Frequently Asked Questions

 

I'm told that if you don't cook pork to well done it could be dangerous, but I've also read that a touch of pink is OK too. What am I to believe?

A touch of pink is both safe and desirable, especially for loin cuts. The origin of concerns about 'undercooked' pork derives from Trichinosis, a disease caused by a parasite. Trichinosis is no longer a health issue, and as of January 2000, Trichinosis has been removed from national surveillance by the Public Health Agency of Canada. Besides, the microbe in question is destroyed at 137 degrees F (58 degrees C), well below the recommended 160 degrees F (71C) internal cooking temperature

My husband is on a strict low fat / low cholesterol diet. But he loves pork. Is there any room for compromise here?
YES! Pork, cut for cut, is just as lean as any other meat, and has comparatively modest cholesterol content. For a fuller explanation, see our Nutrition section.

I'm confused. What's the difference between 'back', 'side', 'sweet and sour', and 'spare ribs'?

Back ribs: these, as you might expect come from the back of the animal, adjacent to the loin, and attach to the backbone. These have the highest proportion of meat to bone, and are considered tastier and more tender than side ribs, but opinions differ. They are definitely more expensive.
Side, sweet and sour, and spare ribs: these are all the same things - except that sweet and sour ribs are cut into strips about 2- inches wide. These ribs lie against the belly (where bacon comes from) and attach to the breastbone.

My family is trying to avoid genetically modified foods. Is there any way I can tell if pork is genetically modified or not?
You can rest assured that there is NO genetically modified pork available on the market.
I'm told that pork, and meat products in general, are stuffed full of hormones. Is this true?
As far as pork is concerned, there are NO hormones licensed for pork production. As a double safeguard, the meat is federally inspected on a random basis, to ensure that the meat is hormone (and antibiotic) free at the packers.

I love pork, but is it suitable as part of my children's diet?

Yes, for these reasons:

  • Pork is full of the nutrients needed for growing individuals - proteins, vitamins and minerals.
  • Children in general love the taste and texture of pork, even the fussiest child.
  • Pork has a very low allergenic quotient.

I hear that you no longer have to cook pork to well done, but I'm also told that ground meats are hazardous if underdone, so what about ground pork?

A very good question. All ground meats - this includes sausages and burgers - have to be cooked to well done. This is because a bacterium in meat is found predominantly on the meat's surface. Ground meats have a huge surface area compared to solid cuts, and they have been handled more often. Play it safe, and cook all ground meat products to well every time.

Could you please tell me if uninspected pork from a local pig farmer is safe to eat?
Uninspected pork cannot be offered for resale; the butcher may legally consume it for him(or her)self. As the inspection process is designed to ensure the maximum safety of the product, I cannot recommend its consumption.
I live in Vancouver, where I am having difficulty finding peameal bacon. Also, I am confused about the difference between peameal bacon and Canadian bacon. Can you help me here?
Peameal bacon is an Ontario specific speciality, and is only sporadically available elsewhere. A search of the internet should give you information on any local suppliers (if they exist). Peameal bacon is made from the centre-cut or rib end of the loin. It is cured in a brine containing salt and sugar, and then rolled in corn meal. It is an uncooked product, that can be sliced and grilled, or roasted whole. Canadian bacon (or 'Smoked Back Bacon' is a fully cooked and smoked product form the same cuts as peameal bacon. It is usually sliced and pan-fried or grilled.
I just brought pork home from the butcher's. It was all packed and wrapped and frozen. My question is: I forgot to put a box of chops in the freezer and some have thawed and some are still frozen and some slightly frozen. Can I re-freeze all the chops, or do I have to cook them?
If there is a significant amount of ice crystals in the meat, i.e. if there is a residual hardness due to freezing, it's OK to re-freeze. This will, however, negatively affect both the taste and texture of pork, or any meat. Meat that is thawed completely cannot be re-frozen, and either should be cooked with due dispatch, or thrown out. The best advice in these circumstances is always "when in doubt, throw it out". This advice holds true for all meat, fish, and poultry equally.

I am going to make an order at an internet shopping site; I am looking for a pork roast and the only one they sell is something called a boneless leg roast, knuckle portion. Can you tell me what a knuckle portion is? Does it have a large amount of fat? Would it make a desirable roast? Also, would it be easy to carve?

In a supermarket, the correct nomenclature for this cut is "Pork Leg, Tip Portion". In beef, the corresponding cut is known as Sirloin Tip. It is lean (about 3.5 g fat per 100 g. It can be oven baked or pot roasted. The internal temperature should not exceed 160F (71C). It is very easy to carve, with no bones and virtually no internal fat.

Is pork a red or white meat?
There is some confusion on this point, prompted by the U.S. National Pork Producer's tag line "Pork, The Other White Meat". This not-with-standing, pork is, strictly speaking, a red meat. The reason is that the meat from all cloven-hooved animals is classified as "red", and for no other reason.

I am planning a function in mid-September, and my main meal is going to be a barbecued whole hog. I would like some advice on cooking, and availability of suckling pigs in or near Toronto.

On our web site, click on 'All About Pork', then 'How To' and you'll find a link to full instructions for cooking the whole hog. If you go to any market in Toronto (e.g. St. Lawrence Market) you will find several butchers who will supply hogs of any size you like, as long as you give them a week's notice.

I'm a native of Ontario, now residing in California, where they have no idea what back or peameal bacon is really like. Can you tell me how to cure/pickle pork loins to create Ontario back bacon here?

We sympathise with your plight. Peameal bacon ("back bacon" is essentially the same thing, cooked) is very much a local speciality of SW Ontario. Unfortunately the brining, or pickling, process is rather long and involved, and really only suitable for large scale, professional production. Your best remedy would be to have the product mailed to you. A cursory web-search came up with www.realcanadianbacon.com as a possible course. If you are still bent on making it yourself, I recommend reference to "Great Sausage Recipes and Meat Curing" by Rytek Kutas, which describes the process in full.

I was wondering how long Canadian back bacon will last in a picnic cooler with ice?

By back bacon, I have to assume that you are referring to a fully-cooked item, and not peameal bacon, which is sweet pickled, but NOT COOKED. In which case, as long as the cooler temperature is maintained below 4C, (a thermometer is a good idea here) your bacon will be perfectly safe for at least 24 hours. When the temperature begins to rise above 4C, or the ice melts, consume as soon as possible. A couple of good ideas: use ice packs - much less messy. Keep meat and other items well-separated, and at the bottom of the cooler. Keep the cooler in the car if air conditioned, not in the trunk. Wrap any meat thoroughly. For further food safety tips see the Fight Bac web site: www.canfightbac.org.

I would appreciate some advice on cooking a whole smoked pork shoulder?

To cook a smoked pork shoulder: Place in a large pot and cover with cold water. Add aromatics (carrots, onions, celery, peppercorns, bay leaves, etc.) if desired. Bring to a boil, uncovered, and then allow to simmer for about 2 1/2 hours or until internal temperature reaches 160F (71C). Remove and allow to cool enough to enable you to remove skin. Glaze if you wish with any glaze suitable for ham. Serve hot or cold.

What is "seasoned" pork?

Pork labelled "seasoned" is pork that has been processed using a brine (salt, water, sodium phosphate) solution, in order to create a product that retains moisture even when overcooked. Other meats and poultry, such as beef and chicken, can also be "seasoned".

Since many pork cuts are very low in fat, they can tend to become dry and perceived as tough after cooking. Seasoned pork allows for a more tender and juicy product even if overcooked or held warm for periods of time.

The addition of salt, water and sodium phosphate to solid meat or poultry allows the product to retain moisture throughout cooking: the sodium phosphate binds the water molecules to the protein in the meat, and the salt acts as an enabler in the process.

Seasoned meats and poultry are not flavoured or spiced, so do not have a taste noticeably different than unseasoned products.

Not all pork sold at retail is seasoned, however pork that is seasoned must be labeled as such. Seasoned pork must also be labeled with a list of ingredients as well as a declaration of percent meat protein. Pork that has not been seasoned (i.e. a single ingredient meat product) usually does not have an ingredient list or a Nutrition Facts table.

A Nutrition Facts table is required on meat and poultry with added phosphates and/or water whether packaged at retail or packaged at the manufacturer. The amount of sodium for a seasoned product will be higher than for an unseasoned product. For example, an average (100 g/3 oz) seasoned centre-cut pork loin chop has about 300 mg of sodium (this figure varies according to cut and manufacturer). To put this in perspective, the recommended upper tolerable limit for healthy adults is 2300 mg of sodium per day (approximately 1 tsp of salt)*. The amount of sodium recommended for healthy Canadians aged 9 - 50 is 1500 mg per day, and 1300 mg per day for Canadians age 51-70. People on sodium-restricted diets should follow their doctor's advice, and carefully read labels in all cases.

 

*Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes: The essential guide to nutrient requirements. The National Academies Press, Washington DC, 2006

Why is Beef aged and not Pork?

Beef has a stronger connective tissue, making it less tender. Aging the Beef causes the enzymes in the meat to break the connective tissue down, thereby tenderizing it.

Pork on the other hand does not have the strong connective tissue. This means it is not as tough to begin with. Sometimes consumers do confuse dry, over-cooked Pork as being tough. This means that there is no advantage to aging Pork; in fact it causes the shelf life in pork to decrease, creating a Food Safety issue.

Why are some Pork cuts pale and some quite dark?

Pork can come from many different breeds of animals, as well as different feed programs, although over the years these factors are becoming more uniform. This being said, if the meat is too pale or dark, it can be an indication that the animal will not be of top quality. Pale Pork can be an indication that the meat has a low Ph level making it dry and stringy. Dark Pork is also an indication of poorer quality. A nice pink color is the best to look for.

Why does some pork have an odour to it?

Pork odour, often called "Boar Taint" is harmless, despite being unappealing. It happens occasionally during the processing of pork when there is a high level of androstenone and/or skatole in males pigs. Male pigs are castrated at a young age to curb this effect, so it is an uncommon occurance.

Causes of "Boar Taint" can be the animal was castrated too late; or sometimes a testicle is missed in castration. These animals are known as Ridglings. Some breeds are just prone to Boar taint more than others.

The best thing to do when you purchase a cut with a strong odour is to let your meat manager know. He has no way of knowing that this is happening, as it generally does not come out until you take it home and cook it. Your meat manager can then go back to his supplier and alert them of the problem. Your manager should be quite happy that you have alerted him of the problem, as you are probably not the only customer having this problem.

What is Freezer Burn, and is it harmful?

Freezer burn is caused when the meat in your freezer is exposed to the air. The moisture slowly evaporates from the surface of the meat, leaving a dry discolored surface. It can be trimmed off without affecting the rest of the meat. Proper wrapping to seal the meat from the outside air is the best protection and make sure not to bump the product and tear open the seal.

It is not harmful if you should eat it, but the flavour and texture will not be optimum.

How is the best way to store my Pork?

If the product is frozen, it is best to ensure that the meat is sealed from the outside air. Even though the meat is frozen, moisture will still evaporate from the product if it is exposed. Vacuum packed bags are still the best form of packaging.

For fresh meats, always check the "best before", or "packaged on" date. A good rule of thumb is if you are not cooking it within two days of purchase, wrap it in an air tight seal and freeze it right away. Summers are especially dangerous; never leave groceries in the back of your vehicle for any length of time. Put your fresh products in a cooler, a cardboard box, or for those stores that carry them, an insulated bag.

How do I tell if my Pork is ready on the BBQ?

Wherever possible, use a meat thermometer, but those occasions where you are cooking steaks or chops on the BBQ, a thermometer is not always feasible. After you have flipped the cut over on the Grill, apply a slight pressure to the surface using your fork. This squeezes some of the juices to the surface, if the juices are clear the meat is cooked. There may still be some pink to the meat, but that is fine, if the juices are clear.

What are the Leanest Cuts of Pork?

All trimmed pork cuts, with the exception of ribs and bacon, qualify as 'lean' or 'extra-lean' and are therefore a great option for those trying to follow a healthy life style by limiting their dietary fat intake. Whether you are trying to eat a diet lower in fat, gluten free or just trying to maintain a healthy weight pork is a nutritious and lean option that you can feel great feeding your family. Eat pork as part of a healthy diet.