Pork Handling, Safety & Storage

Contamination Prevention | Cooking Safety | Proper Storage


When working with pork it is essential that the meat is handled and stored properly to ensure safety. You cannot see the harmful bacteria on the meat so you must handle it as if it is present. Trichinella spiralis (trichina) is a parasite that is found on pork, which can cause a foodborne disease called trichinosis. Follow the guidelines below to ensure safety against foodborne illnesses when handling pork.


Contamination Prevention

Cleanliness: A clean working environment is essential in the prevention of contamination when working with pork. Be sure to wash hands thoroughly before and after handling raw pork. The work area, cutting boards, and utensils must be thoroughly cleaned with hot soapy water after being exposed to raw pork and should not be used for other foods until properly cleaned. This will prevent cross contamination of bacteria from the pork to other foods.

When working with other foods at the same time as preparing and cooking pork, be sure to use different utensils for each food. Do not use the same cutting board for cooked meat as was used for the raw meat, unless it has been properly washed and dried before using. When taste testing food, do not use the same utensil that was used for preparation and be sure that a clean spoon or fork is used for each taste to eliminate the spread of germs.

Handling: Raw pork should be purchased just before checking out at the store so it is exposed to unsafe temperatures for as short a time as possible. It should be placed in a plastic bag to prevent any leakage from contaminating any other foods. After purchasing it should be taken home and refrigerated as soon as possible.

When cooking and serving pork, the meat must be handled properly to prevent contamination. Use a different platter and cooking utensils for cooked meat than what was used for the raw meat, unless they have been properly cleaned and dried after exposure to the raw pork. Be sure that raw pork does not come in contact with foods that have already been cooked or foods that do not require cooking before being consumed, such as raw vegetables and fruit.

Cooking Safety

With pork being approximately 30% leaner than it was a few decades ago, it is important not to overcook it if the desired result is to produce a cut of meat that is tender and juicy. In the past it was thought that pork had to be cooked until well done to eliminate the risk of trichinosis. Improved production and processing conditions have mostly eliminated the risk of trichinosis but some risk does remain. We still have to be concerned that the meat is handled and cooked properly to eliminate all risks.

Trichinella spiralis, a parasite that causes trichinosis, is killed when the meat reaches a temperature of 137°F. To ensure that we are safe from trichinosis, it is recommended that most cuts be cooked to approximately 155°F to 160°F, which is medium done and should leave the meat juicy and flavorful. For well done meat, cook to 170°F. Fattier cuts can be cooked to a higher temperature and still be delicious because their additional fat bastes the meat to moisten it as it cooks. Smaller cuts can be cooked to a lower temperature to prevent them from drying out too quickly, but should be cooked to at least 145°F. Pork cooked to these temperatures may still be slightly pink inside, but safe to eat as long as it has reached the proper degrees.

When cooking pork, it is suggested that the meat be removed from the heat source when it reaches a temperature that is 5°F to 10°F lower than the desired doneness temperature and then allow the meat to rest for 10 to 15 minutes before serving or carving. In this time the meat continues to cook and will reach the proper temperature without the meat becoming overcooked.

Internal Temperatures for Proper Doneness
Roasts - Bone in or boneless 160°F
Tenderloin 160°F
Fresh Hams 160° - 170°F
Whole Leg or Half Leg 160° - 170°F
Smoked Whole or Half Ham 160°F
Smoked and Fully Cooked Ham 130° - 140°F
Chops and Steaks - 1 inch or thicker 145° - 150°F

Note: If the proper temperature is not reached the meat should be returned to the heat source for further cooking.


Proper Storage

Pork should be stored so that it is kept out of the temperature zone in which bacteria, that causes foodborne illness, grows quickly. The danger temperature zone is a range between 40°F and 140°F. Raw pork can be stored in a refrigerator several days, depending on the type of cut. If it is not to be used within the recommended time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing. Leftover cooked pork should be wrapped tightly and refrigerated as soon as possible. Do not leave any pork at room temperature for more than two hours. If cooked pork is not going to be used within four days of cooking, it should be frozen.

Refrigerating

Raw or cooked meat can be stored safely in a refrigerator at 40°F or lower for several days. The amount of time that it can be refrigerated will depend on the type of cut, the freshness of the meat when purchased, the temperatures it is exposed to in transporting from the store to home refrigeration, and the type of packaging used.

Pork should be stored tightly wrapped to prevent the meat from drying out when exposed to air. Whenever possible, leave the raw pork wrapped in its original package to minimize handling of the meat. If it is necessary to rewrap, be sure to wrap tightly in plastic wrap, foil or a leak proof bag or place in an airtight container. The package should be placed on a dish with sides to prevent any meat juices from dripping on other foods. The meat should be stored in the coldest section of the refrigerator.

Roasts, chops and steaks can be refrigerated at 40°F or less for approximately three to four days and will remain safe to eat while retaining the quality of the meat. Ground pork and fresh sausage should be refrigerated for no more than two days. Properly refrigerated semi-dry sausage can generally be stored for two to three weeks and dry sausage up to six weeks.

When serving hot pork, it should be kept at a temperature of 140°F or higher and then refrigerated as soon as possible after serving. Do not allow the meat to remain at room temperature for more than two hours and on days when the air temperature is over 85°F, reduce this time to an hour or less. Cool leftovers as soon as possible and store for up to four days in a refrigerator at 40°F or less. If leftovers are not going to be used within four days, they can be frozen and stored for up to three months. Be sure to reheat leftovers to 165°F to ensure that the threat of bacteria growth is eliminated.

Refrigerating Tips:

* Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer on a regular basis to verify that it is maintaining the proper temperature.
* Store raw meats on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to eliminate the chance of meat juices dripping down on other foods and contaminating them.
* Chill leftovers quickly by dividing them into shallow dishes before refrigerating. This will shorten the time that the pork is in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F.
* If you are not sure whether the pork has been refrigerated for the maximum suggested storage time and you are questioning if it is safe to eat, do not taste test it . . . be safe and THROW IT AWAY!

Freezing

Raw pork should be stored in the refrigerator at 40°F or lower and should be used within three to five days of the "sell by" date on the package or it should be frozen. Freezing should be avoided if possible because it will cause the pork to be less tender and juicy but, if it will not be used within the three to five day refrigerator storage time, it should be frozen to prevent it from perishing. Freezing meat has little affect on its nutritional value.

When freezing, the pork should be frozen while it is as fresh as possible to maintain the best quality. If it is going to be used within two weeks of when it is first frozen, it can be left in the original package, but if not, remove it from the original package and rewrap tightly, using moisture proof heavyweight plastic wrap, foil, freezer bags, or freezer paper.
Storage Times
(Suggested times for maximum quality)
Bacon and Sausage One to Two Months
Ground Pork Three Months
Roasts, Chops and Steaks Six Months

Note: If storing longer than the storage times shown above, double wrapping is suggested to help keep in moisture.

To maintain maximum quality, bacon and sausage should be used within one to two months, ground pork within three months, and roasts, chops, and steak within six months. If storing longer, double wrapping is suggested to help keep in moisture. Be sure to wrap tightly against the entire surface of the meat to prevent ice crystals from forming in areas that are loosely wrapped. Ice crystals form in these areas because moisture has been drawn out from the meat, causing the pork to become tough in areas forming crystals. This condition is known as "freezer burn."


Meat with Freezer Burn


The freezer burn does not cause a safety problem but it will discolor the meat in this area and leave it leathery looking. If the freezer burn is left on the meat when cooked, it will be bland tasting and have a very tough texture in the affected areas. Freezer burn areas should be trimmed off before cooking the cut of meat.

Mark the wrapped package with contents and the date so you can be certain of how long it has been stored in the freezer. Pork can be kept frozen longer than the recommended times and still be safe to eat, but the quality of the meat will begin to deteriorate. If the proper freezer temperature was maintained and the product was wrapped properly, it will help to maintain its quality longer.

The meat should be frozen as quickly as possible. The quicker it freezes the better it will be when thawed. To speed up the freezing process, place the package on the floor or against the wall of the freezer since these are the coldest parts. It is always best to freeze and store frozen food in a freezer unit rather than a refrigerator freezer. The freezer units will maintain a temperature of 0°F or below, which will allow food to be stored for longer periods of time. A refrigerator freezer will generally only maintain a temperature of 10°F to 25°F and is opened more often, adding to the fluctuating temperature. If meat is stored in a refrigerator freezer, it should be used sooner than if stored in a freezer unit.

When freezing a large quantity of pork at one time, be sure you have adequate freezer space so that proper temperatures are maintained when freezing. You should have one cubic foot of freezer space for every two pounds of meat. If the proper space is not available, the temperature of the freezer will drop and not allow proper freezing. If you do not have adequate space, it may be best to let your butcher freeze the meat properly and then transfer it to your freezer unit for storage. If transferring frozen meat, make sure the meat is not exposed to warm temperatures, allowing it to thaw in any way. Take frozen meat home immediately and put into the freezer as soon as possible.

Freeze cooked pork by removing the meat from the bones as soon as possible after cooking and wrapping tightly using a freezer proof wrap, bag or container. Remove as much air as possible, seal tightly and then freeze at 0°F or below. Store for up to three months.

Freezing Tips:

* Use moisture proof wrap or bags when freezing meat. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used for wrapping pork because it will not hold the moisture in the meat.
* Be sure all packages are marked with the name of the cut and the date it was frozen.
* A double layer of wax paper can be used between chops and steaks when freezing to make them easier to separate when thawing.
* Freeze fresh pork as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
* Store frozen meat in a freezer unit to obtain maximum storage time.
* Do not freeze canned meat. The liquid in the can may expand and cause the seal on the can to break open. Generally these items are processed to be stored in the refrigerator or are processed as shelf stable convenience items.




Thawing Pork


There are several methods that can be used for thawing fresh frozen pork. Pork should never be thawed out on the kitchen counter because the outside of the meat will reach a temperature above 40°F while the inside is still frozen. The area that reaches a temperature above 40°F would be susceptible to bacterial growth. Use one of the thawing methods described below.
Refrigerator
(Recommended Method)

Approximate Thawing Times

Small Roast
Large Roast
Single Chop or Steak
4 Pack of Chops or Steaks

4 to 5 hours per pound
5 to 7 hours per pound
12 to 14 hours
20 to 24 hours

Thawing pork in the refrigerator is the slowest but safest method you can use and will result in the least amount of moisture loss in comparison to the other methods. The temperature of the refrigerator should be maintained at 35°F to 40°F to discourage growth of harmful organisms as the meat thaws. Leave the meat wrapped and placed on a platter or a tray to catch the drippings as it thaws or unwrap and loosely cover with plastic or foil.

After thawing in the refrigerator the pork can be refrigerated safely for 3 to 5 days. If you decide to not cook the meat within this time, the meat can be refrozen. Just remember that each time the meat is frozen it loses some of its quality. The meat should not be refrozen when thawed using the cold water or microwave methods.
Cold Water

Approximate Thawing Times

Small Roast
Large Roast
Single Chop or Steak
4 Pack of Chops or Steaks
2 to 3 hours
30 minutes per pound
1 hour or less
1 ½ to 2 ½ hours

Thawing pork in cold water is a faster method than thawing in the refrigerator but the proper precautions must be taken. Fill the sink with enough cold tap water to cover the cut of meat, place the pork in a leak proof bag and put it into the cold water. Be sure that the meat is sealed tightly so that the meat is not exposed to the water. Meat exposed to the water will result in flavor and color loss, and will have a greater chance of bacteria growth. The water should be changed every 30 minutes. Do not use warm or hot water, even though it will thaw the pork faster because it will also encourage the growth of bacteria.

Do not use the sink for other purposes during the thawing period and be sure the water does not splash onto other preparation surfaces or food. Once the meat is thawed, remove it from the sink and sanitize all utensils and surfaces affected during the thawing period. The pork should be cooked immediately after thawing and should not be stored for any period of time. Do not refreeze the meat that has been thawed using this method, unless it has been cooked first.
Microwave

See manual for defrosting instructions
and thawing times.

Defrosting pork in a microwave is a quick thawing method but is not recommended because of the difficulty in determining the proper defrosting time. Thawing times vary according to different microwaves and the size and structure of the cut you are thawing. The meat should have the store wrapping and foam tray removed and then placed on a plate or tray and loosely wrapped with material suitable for the microwave. Generally it is best to start out by microwaving at a defrost or medium-low setting for 2 minutes and then letting stand for 2 minutes before checking progress. Turn the meat and repeat this procedure if needed, being careful that it does not start to cook.

Thawing large items in the microwave does not work well and should be avoided. Pork that has been thawed in the microwave should be cooked immediately because some of the meat may have started to cook during defrosting, resulting in some areas of the meat being at a temperature of over 40°F, which would encourage growth of bacteria. Do not refreeze the meat that has been thawed using this method unless it has been cooked first.

Meat can be cooked without thawing first. You will need to increase the cooking time when starting with frozen meat. Larger cuts, such as roasts, will require up to 1 ½ times the cooking time of an unfrozen cut. Chops and steaks should be cooked at a greater distance from the heat source and may require up to 2 times the cooking time of unfrozen chops or steaks. Frozen meat should not be cooked in a slow cooker.

Other Thawing Guidelines

* Plan ahead so that you will have adequate time to defrost the frozen meat using one of the methods above. Having the meat slowly thaw in the refrigerator will result in the best quality of meat and is the safest method for preventing foodborne disease.
* When thawing in the refrigerator, realize that food placed in the coldest area of the refrigerator will take longer to thaw than if placed in another area. Also, food placed in a refrigerator set at 35°F will take longer to thaw than a refrigerator set at 40°F.
* While thawing, be sure that drippings do not contaminate other food or preparation surfaces.
* To store meat that has been thawed in the refrigerator, remove from wrapping and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on a tray with sides to catch drippings, cover loosely and place in the refrigerator in an area where there is no danger of the juices dripping onto food that will be eaten without cooking, such as raw vegetables and salad ingredients.
* When thawing meat in the refrigerator, drain the juices that accumulate on the tray holding the meat. The juices will deteriorate and spoil faster than the meat, which will then contaminate the meat.



Cleaning Pork

Fresh or thawed pork does not require rinsing before it is cooked because any bacteria on the surface of the meat will be destroyed during the cooking process. Chops and steaks sometimes benefit from being briefly rinsed in cold water to rinse away bone grindings that may occur when the chops and steaks are cut apart. Once rinsed, they should be patted dry using a paper towel.

Hands should be washed before and after handling the meat. Be sure all utensils, cutting boards and work areas are cleaned and sanitized properly after being exposed to the raw pork. The serving plate used to hold the raw meat should not be used for serving the meat once it is cooked. The same plate can be used if it is washed in hot soapy water and properly dried before using for the cooked meat.

Brining Pork


Pork does not have to be brined but it will provide juicier and more flavorful meat. Brining (or salting) increases the ability of the meat to hold moisture. Brining solutions will vary from a simple salt and water solution to a sweet brine in which sugar is added. The more salt that is used the less brining time required, but it will also result in the outside layers of meat being very salty. Using a less salty solution and longer brining time will result in a more even seasoning through all layers to the bone. Use enough brining solution to cover the meat, which should be placed in a large pot, tub or resealable bag and then placed in the refrigerator. Be sure the brine covers the entire cut of meat. When using a brining solution made up of ¾ cup of kosher salt, ¾ cup of sugar, 1 cup boiling water, and 1 gallon of cold water, brine chops and roasts for 12 to 24 hours. A whole loin should be brined for 48 to 72 hours. When first brining, it is a good idea to start with the shorter times and then increase the time if you feel it is necessary, because the longer the meat is in the solution the more salt that soaks into the meat. If the meat becomes too salty there is no way to get rid of the saltiness.

Once the pork has soaked for the proper amount of time, take it out of the solution, rinse it off twice and refrigerate until ready to cook. The brined meat does not need salt added when cooking and it will cook faster than unbrined pork, so you need to watch it closely so that it does not overcook. The brining solutions can also contain other flavorings, such as fresh herbs, clove, cinnamon, vanilla, garlic, and hot pepper flakes.

Marinating Pork

Soaking pork in a marinade is a good method for adding flavor and tenderizing the meat. A proper marinade should contain an acidic ingredient such as vinegar or wine, an oil such as olive oil, and seasonings such as herbs and spices. Citrus fruit juices may be used in place of the vinegar or wine to provide the acidic ingredient that is necessary to soften the tissues of the meat.

There are several important points to remember when using a marinade:

* Quantity: The marinade should totally cover the meat in order for it to work effectively.
* Soaking time: Pork can be soaked in the marinade from a couple of hours to twelve hours or more. Be sure to store the meat in its marinade in the refrigerator during this period of time.
* Proper containers: Since the marinade contains an acidic ingredient, reactive containers such as metal bowls should not be used. It is best to use containers such as glass bowls, plastic bowls or plastic bags that can be sealed.
* Reuse: The marinade should not be reused for any other purpose because of the bacteria that may be present from being in contact with the raw meat. The only way the marinade can be reused is to boil it thoroughly and then use it as a basting liquid or as part of a sauce for the meat, but it is best to save some unused marinade for this purpose.
* Cooking time: When meat has been marinated for a long period of time it will shorten the cooking time. Twelve hours of marinating will reduce the cooking time by 30 to 35%.


Stuffing Pork

Stuffing can be used in crown roasts, extra thick chops or steaks, rolled roasts or rolled into flattened tenderloin. The stuffing can be made from a simple bread base or a wild rice mixture, with ingredients such as onions, garlic, lemon, herbs, and spices added for extra flavor. A variety of other ingredients, such as sausage, vegetables, mushrooms, pecans, and chestnuts can be added to make up a more complex recipe with a unique flavor. It is common to use eggs for binding and stock or broth to moisten the stuffing.

When stuffing a crown roast, fill the center of the roast with the stuffing and then cover the stuffing with foil. Remove the foil during the last 45 minutes to an hour of the cooking time so that the stuffing can brown. To stuff extra thick chops or steaks make a slit along the side, through the middle of the chop to form pocket to hold the stuffing.



* To stuff extra thick chops or steaks make a slit along the side, through the middle of the chop to form pocket to hold the stuffing.


* Stuff the chop lightly, being careful not to over stuff. Any remaining stuffing can be placed in a glass baking dish and baked separately.

Rolled roasts and flattened tenderloins that are stuffed generally have a layer of the stuffing spread over the meat and are then rolled up and tied before cooking. If the stuffing contains egg, it must be cooked until it reaches an internal temperature of 165°F to ensure that it is safe to eat.

The following guidelines should be followed in regard to stuffing:

* If using a recipe where the stuffing or any parts of it are cooked in any manner, it must be completely cooled before inserting into the meat.
* Do not overstuff because the stuffing will expand during cooking.
* Stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165°F when eggs are one of the ingredients.
* Always thoroughly sanitize any utensils and areas exposed to the raw meat or juices.
* For stuffed chops, be sure to purchase chops that are at least 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches thick.

Note: NEVER stuff meat in advance. Stuffing in advance will increase the risk of bacteria growth. Stuffing can be made in advance and refrigerated separately from the meat and then inserted just before cooking.

Trimming Pork

The first thing to do before starting any kind of trimming process is to be sure that the knives to be used are sharp. This will make the process go more smoothly. Dull knives are not safe and will produce poor cuts. Shown below are some of the trimming processes that are commonly used.




Trim Off Fat - A recipe may suggest that all fat be trimmed from the surface or edges of the cut. If so, use a sharp knife and trim off the outside layer of fat.

Any cut that is going to be roasted can have up to ¼ inch layer of fat left on the surface to prevent the meat from becoming too dry. If the cut is a chop or steak that will be grilled, it is best to leave a small amount of fat on the cut and slit it at one inch intervals to prevent it from curling up while cooking.



Trim Tenderloin - When preparing a pork tenderloin, trim off any excess fat that is surrounding the meat. Once the excess fat has been trimmed off, the silverskin must be removed. The silverskin is the thin shiny membrane attached to the tenderloin.



To remove, slip the tip of your knife under the silvery skin and start slicing back and forth with the sharp edge of the blade angled upward, keeping the membrane tight as you are cutting. Continue to slice the skin off in this manner until all the skin is removed. If this shiny membrane layer is not removed it will shrink during cooking and cause an odd shaped roast, which may also result in a roast that is not cooked evenly.

Trim Cubes and Strips - Cubes and strips can be trimmed from other cuts, such as a steak or tenderloin and used for kabobs and stir frying.


First trim off excess fat. Trim the meat into 1 to 1 ½ inch cubes for kabobs.

If cubes are to be use for kabobs and will be marinated, they can be butterflied to allow the cubes to absorb more of the flavor from the marinade. After cutting cubes for kabobs, butterfly each one by cutting through the center, leaving enough to hold the cube together. Marinate and then place on the skewer as a whole cube.

When trimming a steak or tenderloin into strips for stir frying, cut into thin slices, cutting across the grain. Tenderloins are also trimmed across the grain into thick slices forming tenderloin medallions.






Trim Edges - Cuts such as ham steaks, Canadian bacon, and some chops have a layer of fat or rind around the outer edge that can cause the cut to curl up while cooking. To prevent the curling, slice the edges of fat or rind about every inch before starting to cook.



Tips for Trimming Meat:

* Dry meat off with a paper towel before trimming to prevent it from slipping around while cutting.
* When trying to cut thin slices, it is easier if you put the meat into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing to help firm it up or if meat was frozen, slice before it is completely thawed.
* When trimming or cutting any meat that requires you to hold the meat in place with your fingers, be sure that your fingertips are curved in toward the palm of your hand. Holding them in this manner will prevent them from getting in the way of the blade of the knife.



Tying Pork


The process of tying meat is used to ensure even cooking and helps hold the shape of the cut. Tying is used on several different cuts and there are several styles of tying that can be used. Some of the common cuts where tying is helpful are shown below.

* Roasts - Most often a boneless roast will be tied to reshape it once the bones have been removed. It is shaped into a roll that is the same thickness throughout. Roasts with the bones in can also be tied to provide a more appealing roast when it is cooked.



A standing rib roast, which has an outside layer of meat that has a tendency to separate from the inner rib-eye muscle is generally tied to hold the roast together during the cooking process. Cut strings approximately 18 to 20 inches in length and tie firmly, but not too tight, around the roast in between each of the bones. Tie in a knot and trim strings to 1/4 inch.

The strings should be tied firmly but not too tight. If the strings are tied too tight they will force some of the juices out of the meat as it is cooked. Tying the rib roast will prevent the outside layer of meat from separating from the inner rib-eye muscle, providing a roast that is appealing in appearance when it is cooked.


* Medallions - Tenderloin medallions or boneless steaks are commonly tied with a string around the edges and secured with a knot to provide a more appealing shape when cooked. If barded with a strip of bacon, the bacon is wrapped around the edges first and then the cut is tied.


To tie a medallion, cut a string approximately 12 inches long and wrap it around the meat and tie firmly.
Tie the string in a knot and trim the ends to 1/4 inch in length.

* Tenderloins - Most often the tenderloin is tied so that the more slender end of the cut can be tucked under and held in place to create a more uniform thickness for cooking. The slender end of the tenderloin is folded under and tied into place.


Fold the last 4 to 5 inches of the slender end of the tenderloin under so that the tenderloin will be closer to the same thickness throughout. Cut strings approximately 12 inches in length and tie around the tenderloin at 1 to 1 1/2 inch intervals.

Tie all knots firmly and trim the ends of the string to 1/4 inch. The entire tenderloin does not have to be tied, only the folded under end must be, but it will be more appealing when cooked if tied all along the cut.



The style and type of knot used to tie the cut of meat you are working with will vary depending on one's experience, the style one has been taught and personal preference. The important aspect of tying is that the string is tight enough to hold the shape of the cut but not too tight so that it will squeeze the juices from the meat while it is cooking. Use a kitchen twine that is made from an all-natural cotton or linen to ensure that it will not burn or affect the flavor of the meat. Butcher's twine works well because it is bulkier, which makes it easier to handle. Keep in mind that there are many styles of tying and knots that can be used.

Miscellaneous Pork Preparation


Pounding

Pounding of meat is performed for various purposes. Meat is pounded to tenderize, to even out the thickness of some cuts so that they cook more evenly, and to form cutlets. A mallet is often used to pound the meat and there are many different types of mallets available. If you do not have a mallet, use the bottom of a heavy bottle or pound with a rolling pin.

To make pork cutlets, place a boneless piece(s) of meat between plastic wrap and pound until the pieces have been flattened and are an even thickness throughout. The meat for the cutlets is generally taken from the tenderloin or loin cuts and should have most of the fat trimmed off before pounding.





Frenching

This process is used primarily for presentation purposes. It provides an attractive piece when served. Frenching is the cutting away of the fat, gristle and meat at the end of the bone on rib chops, crown roasts and rib roasts.




The bone is scraped with a sharp knife to clean 1 to 2 inches of the tip of the bone before cooking.

Barding

Barding is used on very lean cuts of meat that will be roasted to provide moisture while cooking. Very thin slices of pork fatback or bacon are wrapped around the outside of the roast and then are tied to secure in place. The fatback or bacon is generally discarded when the meat is done cooking.



Slices of pork fatback or bacon are also wrapped around tenderloin medallions to provide moisture during the cooking process. Cut a string approximately 10 to 12 inches in length and then tie around the bacon to secure it in place. Tie in a knot and then trim strings to 1/4 inch.

Grinding Meat

Ground pork is not as readily available as ground beef but on the occasions that you need it you can easily grind it yourself. By grinding it yourself, you can be sure of what cut of meat is used and how lean it is but be sure to trim gristle and tendons before grinding. Do not grind meat until you are ready to use it because ground meat deteriorates in quality rather quickly. Several methods used for grinding meat are shown below.




Meat Grinder - A hand grinder can be used to grind meat into a coarse or fine grind, and this method produces the most evenly ground meat. Some electric mixers also have attachments for grinding meat.
Food Processor - Meat can be ground by placing cubes in a processor and using the pulsing action to grind them. The meat should be stirred between pulses to provide an even grind. Be careful of over processing, this will result in the meat having a pasty texture and it will be tough when cooked.

Hand Chopping - Cut meat into cubes and then continue to cut the cubes into smaller pieces until the meat is the consistency that you desire. Hand chopping will provide firmer ground meat than the other methods.

When trimming the fat from the cuts before grinding, it is best to leave a little fat with the meat to add flavor and tenderness to the ground meat. It can have additional flavor added once the meat is ground by adding flavorings such as garlic, onions, herbs, and spices.


Pork Tips and Techniques

Shopping Tips | Thawing Tips | Refrigerating Tips | Freezing Tips
Handling and Safety Tips | Marinating Tips | Stuffing Tips | Trimming & Slicing Tips
Checking Doneness | Roasting Tips | Frying Tips | Grilling & Broiling Tips
Steaming Tips | Stir-fry Tips | Tenderness Tips | Light Tips | Cooking Tips

Shopping Tips:

* Decide how much time and effort you want to use in preparing and cooking the cut you select. Chops and steaks will take less time to cook than a roast but require more attention during the cooking process.
* When feeding a large group, preparing and cooking a large roast may be less effort than trying to cook individual chops or steaks for each person. It also gives you time to attend to other dishes since the roast will need little attention while it is cooking.
* Cuts from the loin are very popular and easy to cook but are more expensive than the cuts from the shoulder, which contain more fat but are very flavorful and tender.
* Ribs are always a favorite, but will the mess created by ribs be suitable for the occasion?
* Select the right thickness of chop for the intended use. To grill, broil, braise or stuff, select chops 1 to 1 ½ inches thick, or for a quick sautéing, select chops that are no more than ½ inches thick.
* For extra speed, and convenience in cooking and serving, select boneless cuts, but be aware that you may sacrifice some flavor and juiciness due to the absence of the bones and the boneless cuts also tend to be more expensive.
* Check the label on the meat for the "sell-by" or "use by" date to be sure your selection will remain fresh until the time that you will be cooking it. If you are going to be freezing it, be sure it is frozen before its freshness expires.
* Always select pork that has been inspected and approved for wholesomeness to guarantee that the pork was processed under sanitary conditions and is free of disease.

Note: Always select meat just before you are ready to check out at the food store. Raw meats should not be put into bags with other foods. In warm weather, raw meat should be placed inside the car so that it can be exposed to air conditioning. If the travel home will take more than an hour, be sure to have a cooler that the meat can be stored in for the ride home.

Thawing Tips:

* Plan ahead so that you will have adequate time to defrost the frozen meat using one of the methods above. Having the meat slowly thaw in the refrigerator will result in the best quality of meat and is the safest method for preventing foodborne disease.
* When thawing in the refrigerator, realize that food placed in the coldest area of the refrigerator will take longer to thaw than if placed in another area. Also, food placed in a refrigerator set at 35°F will take longer to thaw than a refrigerator set at 40°F.
* While thawing, be sure that drippings do not contaminate other food or preparation surfaces.
* To store meat that has been thawed in the refrigerator, remove from wrapping and pat dry with a paper towel. Place on a tray with sides to catch drippings, cover loosely and place in the refrigerator in an area where there is no danger of the juices dripping onto food that will be eaten without cooking, such as raw vegetables and salad ingredients.
* When thawing meat in the refrigerator, drain the juices that accumulate on the tray holding the meat. The juices will deteriorate and spoil faster than the meat, which will then contaminate the meat.

Refrigerating Tips:

* Check the temperature of your refrigerator with an appliance thermometer on a regular basis to verify that it is maintaining the proper temperature.
* Store raw meats on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator to eliminate the chance of meat juices dripping down on other foods and contaminating them.
* Chill leftovers quickly by dividing them into shallow dishes before refrigerating. This will shorten the time that the pork is in the danger zone between 40°F and 140°F.
* If you are not sure whether the pork has been refrigerated for the maximum suggested storage time and you are questioning if it is safe to eat, do not taste test it . . . be safe and THROW IT AWAY!

Freezing Tips:

* Use moisture proof wrap or bags when freezing meat. Wax paper is not moisture proof and should not be used for wrapping pork because it will not hold the moisture in the meat.
* Be sure all packages are marked with the name of the cut and the date it was frozen.
* A double layer of wax paper can be used between chops and steaks when freezing to make them easier to separate when thawing.
* Freeze fresh pork as soon as possible to maintain the best quality.
* Store frozen meat in a freezer unit to obtain maximum storage time.
* Do not freeze canned meat. The liquid in the can may expand and cause the seal on the can to break open. Generally these items are processed to be stored in the refrigerator or are processed as shelf stable convenience items.

Handling and Safety Tips:

* Wash all work areas, utensils, and cutting boards that are exposed to raw meat and juices with hot soapy water. Periodically sanitize cutting boards with a bleaching solution consisting of one tablespoon of bleach per gallon of water.
* Wash hands with hot soapy water before and after handling pork.
* Do not use the same platter to serve cooked pork as was used when it was raw, unless it is properly cleaned first.
* Do not expose pork to unsafe temperatures (40°F to 140°F) for extended periods of time.
* Do not allow raw meat or meat juices to come in contact with other foods that will not be cooked before being consumed.
* Cook pork to approximately 155°F to 160°F to eliminate the danger of trichinosis.

Marinating Tips:

* The marinade should totally cover the meat in order for it to work effectively.
* Pork can be soaked in the marinade from a couple of hours to twelve hours or more. Be sure to store the meat in its marinade in the refrigerator during this period of time.
* Since the marinade contains an acidic ingredient, reactive containers such as metal bowls should not be used. It is best to use containers such as glass or plastic bowls or plastic bags that can be sealed.
* The marinade should not be reused for any other purpose because of the bacteria that may be present from being in contact with the raw meat. The only way the marinade can be reused is to boil it thoroughly and then use it as a basting liquid or as part of a sauce for the meat, but it is best to save some unused marinade for this purpose.
* When meat has been marinated for a long period of time it will shorten the cooking time. Twelve hour of marinating will reduce the cooking time by 30 to 35%.

Stuffing Tips:

The following guidelines should be followed in regard to stuffing:

* If using a recipe where the stuffing or any parts of it are cooked in any manner, it must be completely cooled before inserting into the meat.
* Do not overstuff because the stuffing will expand during cooking.
* Stuffing should reach an internal temperature of 165°F when eggs are one of the ingredients.
* Always thoroughly sanitize any utensils and areas exposed to the raw meat or juices.
* For stuffed chops, be sure to purchase chops that are at least 1 ¼ to 1 ½ inches thick.

Note: NEVER stuff meat in advance. Stuffing in advance will increase the risk of bacteria growth. Stuffing can be made in advance and refrigerated separately from the meat and then inserted just before cooking.


Tips on Trimming and Slicing:

* Be sure to use sharp knives to ensure clean cuts and to make the process easier.
* Dry meat off with a paper towel before trimming to prevent it from slipping around while cutting.
* Make a cut at one inch intervals through the fat on the edges of steaks and chops to prevent curling during cooking.
* When trying to cut thin slices, it is easier if you put the meat into the freezer for 30 minutes to an hour before slicing to help firm it up or if meat was frozen, slice before it is completely thawed.
* After cutting cubes for kabobs, butterfly each one by cutting through the center, leaving enough to hold the cube together. This will allow the cubes to absorb more of the flavor from the marinade and then be placed on the skewer as a whole cube.

Tips for Checking Doneness:

* When pricked, the juices should run clear or have just a very faint pink tint.
* Cut into the meat and check meat to see that it is white in color. When cooked to medium doneness there may be slight traces of pink in the middle.
* To ensure doneness, check with a meat thermometer. A thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the cut should produce a temperature of 160°F for medium doneness (165°F to 170°F for well done).

Tips on Roasting Pork:

* For a crisp surface on your roast, be sure the oven is fully preheated before place the roast in it and do not cover the meat while roasting.
* To add extra flavor, rub the surface of the meat with your favorite seasonings before roasting.
* Roasting at a lower oven temperature (NEVER roast meat below 200°F) will result in meat that is more flavorful and moist. It will take longer to cook but the results will be worth the wait.
* A roast with a bone in it will cook faster than a boneless roast because the bone will conduct heat faster than the meat.
* Do not use sharp utensils that may pierce the meat when trying to turn it because piercing allows valuable juices to escape. Use other utensils, such as wooden spoons and spatulas for turning the meat.
* If cooking more than one roast, be sure that there is uniform space around them so that they will cook evenly. The roasts should not be touching and there should be enough room around them to allow air and heat to circulate.
* When placing a thermometer in the meat to check for doneness, be sure that the stem of it is not touching a bone because this can result in a false reading.
* Using the drippings from the roasted meat will provide great flavor when making a stock, gravy or sauce.

Tips of Frying Pork:

* When pan-frying, the best cuts to use are boneless. Boneless cuts will lay flat on the bottom of the pan and allow the meat to cook more evenly. When the bone is left in the chop or steak, the meat around it cooks slower. Frequently, when trying to thoroughly cook the meat around the bone, the outer edges will become over done.
* Use tongs or a spatula instead of a fork when placing pieces in the pan or when turning. Piercing meat with a fork allows juices to escape.
* To help reduce splattering when frying, dry all meat with a paper towel before placing in the hot oil and if the meat has a crumb coating, let the meat stand for 20 to 30 minutes before frying. Be sure all utensils and equipment are dry before they come in contact with the oil. Water will make the oil splatter when it is heated.
* Using canola oil provides a milder taste and it contains healthier amounts of saturated and polyunsaturated fats.
* If using butter when pan-frying, mix equal portions of butter and oil to help prevent butter from burning.
* When pan-frying chops or steaks, dredging with a light coat of flour will provide a nicely browned coating on the meat and create extra brown pieces on the bottom of the pan to aid in making a flavorful sauce.

Grilling and Broiling Tips:

* Preheat grill or broiler to the proper temperature to ensure the meat surface is seared quickly to give it a flavorful crust.
* To prevent the meat from sticking, use clean racks and coat them with vegetable oil or a nonstick vegetable oil spray.
* To keep chops, steaks and ham slices flat while grilling and broiling, clip the fat and rind around the edges at 1 to 1 ½ inch intervals.
* When grilling, aromatic woods such as hickory, mesquite, apple, or cherry can be added to the preheated coals to give the meat a distinctive flavor.
* Do not use a fork to turn the pork cuts as they cook. The piercing causes juices to escape. Use tongs to turn.
* Leave an area in the charcoal grill without coals so that if a flare up occurs or some of the meat is cooking too fast, you can move the meat to this cooler area. On a gas grill, leave one burner on low.

Steaming Tips:

* Marinate cubed pork, sliced pork and ribs before steaming to give them a distinctive flavor.
* Impart flavor into the meat by adding ingredients to the steaming water, such as onions, carrots, celery, and fresh gingerroot.
* Other ingredients, such as vegetables, can be steamed with the meat but be sure to not overcrowd.
* For efficient use of time when preparing recipes that call for pork and rice, steam pork over rice as it is cooking.
* Avoid removing the cover to the pot during the cooking process. This will allow heat and steam escape, resulting in extended cooking times.

Stir-fry Tips:

* Cut ingredients into small even sized pieces. Using the same size pieces will assist in a more evenly quick cooking of all ingredients. For your convenience, you can purchase the vegetables precut for stir-frying but be prepared to pay more for it.
* To make the cutting of pork into thin strips easier, place the meat in the freezer for about ¾ to 1 hour to firm it up or if the pork was frozen, cut it into the thin strips before it is completely thawed.
* After cutting pork into thin strips, be sure to properly clean the work area. Wash cutting boards in hot soapy water after each use and use a mild bleach solution periodically.
* When adding ingredients to cook, do not add too much at one time because overcrowding will cause steaming to occur, which will prevent the food from frying properly.
* Use metal or wood utensils for stirring and tossing ingredients while cooking and avoid using plastic because it might melt when exposed to the high temperatures.

Tenderness Tips:

* Avoid freezing whenever possible to eliminate additional moisture loss during thawing, which results in less tender meat.
* Keep pork from drying out in the refrigerator by keeping it tightly wrapped. If the meat dries out it will become tough.
* Cook to the proper temperature but do not overcook or the meat will become dry and tough.
* Let meat rest for 10 to 15 minutes before carving to allow juices to be distributed throughout the flesh.
* Cutting meat across the grain will produce slices with shorter fibers, resulting in more tender pieces.

Light Tips:

* When purchasing pork, look for cuts with lower fat content, such as cuts from the loin or leg.
* Before cooking, trim visible fat to reduce fat content almost in half.
* Cook pork using a low fat cooking method, such as roasting, grilling, broiling, steaming, poaching, braising, or stewing.
* Prepare pork with herbs and spices to enhance the flavor rather than using sauces.
* To reduce the amount of fat used when frying, stir-frying, sautéing or searing pork in a pan, use a nonstick skillet which requires less added fat, or use a nonstick skillet with a fat-free nonstick cooking spray.
* If using the drippings from roasted meat to make sauces and soups, cool in the refrigerator to cause the fat to rise to the surface. The fat will solidify, making it easy to remove and discard.
* After cooking ground pork, place in a strainer and rinse under hot water to remove excess fat.
* After stewed meat is finished cooking, let cool and then chill. Once the stew is chilled the fat will rise to the top and can be easily scraped off to be discarded rather than remaining in the stew. Leaving the stew set overnight will also enhance its flavor.

Cooking Tips:

* Do not overcook pork or it will become dry and tough. The threat of trichinosis is eliminated when the pork is heated to 137°F but the USDA recommends cooking pork to 160°F to be safe. Cooking to 160°F will result in clear or slightly pink tinted juices and provides meat that is juicy and tender.
* When browning pork, drying the cut off with a paper towel before adding to the heat source will result in more even browning.
* When frying or sautéing, do not place a cover over the pan. This will lock in moisture and cause the meat to braise or steam.
* Lightly coat pork with vegetable oil to keep it from drying out during cooking.
* Before roasting pork, sear all sides to create a flavorful crust on the surface of the meat.
* Do not overcrowd pork cuts when cooking. Leaving space between them will allow them to brown and cook more evenly.
* If using a marinade for basting, set some aside before placing raw pork in it to marinate. Never reuse marinade that the meat was marinated in.
* Poach uncooked sausages for a few minutes before frying, broiling or grilling. Sausage casings should not be pierced before cooking. Piercing will cause the juices to be released and sausages will become dry.
* Do not partially cook pork and then store in refrigerator to use later. It must be cooked until done. It can be partially cooked or browned using one method, such as microwaving or searing, and then immediately cooked until done using a different method, such as roasting, frying, grilling or broiling.