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Published: Sunday, 6/12/2011 - Updated: 3 years ago

MORSELS

USDA revises rules for cooking pork

BY DANIEL NEMAN
BLADE FOOD EDITOR

The biggest food news to come along lately has taken some folks by surprise.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced last month that it is officially acceptable to serve pork that has been cooked to 145 degrees. That's the same temperature recommended for serving beef, veal, and lamb, and is 15 degrees cooler than was previously suggested.

Two caveats: The USDA says that once pork has reached 145 degrees, it should be allowed to rest for at least three minutes before serving. And ground pork patties and ground pork mixtures such as meat loaf should still be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

Poultry, incidentally, should still be cooked to 165 degrees.

At 145 degrees, pork is medium rare and still a bit pink. Which begs the question: Whatever happened to trichinosis?

Trichinosis is a disease caused by tiny parasites in your intestines, bloodstream, and tissue; its symptoms are generally fairly mild (nausea, heartburn, diarrhea) but it can lead to strokes and an assortment of other unpleasantness and is fatal in about 1 percent of cases. Although it can be contracted by eating any raw or undercooked meat, the meat it is most commonly associated with by far is pork.

Still want your pork cooked to 145 degrees?

The USDA says it is OK, and the Food and Drug Administration has allowed restaurants to use the 145-degree temperature since 1999. A story by the Associated Press cites James McKean, associate director of the Swine Industry Center at Iowa State University, as saying that temperture is hot enough to kill dangerous bacteria, pathogens, and parasites.

What has happened in recent years, Mr. McKean is quoted as saying, is that hogs have been moved inside. That means they are less exposed to such animals as birds and rodents that can carry disease. Their feed has been improved, too; let's just say they are less exposed to other animals in all sorts of ways.

As a result of these improvements, human cases of trichinosis have gone way down in recent decades, particularly in the United States. So go ahead and cook your pork medium rare with confidence. Everyone agrees it tastes better that way.

One last fact before we share a recipe from the Ohio Pork Producers Council (amusingly, it calls for kosher salt). Despite all the efforts from the National Pork Board to convince us that it is "the other white meat," pork is, in fact, officially classified as red meat because it contains more myoglobin than chicken or fish. Pork is livestock, and all livestock is red meat, according to the USDA.

Cuban Pork Tenderloin

1 1/2 pounds pork tenderloin

1/4 cup orange juice, fresh

1/4 cup grapefruit juice, fresh

2 tablespoons cilantro, chopped

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon dried oregano

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Using thin knife, trim silver skin from tenderloin.

Mix orange juice, grapefruit juice, cilantro, oregano, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes in gallon-sized zip-top plastic bag. Add pork, close, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours.

Prepare outdoor grill for direct medium hot grilling. Lightly oil cooking grate. Remove pork from marinade, drain briefly, but do not scrape off solids. Place on grill and cover grill. Cook, turning occasionally, until browned and thermometer inserted into center of pork reads 145 degrees Fahrenheit, about 20-27 minutes.

Transfer to carving board and let stand 3-5 minutes. Cut on slight diagonal.

Yield: 6 servings.

Source: The Ohio Pork Producers Council

Dining in Ann Arbor

Ann Arbor is such a pleasant little town. And even Ohio State fans have to admit it has more than its share of great restaurants.

Today through Friday is a particularly good time to experience some of those restaurants. It's Ann Arbor Restaurant Week again, when 45 downtown dining establishments offer prix fixe meals: $12 for lunch, $25 for dinner. Some of the restaurants are offering two-for-one specials.

The restaurants themselves are too numerous to list here, but they run alphabetically from Arbor Brewing Company to Weber's Restaurant. For the full list of participating establishments -- and to see which meals are being offered at the special prices -- visit annarborrestaurantweek.com or call 734-668-7112.

The event tends to be popular, so reservations are suggested. And don't forget to tip as if you were paying full price for the meals. Your wait staff will thank you for it.

Mongolia/Mexico

Mongolian Barbecue -- it's sort-of made-to-order fast food, sort-of stir fry -- is based on an ancient cooking technique dating to the time when Genghis Khan ruled the mountains, plains, steppes, and deserts of Mongolia. So it is a little disconcerting to see the new summertime offering at bd's Mongolian Grill.

This year they are having a summer fiesta.

The modest-sized chain based in Royal Oak, Mich., will be serving chicken and beef fajitas, fish tacos, pork carnitas, tortilla soup, and cilantro lime shrimp paired with sauces including chipotle-barbecue and cilantro-lemon-lime. Black beans, diced chiles, and corn will be part of the vegetable bar, and drinks will include a "CervezaRita" (a margarita with a bottle of Dos Equis) and a spicy mango mojito.

That's not, one assumes, what you think of when you think of Mongolia.

The northwest Ohio-southeast Michigan corridor boasts only one bd's Mongolian Grill, in the Westfield Franklin Park Mall. Most of the rest of the franchises are scattered throughout the Midwest, but you can also find one in… Ulaanbaatar, Mongolia. That restaurant serves all the regular bd's treats, plus reindeer. Whether they will be offering the summer fiesta dishes is unknown.

Ole!

Items for Morsels may be submitted up to two weeks before the event to food@theblade.com.



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