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Pork FAQs

How do you safely defrost and cook fresh pork?

By Bob Oros

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.

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.

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.