Pork roast, along with other fresh meats, doesn't need to be washed before you cook it. Instead, choose fresh, firm pork that's grayish pink with no off odors or excess liquid in the packaging. Keep it refrigerated and use it promptly. By following these safe practices -- and keeping a scrupulously clean work area -- you'll ensure a safe, fresh product.
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Pork is generally available as fresh, raw pork, such as pork chops or a pork roast, or salted or cured pork, such as bacon or ham. Neither type of pork needs to be washed before you cook it. Washing it won't destroy bacteria on the surface and may spread the bacteria to other foods, cutting boards or counter tops. Blot the pork dry with a paper towel to remove excess moisture before you brown it, but don't wash it.
Although pork may contain bacteria, such as salmonella, your chances of contracting trichinosis, caused by a parasite, are much reduced because of improvements in raising and processing hogs. Still, it's important to follow safe handling precautions whenever you cook with raw meat. Make the meat counter your last stop at the grocery store so meat stays as cold as possible. Refrigerate it as soon as you get home at 40 degrees Fahrenheit or colder. Use fresh pork within three to five days or freeze it. Although you shouldn't wash the pork, do wash cutting boards and kitchen tools with hot soapy water after handling pork. Wash your hands, as well, to avoid spreading bacteria.
Pork can safely be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. At this temperature, the pork will be juicy, not dried out, and may be slightly pink. This cooking temperature works well for lean pork cuts, such as tenderloin, loin chops or loin roasts. Tough pork cuts, such as Boston roast or pork shoulder, may need to be cooked to a temperature of 180 to 190 F. These high temperatures are necessary to melt the connective tissue into gelatin, creating moist, tender results.
Although you don't need to wash pork before cooking it, you can marinate, brine or season it ahead of time. Lean cuts of pork can be somewhat dry and bland, but a bit of advanced prep can add flavor and improve the texture of the meat. To marinate pork, combine oil with acidic ingredients, such as lime juice, red wine or apple juice. Add seasonings, such as rosemary, thyme or chili pepper. Cover the meat with the marinade and refrigerate for several hours. Throw away any unused marinade or boil it before using it to destroy bacteria. A brine is made by combining salt and water at a rate of 1 cup of salt to 4 quarts water. Boil the brine to dissolve the salt, but cool it to room temperature before adding the meat. Brining adds flavor and tenderizes pork, but don't brine the meat too long or you may end up with mush. A few hours is plenty for most cuts. Another option is to simply salt the pork a day or two ahead of time, cover and refrigerate it until you're ready to cook it. The salt permeates the meat, for moist, flavorful results.
- USDA: Fresh Pork From Farm to Table
- Meat: A Kitchen Education; James Peterson
- Food Safety.gov: Marinades: The Busy Cook's Friend
- Food and Wine: The Juicy Secret to Seasoning Meat
- The Barbecue Bible; Stephen Raichlen
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/liquidlibrary/Getty Images