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Can Ribs Be Pink?

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If you’re cooking a rack of ribs, it can be tricky to get the balance right to get them perfectly cooked and tender, without turning dry and chewy.

But with the worry about eating undercooked pork, what do you do if they seem cooked but are still pink? When cooking ribs, a small amount of pink flesh is acceptable, but a lot of pink may indicate that the pork is not fully cooked. To ensure pork is safe to eat, it should fall off the bone easily and have reached an internal temperature of at least 145°F.

Trying to get your pork ribs cooked to perfection? Don’t panic, we’ve got everything you need to know to make sure they are safe to eat, even with a little bit of pink!

Can Pork Be Pink When Fully Cooked?

The interesting thing about cooking pork is that the guidelines from food safety organizations have changed in recent years.

We used to be advised to cook our pork to an internal temperature of 160°F, which often resulted in pork that was dry and tough. This gave pork an undeserved bad reputation, and it deserves better than this!

The reason that we were advised to cook pork to a higher temperature than other meats was because of the risk of humans contracting a parasite from undercooked meat, but this is now incredibly rare.

In light of this, the official advice has been changed, and along with it our pork cooking techniques.

So, while many of us were brought up to shy away from pork with the slightest hint of pink, this is not the case anymore!

As long as pork has reached the recommended internal temperature, it is considered safe to eat, even with a pink tinge to the flesh.

The internal temperature that indicates pork is cooked has been brought in line with beef, at 145°F.

This is hot enough to eliminate potentially harmful bacteria, without cooking your pork to the point that it is grey, tough, and inedible.

Is A Bit Of Pink In Ribs Safe To Eat?

If you’re cooking a rack of ribs, getting them perfectly cooked is a delicate balancing act. Overcooked ribs are dry, chewy, and unpleasant, but take them off the grill too soon and you’ll risk serving undercooked ribs!

Luckily, a little bit of pink in the ribs is not a problem, and if they appear otherwise cooked then they are safe to eat.

Pork should never be served rare, and the meat should be fully cooked before serving. However, it is possible for pork to be cooked even if it still looks slightly pink.

This is because pork ribs need to reach an internal temperature of 145°F to eliminate any potentially harmful bacteria.

At this temperature, the flesh will be fully cooked and the juices clear, but you will still see some pink coloration to the meat.

If like many people, you were brought up to avoid any pink pork, this can take some getting used to! But, as long as you have checked that the pork is fully cooked, it is perfectly safe to eat.

Some people may find the sight of pink pork off-putting, which is understandable!

If this is the case, you can cook it to an internal temperature of 155°F to make it a uniform color throughout. Pork cooked in this way will not be as succulent or juicy, but still far better than the old methods!

What Happens If You Eat Ribs That Are Too Pink?

If you eat ribs that are too pink, there is a high risk of contracting a case of food poisoning. This is because pork needs to be cooked to a certain temperature to ensure that potentially harmful bacteria have been killed off.

At lower temperatures, the bacteria will remain alive and are ingested when you eat the meat.

Pork meat can contain some harmful bacteria when it comes to food poisoning—E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria, and Staphylococcus.

All of these will cause considerable gastrointestinal upset, with symptoms including nausea, stomach cramps, diarrhea, and dehydration.

As anyone who has ever had a case of food poisoning will tell you, eating undercooked pork is not worth the risk! At best, you will feel unwell for a few hours, but for many people food poisoning is far worse than this.

So, if in doubt, pop the ribs back onto the grill or into the smoker until fully cooked.

How To Tell When Ribs Are Cooked

If you have a meat thermometer, you can check that ribs are cooked by measuring the internal temperature. This is not as easy with ribs as with a joint of meat, as you have a limited amount of meat to insert the probe into.

Place the probe into the thickest section of meat, avoiding the bones. When the pork has reached a temperature of 145°F in the middle it is fully cooked.

If you don’t have a thermometer, some tell-tale signs will indicate that your pork ribs are cooked.

Firstly, have a look at the juices from the meat—are they clear? Even just a hint of pinkness in the juices indicates that the ribs are not yet cooked. When the juices are clear, the meat is cooked.

Secondly, check the texture of the ribs – they will start to pull away from each other when you lift them. If they are not cooked, they will stay tightly together.

The final test is to see how easily the meat falls off the bone. In a perfectly cooked rib, the meat lifts cleanly away from the bone, without leaving anything behind. If the meat is stuck to the bone, it is not fully cooked.

Can Smoked Ribs Be Pink?

Because smoked ribs cook very slowly, it is highly likely that they will still be pink even when fully cooked. For this reason, it is very useful to have a meat thermometer when cooking ribs on the smoker.

A small amount of pink flesh in smoked ribs is perfectly acceptable, as long as all other signs indicate that they are fully cooked.

The meat juices should be clear, not pink, and the meat should pull easily off the bone without leaving anything behind.

In a perfectly smoked piece of pork, you may also see a clear smoke ring—a line of darker pink flesh below the surface of the meat.

This is an indication of how far the smoke has permeated the flesh and is a highly desirable characteristic that shows the smoker has done its job.

Can Ground Pork Be Pink?

For ground pork to be fully cooked, it must reach the same temperature as all other types of pork—145°F. When cooked to this heat, it is very unlikely to still be pink and will have turned a grey-white color.

If you are using ground pork to make patties or burgers, it is advisable to cook them until there is no pink remaining. A meat thermometer can be used to ensure the internal temperature is hot enough for the meat to be fully cooked.

Related Questions

Now that we’ve looked at how to properly cook ribs, let’s take a look at a few related questions on the subject!

Can pork ribs be reheated?

If you’ve got leftover cooked pork ribs, you will want to reheat them to enjoy them at their best.

You can eat this tasty meat cold (it tastes great shredded into a salad) but there is nothing quite like a hot, juicy rib! But what is the best way to reheat cooked pork ribs?

The trick here is to preserve all the juices and reheat the ribs slowly. It is all too easy to dry out your pork ribs by reheating them too quickly, and they can become dry, tough, and inedible.

The best method to reheat pork ribs is very slowly, in the oven or over low heat. Place the ribs in a pan and cover them tightly with aluminum foil.

Heat gently at 250°F for around 30 minutes, until they are sizzling and piping hot throughout.

Can cooked pork ribs be stored in the freezer?

We’ve all done it—massively over-catered for a family barbeque, and ended up with a load of cooked meat left over! Rather than waste our efforts, most cooked meats can be safely stored in the freezer, including cooked pork ribs.

The key here is to keep them tightly wrapped, as the delicate pork flesh is very susceptible to freezer burn.

Allow them to cool completely, then wrap them in at least two layers of heavy-duty foil. Place this package into a Ziplock bag, squeezing out as much air as possible.

Alternatively, you can remove the meat from the ribs, shredding it as you do so. This can be frozen in an airtight container (we’d recommend these ones!).

Barbequed ribs can be frozen for up to 3 months, so this is a great way to stash away some leftover treats to enjoy at a later date!

If you’re looking for some classic rib recipes, make sure to give this video from the folks over at All Things Barbecue a watch!

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