Something that keeps coming up is how to know when meat is finished cooking, especially pork. Old-time cooks like Julia Child advise cooking pork to an internal temperature of 185 degrees, a point at which I think chops and steaks are completely inedible. No surprise here that the pork industry subsequently reinvented its product as “the other white meat.” Today the U.S. government recommends cooking pork to 145 degrees unless it’s ground, in which case 155 degrees is suggested. That’s the advice you get when you ask lawyers how to cook; I’m with food writers who advocate for a finished temperature of 138 degrees, enough to kill pork tapeworm, or trichnosis, but not every bacteria known to man. Some brave cooks like Alice Waters even swear by temps of 130 degrees.

In any case, we all now believe that pork is white — aka lean — meat, which to me just seems crazy. Are people aware that bacon is half fat? (Or that nitrites must be added to make bacon pink?) And it’s not just my husband who sends pork back to the kitchen if there’s a hint of color; I once hosted a dinner party where some of the guests politely sent their chops back for longer cooking. Admittedly, one was a pregnant woman, so she gets a pass. But I don’t think there’s anything so adventurous about eating pork with a tinge of pink, or cooked medium; I think keeping this stuff on the juicier side just tastes better. I think it helps to be eating local, to know where the meat comes from.

And what’s the government really saying about ground meat, when it recommends higher cooking temperatures?

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