The nutrient-dense quality of pork is frequently overshadowed by the misconception that it, like many other red meats, is fatty. In response to such perceptions, the pork industry has reduced the fat content of its pork cuts in the marketplace.
Today's pork is about 50% leaner than the pork brought to market 20 years ago, according to industry experts. Its high nutritive value is an added plus. At about 200 calories per three-ounce serving, pork is an excellent source of protein--a three-ounce serving provides about 24 grams, nearly half the Recommended Dietary Allowance.
Pork also is a good source of iron, offering between 5% and 10% of the RDA for adult women in each three-ounce serving. It also contains zinc and some B vitamins. (The recommended amount for both of these minerals was reduced when the 10th edition of RDA was released late last year. The RDA for iron for women is 15 milligrams, for zinc 12 milligrams. The suggested intake for men is 10 milligrams of iron, 15 milligrams zinc.)
There's something else that's new about pork in today's marketplace. After evaluation of previous handling and preparation techniques, the industry has revised the minimum safe cooking temperature for pork cuts from 170 degrees to 160 degrees. It was previously thought that the higher temperature was necessary to prevent trichinosis, an infection caused by a parasite, trichinae. But, according to the industry, trichinae infection is rarely seen today because of improved feeding practices. Trichinae is killed at 137 degrees, which falls well below either of the recommended temperatures, according to the industry.
A boneless pork loin roast may now be served at either 160 degrees or 170 degrees, although cooked to the lower temperature, the meat will be slightly pink in color and more juicy. At 170 degrees, the pork has a more developed flavor.
A pork cut with the bone may also be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees, but there will be an intensely pink color near the bone. For a serving that is no longer pink, cook to 170 degrees.
Because of its muscle content, the recommended cooking time for pork shoulder remains 170 degrees. It requires the additional time for even cooking and full flavor development.
When roasting large cuts, it is necessary to remove the cut while still 5 degrees below the preferred end temperature and allow 15 to 20 minutes standing time. If, for example, the desired serving temperature is 160 degrees, the roast should be removed from the oven at 155 degrees, tented with foil and allowed to stand. The roast will continue to cook and the temperature will rise about 5 degrees during the rest period.
By following these new cooking times and by trimming cuts of any excess fat, health experts agree it is possible for lean pork to fit into sensible eating plans where balance and variety are compatible goals.
PORK MEDALLIONS WITH DIJON-DILL SAUCE
1/2 pound pork tenderloin
1/2 teaspoon garlic salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon dill weed
1/4 teaspoon sugar
Cut pork crosswise into 4 pieces. To make medallions, place each piece, cut side down, on flat surface. Cover with wax paper and flatten gently with heel of hand to 1/4-inch thick.
Pan broil pork in nonstick skillet over medium heat 3 to 4 minutes, per side. Remove medallions to warm platter. Season both sides with garlic salt and pepper.
Meanwhile, combine yogurt, mustard, dill and sugar. Place in heat-proof measure over hot, not boiling, water and heat 2 to 3 minutes. Do not cook or mixture will curdle. Serve with medallions. Makes 2 servings.
PORK MEDALLIONS IN BRANDY-PEAR SAUCE
1 pound pork tenderloin, cut into 1-inch thick slices
Coarsely ground pepper
1 (16-ounce) can pear halves, in juice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup pear brandy or pear schnapps
1 tablespoon butter
1 small onion, minced
Coat each side of medallions to taste with pepper and set aside.
Combine pears and juice, nutmeg, cinnamon, lemon juice, salt and brandy in blender container. Process to puree. Place pear puree in saucepan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until reduced by half, about 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, melt butter in heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add medallions and onion to pan and cook until pork is browned, about 2 minutes per side. Add pear mixture and reduce heat to simmer. Cook 7 to 8 minutes. Serve with sauce. Makes 4 servings.
OVEN-ROASTED CARAWAY PORK LOIN
1 teaspoon dried rosemary, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds, crushed
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves, crumbled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 (3-pound) boneless trimmed pork loin roast
Spiced Red Cabbage
Combine rosemary, caraway seeds, thyme and salt. Rub evenly over surface of roast, then place roast on rack in open roasting pan. Insert meat thermometer so bulb is centered in thickest part. Roast, uncovered, at 325 degrees until thermometer registers 165 degrees, 35 to 40 minutes per pound.