How do you defrost pork chops? First rule: Don't do it at room temperature. Microwave, refrigerate or run the chops under cold water to thaw the meat properly. Otherwise, you may be at risk of contracting a foodborne illness.
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Pork Cooking and Safety
Pork, meat from hogs or domestic swine, is the most widely consumed meat in the world, says the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service (USDA FSIS). Among the many cuts of pork is the pork chop, which comes from the loin, the part of the animal defined by the National Pork Board as extending from the animal's hip to shoulder.
The USDA FSIS explains how to safely handle pork before or after cooking. Once purchased, pork should be placed in disposable plastic bags to contain leakage and then stored in the refrigerator for no more than five days or in the freezer for no more than six months.
As for cooking time, the USDA FSIS suggests seven to eight minutes for a 3/4-inch chop. The internal temperature, which can be measured with a meat thermometer, should be no less than 145 degrees Fahrenheit. Pork that is pink after being cooked doesn't necessarily indicate that the meat is raw or undercooked. It may be due to certain ingredients or a cooking technique.
Read more: Is Pork Better Than Beef?
Methods of Thawing Meat
Another important element of food safety for pork chops is using the proper thawing methods. There are a few ways to defrost meat safely, according to the Government of Canada: in the refrigerator, in the microwave and with cold water in a sealed package. Leftovers can be microwaved or refrigerated, though once defrosted they must be consumed immediately and cannot be re-frozen.
For defrosting in the refrigerator, place the pork chop on a tray or plate to prevent leakage. Leave the meat in the refrigerator for about 24 hours — the time it takes to thaw completely — then cook as soon as possible. You'll know if your food is defrosted if all the ice crystals have melted away, says the UK Food Standards Agency.
Thaw in the microwave by first putting the pork chop in a microwave safe container. Cover the container, while leaving a small part uncovered for the steam to escape. Use the defrost mode on your microwave before cooking.
You can also defrost your meat with cold water. The Government of Canada advises either placing the meat under cold running water or submerging it in water. In both cases, the pork chop should be wrapped in a leak-proof bag.
If you submerge the pork chop in water, make sure to change the water in the bowl every 30 minutes until it's fully defrosted. Small packages of meat that are about one pound, may defrost in an hour or less, says the USDA FSIS.
Defrosting Meat at Room Temperature
What does the U.S. Food and Drug Administration have to say about defrosting meat at room temperature? Don't do it. Food should never be thawed at room temperature. Thawing pork chops on the counter, for example, could allow for bacterial growth and result in foodborne illness.
The USDA FSIS explains that food should not be left out at room temperature for more than two hours, as bacteria multiplies quickly in temperatures between 40 and 140 F.
If you don't have time to defrost your food, it's still safe to cook it immediately, says the USDA FSIS — just be aware that cooking time may increase by 50 percent.
If you make the mistake of defrosting meat at room temperature, you run the risk of contracting a foodborne illness or food poisoning. Symptoms might include fever, diarrhea, vomiting and dehydration, writes Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "Fresh Pork From Farm to Table"
- UK Food Standards Agency: "Defrosting"
- USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service: "The Big Thaw - Safe Defrosting Methods — for Consumers"
- Food and Drug Administration: "Refrigerator Thermometers: Cold Facts About Food Safety"
- Government of Canada: "Safely Defrosting Food"
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Key Facts About Food Poisoning"
- National Pork Board: "Pork Chops"