A meal can easily be ruined by under- or over-cooking your meat. Many people consider meat to be the best part of the meal, and quite often, it’s the most expensive one too.
Having spent hours slaving away in the kitchen, it’s frustrating and disappointing having to serve up dry, chewy pork from accidentally over-cooking it. So, what is the best way to avoid this? Having a meat thermometer at your disposal is fantastic but knowing how to tell if pork is done without a thermometer is also very useful.
Below, we have highlighted some of the techniques in which you can tell if pork is ready, even without the use of a thermometer, to help you avoid any further mishaps in the kitchen.
Recommended Meat Temperatures
In 2011, the USDA revised their guidelines for cooking pork and stated that consumers could more easily remember how to cook all meat safely with just three different temperatures. Previously, the recommendation was to cook pork to 160 degrees, but with the new guidelines, the USDA has made it clear that eating pork that is slightly pink is okay.
Cooking any meat to the following temperatures should always be followed with at least a three minute rest period, out of the pan or oven, as it will carry on cooking slightly due to residual heat. The three temperatures to remember are as follows:
- Poultry – 165 degrees Fahrenheit
- Ground meat – 160 degrees Fahrenheit
- All other meat – 145 degrees Fahrenheit
Cooking Without a Thermometer
Now, if you don’t have a meat thermometer at your disposal, how can you tell that your pork is cooked properly? Depending on the cut of meat you are working with, there are several different ways of checking.
Slow cooking your meat is one of the easiest ways of achieving perfection when it comes to meat doneness. If you’re slow cooking your meat for a long period, whether it be in a slow cooker or a Dutch oven, then you can safely assume it is properly cooked.
The meat should shred (pulled pork) or come away from the bone easily, which is a sure sign that the meat is definitely cooked well. This method of cooking also has quite a large margin for error. The meat can still be juicy and tender, even if you accidentally let it cook for 10 minutes longer than you meant to.
If you are roasting a large cut of pork, then you should follow guidelines based on how heavy the meat is. A general rule of thumb is 25 minutes per pound of meat with your oven preheated to a cooking temperature of 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Cooking times can vary depending on what kind of roasting joint it is, so always follow the instructions given.
If you’re buying your meat from a supermarket, then it should come with cooking instructions on the label. If you’re buying from a butcher or farm shop, then ask them for advice on the best way to cook it. You never know, they may even recommend a good recipe idea!
If you are covering your pork with foil or a lid, then this will also affect how quickly it cooks. Extra time should be allocated if you are covering it up.
Whether you are cooking your chops or steaks in a pan, oven, or on a grill, the cooking time will be much shorter. The best way to tell how done they are is by giving them a poke with your finger.
This method works with any kind of chop or steak (lamb/beef), but pork should never be eaten rare. Medium-rare is okay, but without using a thermometer, it’s difficult to gage. Hence, it’s better to be safe rather than sorry and go for pork steaks more on the medium side of medium-rare.
You can judge how well your meat is cooked by touching different parts of your face and then your meat, and see how it matches up:
- The fleshy part of your cheek will feel like rare meat
- Just above the pointy part of your chin indicates medium-rare meat
- The top of your nose will feel the same as medium
- Your forehead will have the same firmness as well done meat
Like any meat, cooking pork to perfection is no easy task. The easiest way to turn out juicy, succulent pork every time is, obviously, with a thermometer. A thermometer will guarantee that your meat is thoroughly cooked and safe to eat.
If you don’t have access to one then knowing how to tell if pork is done without a thermometer is pretty much left to sketchy guidelines and guesswork. To be sure, most people would err on the side of caution and cook for slightly longer than they think is necessary. After all, it’s better to have slightly overcooked meat than make yourself ill from eating undercooked pork.