cooking them in a hot oven.

To do so, preheat your oven to 375°F (190°C), then place the pork chops on a baking sheet and bake them for 10 to 15 minutes. Thinner pork chops will bake quicker than thicker pork chops since the heat takes time to reach the center of the meat.

Remember that if your pork chops have been sitting at room temperature for more than 2 hours or have been left in the “danger zone” of temperatures between 40°F (4°C) and 140°F (60°C) for more than 2 hours, it’s best to discard them rather than trying to salvage them.

Related: How to Tell If Pork Chops Have Gone Bad

What Color Should Cooked Pork Chops Be?

When it comes to pork, the color of the meat can be misleading.

Yes, the color of pork can indicate its level of doneness. However, it’s far from a reliable indicator of its safety. In fact, pork can be safe to eat even if it has a pink color, just as pork can be unsafe even if it appears fully cooked.

When it comes to the color of pork, gray, white, or light pink are typically signs of more thorough cooking than dark pink or bright red. If the meat is mostly dry in the center or the juices run clear, it’s likely to be more thoroughly cooked than when the juices run dark pink or bright red.

What About Ground Pork?

Ground pork should be cooked longer, to an internal temperature of 160°F (71°C), as the grinding introduces disease-causing bacteria inside the meat.3(n.d.). Pork Cooking Temperature. National Pork Board. Retrieved April 30, 2023, from https://pork.org/pork-cooking-temperature/ The higher internal temperature helps to ensure that enough of those bacteria get killed off by the time the ground food products are served.

Bottom Line

Eating pink pork chops won’t make you sick if they were cooked properly. By “properly,” we mean to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) and with a resting time of at least 3 minutes.

If you don’t have a meat thermometer or forgot to use one, you can still cook your pork chops in the oven. Simply preheat the oven to 375°F (190°C) and bake the pork chops for 10 to 15 minutes.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.