You know him as the grillmaster of public television’s “Barbecue University” and author of numerous books from around the globe on the art of cooking meat over hot coals. Apparently Steven Raichlen also cruises the internet, or at least has a permanent Google alert tuned to his name. Because shortly after I published a piece showing how chefs, cookbook authors and federal authorities differ on the question of when pork is done–or safe to eat–I got a thoughtful reply from Raichlen.
He says many of the pork lovers he knows would be put off by anything pink in their meat, despite the current trend among many professional chefs to cook pork loin less than “well done,” as traditionally prescribed. He gave me permission to print the text from his e-mtail to me as a comment under the original blog post. But I thought it, along with some of the other excellent comments I received from knowledgeable cooks, was worth highlighting. So here’s what Steven Raichlen had to say:
Fascinating blog on cooking pork and it’s always nice to be mentioned. Thanks!
I have a few additional thoughts for you on the pork doneness and temperature issue.
1. Doneness has a psychological component as well as a chemical, thermal, and physical component. Pink pork may be safe to eat, but many people (including most of my students at BBQ U) would find it unappetizing.
2. In a wide variety of barbecue cultures, people like their roast pork medium-well to well done. The short list includes Germany (where Spiessbraten is always served well-done), Greece (where kandosouvle comes off the rotisserie well-done), and Spain (where lechon and pinchos) are cooked well-done. All three dishes are pork masterpieces–I profile them in Planet Barbecue.
3. Well-done doesn’t necessarily mean dry. Consider North Carolina’s pulled pork shoulder or the cochinita pibil of the Yucatan. Both are cooked to at least 190 degrees and both are as tender and succulent as any meat served rare or medium-rare. You need this high temperature to break down the muscle fibers enough so you can pull or chop the meat into the traditional shreds.
For roast pork, I’m sticking with 160 degrees (155 if you allow for a little additional cooking after the meat comes off the grill). For pulled pork, jerk pork, or Spiessbraten, 190 to 195 degrees.