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Pork is one of those meats that people start cooking after they’ve gotten used to cooking beef or chicken and want to branch out.
If a person was not raised on pork right away from childhood, it’s a bit of a mystery meat for cooking, but not in a bad way. Most folks who are not vegetarians have eaten bacon, which is a type of pork.
However, there’s a lot more to the other meat than just breakfast strips.
That said, cooking pork, particularly chops, pork loins or pork shoulder can be a bit intimidating at first for folks not used to the nuances of pork.
Can Pork Shoulder Be Pink in the Middle?
A pork shoulder cut is one of the biggest solid pieces of pork meat to cook. So, naturally, it’s going to take more time and care to do right. It’s very easy to cook pork shoulder wrong, burn the outside, and not cook the inside at all.
Generally, any meat should be cooked thoroughly to prevent dietary health problems. However, there’s a huge difference between drying out the meat entirely with the heat process and cooking it until ready.
The first step is understanding temperature.
Why is my Pork Shoulder still Pink?
If nothing else is remembered from learning how to cook meat, remember this one specific rule: stop fixating on meat color and get a cooking thermometer.
This is a cook’s one and true friend when it comes to knowing whether a meat is cooked properly or still needs some time in the oven.
Per the USDA, pork is supposed to be cooked up to at least 145 degrees. There’s no question the outside will reach that temperature, but the inner core of the meat is what matters to know it is done.
For larger cuts of pork like pork shoulder though, make sure to bring it all the way past 200 degrees so the fibers have a chance to breakdown fully.
That’s not going to be determined by color and basic visual sight. You need to apply a thermometer to know for sure.
Does Pork Shoulder Stay Pink When Cooked?
While pork, like other meats, will change color as it cooks, losing moisture and drying out, color along is a poor factor for evaluation.
Color is changed by the pH value as well as the heat and moisture level.
Because that can vary considerably, one part could be cooked white and another pink or gray and they can both reach the safe temperature.
Pork will also change color again when it is exposed to air and losing heat during the cooling or resting phase, minutes after being removed from the oven. So again, color alone is a poor gauge of a complete cooking process.
Can You Serve Pork Pink in the Middle?
The short answer is, yes. Pork above 200 degrees Fahrenheit is going to turn whitish, which is really well done.
There’s no question its cooked at that point, but it’s also going to be dry.
Given that the safe temperature to eat is above 200 degrees, a pink meat is going to be quite possible around this level.
The pork will be juicier and provide a far greater taste experience as well. As long as the temperature is above the “cooked” minimum, it can be pink and very safe to eat without problems.
How do You Know if Pork is Undercooked?
Clearly, if the meat is cold in the middle or cool to the touch without any warmth, its undercooked and the heat didn’t reach inside.
Also, did we say use a meat thermometer?
Again, a meat thermometer is critical for knowing accurately what’s going on inside the meat itself.
It takes a lot of heat to reach deep inside a pork shoulder, which means the outside has cooked longer and should be a higher temperature acting as an insulator for the core.
Even experienced cooks still use meat thermometers to double-check. Over time, experience picks up subtleties, but good cooks know to still check anyways.
Even better, there are small sized meat thermometers are that are easy to keep in a shirt pocket or apron pocket for easy access and use during cooking or BBQing.
So, don’t take a chance. Check your pork shoulder the right way and stop focusing on the color of the meat. Instead, temperature is your critical guide.