About Pork

Inspection | Antibiotics | Retail Cuts | Dating  | Natural | Handling Safely | Cooking | Microwaving |Storage | Defrosting | Irradiation |

Although pork is the number one meat consumed in the world, U.S. consumption dropped during the 1970s, largely because its high fat content caused health-conscious Americans to choose leaner meats.
Today’s hogs have much less fat due to improved genetics, breeding and feeding. Read on for more information about this red meat.

What is Pork?
Pork is the meat from hogs, or domestic swine. The domestication of “pigs” (immature hogs) for food dates back to about 7000 B.C. in the Middle East. However, evidence shows that Stone Age man ate wild boar, the hog’s ancestor, and the earliest surviving pork recipe is Chinese, at least 2000 years old.

Hogs were brought to Florida by Hernando de Soto in 1525, and soon was America’s most popular meat. In the 19th century — as America urbanized and people began living away from the farm, “salt pork” — pork that is prepared with a high level of salt to preserve it — became the staple food. Pork has continued to be an important part of our diet since that time.

Pork is generally produced from young animals (6 to 7 months old) that weigh from 175 to 240 pounds. Much of a hog is cured and made into ham, bacon and sausage. Uncured meat is called “fresh pork.”

Can Antibiotics and Hormones Be Used in Pork Raising?
Antibiotics may be given to prevent or treat disease in hogs. A “withdrawal” period is required from the time antibiotics are administered until it is legal to slaughter the animal. This is so residues can exit the animal’s system and won’t be in the meat.

FSIS randomly samples pork at slaughter and tests for residues. Data from this monitoring program have shown a very low percentage of residue violations.

No hormones are used in the raising of hogs.

How is Pork Inspected?
All pork found in retail stores is either USDA inspected for wholesomeness or inspected by state systems which have standards equal to the federal government. Each animal and its internal organs are inspected for signs of disease. The “Passed and Inspected by USDA” seal insures the pork is wholesome and free from disease.

Is Pork Graded?
Although inspection is mandatory, its grading for quality is voluntary, and a plant pays to have its pork graded. USDA grades for pork reflect only two levels: “Acceptable” grade and “Utility” grade. Pork sold as Acceptable quality pork is the only fresh pork sold in supermarkets. It should have a high proportion of lean meat to fat and bone. Pork graded as Utility is mainly used in processed products and is not available in supermarkets for consumers to purchase.

What to Look For When Buying Pork
When buying pork, look for cuts with a relatively small amount of fat over the outside and with meat that is firm and a grayish pink color. For best flavor and tenderness, meat should have a small amount of marbling.

Retail Cuts of Fresh Pork
There are four basic (primal) cuts into which pork is separated: shoulder, loin, side and leg.

Shoulder

* Shoulder Butt, Roast or Steak
* Blade Steak
* Boneless Blade Boston Roast
* Smoked Arm Picnic
* Smoked Hock
* Ground Pork for Sausage

Side

* Spare Ribs/Back Ribs
* Bacon

Loin

* Boneless Whole Loin (Butterfly Chop)
* Loin Roast
* Tenderloin
* Sirloin Roast
* Country Style Ribs
* Chops

Leg

* Ham/Fresh or Smoked and Cured

What Does “Natural” Mean?
All fresh meat qualifies as “natural.” Products labeled “natural” cannot contain any artificial flavor or flavoring, coloring ingredient, chemical preservative or any other artificial or synthetic ingredient; and the product and its ingredients are not more than minimally processed (ground, for example). All products claiming to be natural should be accompanied by a brief statement which explains what is meant by the term “natural.”

Why is Pork a “Red” Meat?
Oxygen is delivered to muscles by the red cells in the blood. One of the proteins in meat, myoglobin, holds the oxygen in the muscle. The amount of myoglobin in animal muscles determines the color of meat. Pork is classified a “red” meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. When fresh pork is cooked, it becomes lighter in color, but it is still a red meat. Pork is classed as “livestock” along with veal, lamb and beef. All livestock are considered “red meat.”

Dating of Pork
Product dating (i.e. applying “sell by” or “use by” dates) is not required by Federal regulations. However, many stores and processors may voluntarily choose to date packages of raw pork. Use or freeze products with a “sell-by” date within 3 to 5 days of purchase. If the manufacturer has determined a “use-by” date, observe it. It’s always best to buy a product before its date expires. It’s not important if a date expires after freezing pork because all foods stay safe while properly frozen.

Rinsing Pork
It isn’t necessary to wash raw pork before cooking it. Any bacteria which might be present on the surface would be destroyed by cooking.

How to Handle Pork Safely
Raw Pork. Select pork just before checking out at the supermarket register. Put packages of raw pork in disposable plastic bags (if available) to contain any leakage which could cross contaminate cooked foods or produce. Take pork home immediately and refrigerate it at 40 °F; use within 3 to 5 days or freeze (0 °F).
Pork must be adequately cooked to eliminate disease-causing parasites and bacteria that may be present. Humans may contract trichinosis (caused by the parasite, Trichinella spiralis) by eating undercooked pork. Much progress has been made in reducing trichinosis in grain-fed hogs and human cases have greatly declined since 1950. Today’s pork can be enjoyed when cooked to an internal temperature of 160 °F.

Some other foodborne micro-organisms that can be found in pork, as well as other meats and poultry, are Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus and Listeria monocytogenes. They are all destroyed by proper handling and thorough cooking to an internal temperature of 160 °F.

Ready-Prepared Pork. For fully cooked take-out pork dishes such as Chinese food or barbecued ribs, be sure they are hot at pick-up. Use cooked pork within two hours (one hour if air temperature is above 90 °F) or refrigerate it at 40 °F or less in shallow, covered containers. Eat within 3 to 4 days, either cold or reheated to 165 °F (hot and steaming). It is safe to freeze ready prepared pork dishes. For best quality, use within 3 months.

Safe Defrosting
There are three safe ways to defrost pork: in the refrigerator, in cold water (in an airtight or leak-proof bag) and in the microwave. Never defrost on the counter or in other locations.

It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. After defrosting raw pork by this method, it will be safe in the refrigerator 3 to 5 days before cooking. During this time, if you decide not to use the pork, you can safely refreeze it without cooking it first.

When microwave-defrosting pork, plan to cook it immediately after thawing because some areas of the food may become warm and begin to cook during microwaving. Holding partially cooked food is not recommended because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. Foods defrosted in the microwave or by the cold water method should be cooked before refreezing because they potentially may have been held at temperatures above 40 °F.

It is safe to cook frozen pork in the oven, on the stove or grill without defrosting it first; the cooking time may be about 50% longer. Use a meat thermometer to check for doneness. Do not cook frozen pork in a slow cooker.

Marinating
Marinate pork in the refrigerator in a covered container up to 5 days. Boil used marinade before brushing on cooked pork. Discard any uncooked leftover marinade.

Irradiation
Irradiation has been approved for use on pork by FDA and USDA/FSIS in low-doses (to control trichina). Treated pork would not be sterile and would still need to be handled safely. Trichinella could be alive but would be unable to reproduce. Packages of irradiated pork must be labeled with the irradiation logo as well as the words “Treated with Irradiation” or “Treated by Irradiation” so they would be easily recognizable at the store.

Partial Cooking
Never brown or partially cook pork, then refrigerate and finish cooking later, because any bacteria present wouldn’t have been destroyed. It is safe to partially pre-cook or microwave pork immediately before transferring it to the hot grill to finish cooking.

Safe Cooking
For safety, the USDA recommends cooking ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures such as meat loaf to 160 °F. Whole muscle meats such as chops and roasts should be cooked to 160 °F.

For approximate cooking times for use in meal planning, see the attached chart compiled from various resources. Times are based on pork at refrigerator temperature (40 °F). Remember that appliances and outdoor grills can vary in heat. Use a meat thermometer to check for safe cooking and doneness of pork.

Can Safely Cooked Pork Be Pink?
Cooked muscle meats can be pink even when the meat has reached a safe internal temperature. If fresh pork has reached 160 °F throughout, even though it may still be pink in the center, it should be safe. The pink color can be due to the cooking method or added ingredients.

Microwave Directions

* When microwaving unequal size pieces of pork, arrange in dish or on rack so thick parts are toward the outside of dish and thin parts are in the center, and cook on medium-high or medium power.
* Place a roast in an oven cooking bag or in a covered pot.
* Refer to the manufacturer’s directions that accompany the microwave oven for suggested cooking times.
* Use a meat thermometer to test for doneness in several places to be sure temperatures listed above have been reached.

Home Storage of Fresh Pork
Product Refrigerator
40 °F
Freezer
0 °F
Fresh pork roast, steaks, chops or ribs 3 – 5 days 4 – 6 months
Fresh pork liver or variety meats 1 – 2 days 3 – 4 months
Home cooked pork; soups, stews or casseroles 3 – 4 days 2 – 3 months
Store-cooked convenience meals 1 – 2 days 2 – 3 months
TV dinners, frozen casseroles Keep frozen before cooking 3 – 4 months
Canned pork products in pantry 2 – 5 years in pantry; 3 – 4 days after opening After opening, 2 – 3 months


COOKING METHODS

There are  two cooking meat methods: DRY & MOIST.
Some meat products can be cooked using either.

DRY METHODS:
Roasting, broiling, grilling, sauteing, frying, and baking.

MOIST METHODS:
Boiling, simmering, poaching and steaming.

Descriptions of most common methods here

Detailed Pork Preparation For Popular Cuts

 

PORK

Primal

Retail Cut Name

Cooking Method

Jowl

Smoked Pork Jowl

Moist

Shoulder

Pork Shoulder Arm Picnic, Whole

Dry/Moist

Pork Shoulder Arm Roast

Dry/Moist

Pork Shoulder Arm Steak

Dry/Moist

Pork Shoulder Blade Boston Roast

Dry/Moist

Pork Shoulder Blade Steak

Dry/Moist

Pork Hock

Moist

Smoked Pork Shoulder Picnic, Whole

Dry/Moist

Smoked Pork Hock

Moist

Loin

Pork Loin Blade Roast

Dry/Moist

Pork Loin Blade Chops

Dry/Moist

Pork Loin Blade Chops, Bnls

Dry/Moist

Pork Loin Country Style Ribs

Dry/Moist

Pork Loin Back Ribs

Dry/Moist

Pork Loin Rib Roast

Dry

Pork Loin Rib Chops

Dry

Pork Loin Center Loin Roast

Dry

Pork Loin Chops

Dry

Pork Loin Top Loin Chops

Dry

Pork Loin Top Loin Chops, Bnls

Dry

Pork Loin Top Loin Roast, Bnls

Dry

Pork Loin Butterfly Chops

Dry

Pork Loin Sirloin Roast

Dry

Pork Loin Sirloin Chops

Dry

Pork Loin Sirloin Cutlets

Dry

Pork Loin Tenderloin, Whole

Dry

Smoked Pork Loin Canadian Style Bacon

Dry

Smoked Pork Loin Rib Chop

Dry

Smoked Pork Loin Chop

Dry

Side

Fresh Side Pork Sliced

Dry/Moist

Slab Bacon

Dry

Sliced Bacon

Dry

Spareribs

Pork Spareribs

Dry/Moist

Ham/Leg

Pork Fresh Ham Rump Portion

Dry/Moist

Pork Fresh Ham Center Slice

Dry/Moist

Pork Fresh Ham Shank Portion

Dry/Moist

Smoked Ham, Bnls

Dry

Smoked Ham Rump Portion

Dry

Smoked Ham Center Slice

Dry

Smoked Ham Shank Portion

Dry

Misc

Pork Cubed Steak

Dry/Moist

Ground Pork

Dry

Pork Sausage Links

Dry

Sausage

Dry

 

Detailed Pork Cuts Preparation

Retail cut

Blade roast
Blade steak
Boneless arm picnic roast
Boneless blade roast
Smoked hocks
Smoked picnic
Smoked shoulder rollRetail cut

Boneless smoked ham
Canned ham
Leg cutlet
Sliced ham
Smoked ham
Smoked ham center slice
Smoked ham rump portion
Smoked ham shank portion
Top leg (inside) roast

Retail cut

Back ribs
Blade chop
Blade roast
Boneless blade roast
Boneless sirloin roast
Butterfly chop
Canadian-style bacon
Center loin roast
Center rib roast
Country-style ribs
Crown roast
Loin chop
Rib chop
Sirloin chop
Sirloin cutlet
Sirloin roast
Smoked loin chop
Tenderloin
Top loin chop
Top loin roast (double)

 

Retail cut

Sliced bacon
Spareribs


Retail cut
Cubed steak
Cubes for kabobs
Ground pork
Pork pieces
Sausage links

 

Preparation

braise, roast
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
braise, roast
braise, roast
braise, cook in liquid
cook in liquid, roast
cook in liquid, roastPreparation

roast
roast
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
braise, pan-broil, pan-fry
roast
broil, pan-broil, pan-fry, roast
roast
roast
braise, roast

Preparation

braise, broil, cook in liquid, roast
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
braise, roast
braise, roast
roast
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
broil, pan-broil, pan-fry, roast
roast
roast
braise, broil, cook in liquid, roast
roast
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
braise
braise, broil, pan-fry, pan-broil
roast
broil, pan-broil, pan-fry, roast
braise (slices: pan-fry, braise), roast
braise, broil, pan-broil, pan-fry
roast

Preparation

broil, pan-fry, roast
braise, broil, cook in liquid, roast

Preparation
braise, pan-broil, pan-fry
braise, broil
broil, pan-broil, pan-fry, roast
braise, cook in liquid
braise, pan-fry, roast
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Cooking Methods Described

DRY HEAT

Roasting
Roasting is to cook foods by surrounding them in dry heat usually in an oven or by spit roasting over an open fire or on an outdoor grill.

Broiling
Broiling is to cook foods at a high temperature with an overhead heat source, four to six inches below the heat source. meat is usually only turned once during cooking

Sauteing
Sauteing is to cook fast in a small amount of fat. The pan should be preheated to allow the food to be seared quickly.

Baking

In baking method of cooking, the food is cooked using convection heating. The food is put into an enclosed area where heat is then applied and the movement of heat within the confined space, acts on the food the make it get cooked.

 

MOIST HEAT
Boiling
Boiling is cooking in liquid at 212 °F at sea level. The liquid may be water, a seasoned liquid, wine, stock, or a mixture
Simmering
to 205 Simmering is cooking in a liquid just below the boiling point.  The temperature of the liquid is 185 °F°F
Poaching
Poaching is to cook in a liquid that is not actually bubbling at 165°F to 180 °F It is usually used to cook delicate foods such as fish and eggs.

Stewing

In the process of cooking using the stewing method food is cooked using a lot of liquid. Different kinds of vegetables are chopped, diced or cubed and added to the pot with pieces of selected meat, fish or chicken is also chopped and added to the stew. The liquid is slightly thickened and stewed food is served in that manner.

DRY HEAT

Grilling
Grilling is done an on open grid or grate over a heat source.
The heat source can be electric,charcoal, or a gas flame.

Frying
There are two types of frying:

Pan frying is done in a moderate amount of fat over moderate heat.
This method is used for larger pieces of meat, turned more than once during cooking.

Deep fat frying
is to fry foods completely submerged in fat, meat must be fried at 350°F to 360°F degrees to minimize fat absorption

Barbequing
The method of cooking food by barbequing is usually associated with fund raising activities, parties or picnics. It is most suitable to cooking meat cutlets, fish or chicken pieces. The food is usually marinated with spices and tenderizers (for meat cuts) for sometime before it is cooked. With this method of cooking, a sheet of metal with stands is heated up and oil is used to cook the food. A sufficient amount of oil is heated up and food is added.


MOIST HEAT
Steaming
Steaming is cooking foods by exposing them directly to steam, on a rack above boiling liquid, by wrapping foods tightly, or in a covered pan allowing the food to cook in its own steam, it is a good method for fish, not meat.
Blanching
To cook food items briefly in boiling water is known as blanching, meats are placed in cold water and brought to a boil or placed directly into boiling water.
After a brief cooking time they are removed and plunged in icewater to stop the cooking process and to set color. Meats are blanched briefly to leach out impurities or salt.