Pork Doneness – How to Tell With and Without a Meat Thermometer

August 25 2020

Knowing when your pork is done is important. Undercooked meat ruins a meal and could even be a health hazard as you shouldn’t eat undercooked pork. Fortunately, it’s easy to tell when pork is done. If you don’t have a meat thermometer handy or just want other techniques, we’ve got you covered.


Using a Continuous Read Thermometer


If you like knowing the meat’s temperature throughout the cooking time, continuous read thermometers are inexpensive and easy to use. After you prepare the pork, stick the thermometer in the middle of the meat (the thickest part) and let it cook. You can check the temperature reading throughout the cooking time to keep an eye on the temperature.


Using an Instant Read Thermometer


If you’d rather use a thermometer periodically, an instant read thermometer provides the current temperature in a few seconds. Again, place the thermometer in the thickest part of the meat (usually the middle) and wait until the temperature stops changing.  Do this several times throughout its cooking time to know how much longer it should cook. 


Whether you use a continuous read or instant read thermometer, the internal temperature must be 145 degrees but don’t cook it until it hits this temperature. Pull it out of the oven, slow cooker, or stove when it’s about 135 – 140 degrees and let it sit for 10 – 15 minutes. The internal temperature will continue to rise as it sits.


Checking Pork Doneness without a Thermometer


Thermometers don’t work on every pork cut – typically only roasts, tenderloins, and hams. If you have thinner pork cuts or bacon, for example, you’ll use one of the following methods.


  • Pierce the meat – Using a sharp knife or fork, pierce the top of the pork. Clear or very faint pink juices should pour out of it. If the juices aren’t clear, the meat isn’t ready yet.


  • Touch the meat – Poking the meat with your fingers is another way to tell its doneness. Pork that is soft and doesn’t bounce back to its original shape isn’t done cooking yet. If the pork feels firm (similar to the palm of your hand) and bounces back its original shape, it’s cooked.


  • Cut the meat – Check the doneness of cuts like pork tenderloin and sausage by cutting into the thickest part of the meat. Look at the juices and the meat itself. Is the meat opaque or pink? If it’s too pink, keep cooking it.


Other cuts, such as bacon, thin pork chops, and ground pork should be cooked until you can no longer see pink. If you’re in doubt, follow the provided cooking instructions, taking care to look for any pinkness or less than clear juices.


Most importantly, don’t undercook or overcook your pork. Using a meat thermometer provides the most accurate results, and avoids under and overcooking. If you can’t use a thermometer, though, know what cooked pork should look like and make sure there’s no pink anywhere in the meat or the juices. Following these guidelines provides the juiciest pork and the safest!