Letting meat rest before carving and serving it accomplishes several goals. Rested meat is juicy and full of flavor. It also is easier to carve. When you cook pork chops or other cuts of pork, rest time is a critical part of managing cooking time and temperature guidelines, ensuring that meat is both tender and safe to eat.
Cooking Times and Temperatures
For the past 20 years, changes in pig feeding and meat production methods have reduced overall pork fat by 16 percent and saturated fat by 27 percent. Half a dozen pork cuts now meet the United States Department of Agriculture standards for lean meat, with nutritional values resembling those of skinless chicken or turkey. Current food safety standards specify cooking solid cuts of pork, like pork chops, to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit; this avoids dry, tough meat. Only ground pork should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 F for safe eating.
Rest Time and Pathogens
Cooking meat kills illness-causing pathogens. Like salmonella in poultry, parasitic trichinellosis in pork can cause gastric distress and other dangerous symptoms. Trichinellosis is harbored by pigs, boars, bears and other kinds of wild game. Production methods, especially changes in feeds, have drastically reduced trichinellosis in cultivated pork, supporting a lower internal cooking temperature. Following cooking with a 3-minute resting period maintains internal temperatures long enough to assure pathogens are destroyed. The USDA mandates the rest period as part of its safe cooking instructions.
Rest Time and Juiciness
A resting period between cooking and serving lets meat tissue reabsorb its juices. Pork chops cut into immediately after cooking may be stringy and dry, with the juices puddled on the plate. You may wish to let your pork chops rest for an additional 5 to 10 minutes, beyond the 3-minute resting period required for safe cooking, to allow meat juices to reabsorb, depending on the size of the chops.
Rest Time and Serving
If you need to let pork chops sit for up to 15 minutes while preparing other dishes in a meal, keep them warm by covering the pan with foil and placing it in a warm oven set between 150 and 180 F. If the pork chops must sit for up to 30 minutes before serving, pour a cup of broth in the bottom of the pan, recover it with foil and place it back in the oven set at 150 F. Raise the oven temperature to 350 F for around 5 minutes before serving to reheat the meat.
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images