Times Have Changed for Pork

If you are afraid pork will increase the fat in your diet, worry no more. Today’s pork is about 23 percent leaner and 26 percent lower in cholesterol than it was a dozen years ago. Put in simpler terms a lean pork chop has about the same fat level as a chicken breast with skin, or a tablespoon of salad dressing. So feel free to indulge and enjoy the moment.

The industry has achieved the fat reduction through improved breeding and feeding practices and a revised grading system rewarding hog producers for leaner meat. Retailers are part of the picture as well as they encourage better trimming of external fat from retail cuts. You can carry that trend still further by choosing lean cuts, limiting portions to 4 ounces, (about the size of a deck of cards) trimming visible fat and choosing a cooking method requiring little or no fat. If you use a non-stick skillet for pan or stir frying, little if any oil is required.

Nutritionally, pork is the leading source of thiamin, the B vitamin needed to convert carbohydrates into energy and important for normal functioning of the cardiovascular and nervous system. As well pork is a high quality protein and a good source of other B vitamins, niacin, riboflavin, B6 and B12, iron and zinc.

Times have changed when it comes to cooking pork as well. At one time pork was served only well done to ensure the meat was safe to eat and to melt out the fat. But improved production conditions mean trichinosis is virtually unheard of related to pork. There hasn’t been a case related to pork in 10 years. Agriculture Canada reports trichinosis, if present is destroyed when pork is cooked to an internal temperature of 140?F (60?C) which is well below the recommended 160?F (70?C) internal temperature. So forget the tough dried out roasts of yesteryear and cook to a succulent medium on your meat thermometer – 160?F (70?C) – when juices run clear. Ground pork and sausages, like all ground meat should be cooked thoroughly.

Pork Roasting Guide

Approximate cooking times vary for roasts depending on size and whether they are boneless or bone in. With the exception of pork tenderloin, recommended temperature is 325?F (160?C) oven. Roast pork tenderloin at 375?F (190?C).

Cut Pounds Kilograms 325 F(160 Celsius) Mins/lb(500g)
Loin Centre-cut, bone in 3-5 1.5-2.2 20-25 mins
Rack of Pork 3-5 1.5-2.2 20-25
Tenderloin end, boneless 3-4 1.5-2.0 25-30
Single loin, boneless 3-4 1.5-2.0 20-25
Crown roast 8+ 3.5+ 10-15
Rib end, boneless 2-4 1.0-2.0 25-30
Double loin, boneless 3-5 1.5-2.2 30-35
Leg Inside , boneless 3-4 1.5-2.0 20-25
Outside, boneless 3-4 1.5-2.0 20-25
Shoulder Shoulder butt, boneless 3-6 1.5-3.0 30-35
Shoulder, picnic, boneless 3-6 1.5-3.0 30-35
Shoulder butt, bone in 5 2.5 25-30
Shoulder, picnic, bone-in 5 2.5 25-30
Tenderloin 1/2-3/4 250-350 g Roast at 375?F (190?C) 30-35 min total cooking time

Pork Cooking Pointers

There are two basic methods of cooking pork, one using moist heat, the other dry heat. The method you choose depends on the pork cut. Moist heat is recommended for tougher cuts like shoulder roasts, leg steaks and roasts, ribs, sirloin tip roast, shoulder steaks and chops.

  • Estimate 4 oz (120g) raw pork for a 3 1/2 oz (100g) cooked serving.
  • Trim visible fat before cooking.
  • Don’t overcook pork – roast to 160?F (70?C).
  • Use a meat thermometer to avoid guessing when pork is done.
  • When cooking stuffed pork roasts ensure the tip of the thermometer is in the meat, not the stuffing.
  • After removing a roast from the oven, cover with foil and let stand for 10-15 minutes.
  • Slice meat for stir-fries in the semi-frozen state. Either slice before it is completely thawed or place fresh pork in the freezer for half an hour to make it firmer.
  • Cut across the grain to get the most tender meat for stir fries. Cutting across the muscle, severs the connective tissue making it easier to chew the meat.
  • Stir fry pork strips quickly over medium high heat so the meat doesn’t toughen and dry out.
  • For best results with ribs, cut spareribs into 2-3 rib portions and simmer 15-30 minutes for back ribs and 30 – 45 minutes for side ribs. Continue with recipe.
  • Barbecue or grill pork over low to medium heat and turn with tongs to prevent loss of juices.
  • Cook ham that is not marked fully cooked to an internal temperature of 160?F (70?C).
  • A fully cooked ham may improve with cooking to a temperature of 140? F (275?C). For best quality, do not freeze ham.
  • For best results defrost meat in the refrigerator.
  • Cook meat defrosted in the microwave immediately.


“Pork Times Have Changed,” Ontario Pork

The Wellness Encyclopedia of Food and Nutrition, University of California at Berkeley

LINKS: www.ontariopork.on.ca