The federal food-safety cops have finally taken a simple but enormous step that might allow home cooks to put better-tasting meat on the table.
Dr. Elisabeth Hagen, the top doc and undersecretary for food safety at USDA announced today that we can officially stop cooking our meat to death.
“With a single temperature for all whole cuts of meat and uniform three-minute stand time, we believe it will be much easier for consumers to remember and result in safer food preparation,” said Hagen. “Now there will only be three numbers to remember: 145 for whole meats, 160 for ground meats and 165 for all poultry.”
Let’s talk about these numbers for a minute. An internal temperature of 145-degrees in your steaks, roasts, and chops should give you a medium-rare piece of meat with the ultimate tenderness and flavor.
The idea of cooking chicken to 165-degrees and ground meat – beef, veal, lamb, or pork – to 160-degrees is logical from a food- safety perspective. Most pathogens on meat are found on the outside, the most easily contaminated surface in the butchering process. When ground and blended it could mix bad bugs like E. coli throughout the meat, and the 160-degrees should kill even the most invest tenacious pathogen.
The practice of letting the meat rest for three-minutes before carving or consuming has always made sense, not so much for safety, but for taste. The “wait time” permits blood and juices to be reabsorbed into the meat.
Let’s talk about pork for a minute, because, if followed, this change could finally end having to eat cardboard-tasting, desert-dry, way-overcooked pork.
Many of us were taught by the cooks in our family that the slightest hint color pink in pork would instantly doom us to a painful death from trichinosis, so we cooked every bit of flavor out of this other white meat.
About ten years ago I went to a gathering of Canadian chefs in Alberta and watched a representative of the Canadian Pork Council almost in tears as he pleaded with the cooks to stop overcooking pork and that 145-degrees was completely safe and much more tasty.
Now that America’s official food-safety monitors have finally blessed the lower cooking temperature, try it. You’ll like it and those you cook for will be amazed at how talented you’ve become.