Science confirms consumers hate overcooked pork chops

Of all the meat products available, pork is perhaps the most frequently overcooked, the reasons having to do with both paranoia and outdated, overzealous minimum cooking temperature recommendations. Though the official minimum cooking temperature has been lowered, pork is still often cooked to excessive temperatures, prompting a new study that looked into whether people can tell the difference.

The answer is a resounding yes, according to a study out of the University of Illinois. Researchers compared pork cooked to the previous 160F USDA minimum temperature recommendation with the new 145F temperature recommendation and found that people 'strongly' prefer the latter.

Though there's minimal difference between the two temperature recommendations, the study found that pork chops cooked at the lower temperature are juicier with better taste and improved tenderness. Those differences translate into improved consumer satisfaction, confirming what many people already knew.

The cooking temperature preference persisted despite differences in pork pH, color, and marbling, according to the study. A higher pH, which is generally associated with juicier cooked meats, isn't as important when cooking pork at the lower 145F temperature recommendation. Regardless of pH level, consumers preferred pork cooked at the lower temp.

University of Illinois Department of Animal Sciences associated professor and study co-author Anna Dilger said:

We think darker color and more marbling should lead to a better tasting pork chop, but that's not what consumers told us. They gave the highest ratings to pork chops cooked to 145, regardless of color and marbling.