How to Tell If Pork is Done: Tests, Tips, and More

September 22, 2023

While using a meat thermometer is the most accurate method, you can also tell if pork is done by using the skewer test, touch test, juices test, and the color test.

Now, I learned the proper way of knowing if pork is done in culinary school. Until then, even I relied on a bunch of different methods to figure out when my meat was cooked to perfection.

In this post, I will show you how to tell if pork is done without a thermometer. I will also describe some tips for cooking pork properly. Let’s begin!

How to Tell If Pork is Done

The Importance of Well Cooked Pork and Pork Chops

Now, you may be wondering what all the fuss is about cooking pork and pork chops to the right level of doneness. After all, does it really matter if you eat undercooked pork?

Well, it turns out that undercooked pork can be quite dangerous. All types of raw meat can contain parasites or bacteria. When it comes to pork and pork chops, tapeworms or roundworms are your biggest concern.

These pathogens can cause foodborne illness. For people with compromised immune systems, children, and senior citizens, these diseases can be especially deadly – sometimes even fatal.

When you cook this meat according to USDA guidelines, however, you are able to destroy these pathogens and prevent food poisoning.

According to the USDA revised guidelines, most types of pork including pork chops, pork loin, and pork tenderloin should be cooked to an internal temperature of 145 F.

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Ground pork meat, though, should be cooked to 165 F.

Cooked meat with sauce

Pork and Level of Doneness

Pork chops and other types of pork can be cooked to varying levels of doneness:

  • Medium Rare Meat: 145 – 150 F
  • Medium Meat: 150 – 155 F
  • Medium-Well Done Meat: 155 – 160 F
  • Well Done Meat: 160 F

As you will have noticed, I have not mentioned rare meat here. This is because you will have to cook pork chops to an internal temperature lower than 145 F and this isn’t safe.

The Best Way of Telling Pork and Pork Chops Are Done

The only real way to know that pork chops are cooked to perfection is by using a meat thermometer.

Stick the meat thermometer into the thickest part of the meat. If it registers at an internal temperature of 145 F, then you know that the cooked meat is safe to eat.

Yes, there are other methods of checking the level of doneness – and I will explain these to you.

As far as accuracy goes, though, you will not be able to beat the thermometer.

This method of telling if pork is done is especially useful when slow cooking pork. In many instances, you can’t use other tests due to the size or texture of the meat.

Thus, if you are making slow cooked pork, I would definitely suggest using a meat thermometer.

How Do You Tell If Pork is Done Without a Thermometer?

Here are some other options for checking that pork chops are done:

The Skewer Test

Technically, you can use a knife for this test as well but I prefer a skewer as it leaves a smaller puncture point.

When each side of the pork chop is golden brown and you believe it to be cooked, stick the skewer in the thickest part of the meat.

If it goes through easily with no resistance, then the meat is cooked. If you have to apply pressure or force, the pork chops need to be cooked for longer.

The Touch Test

This test checks the firmness of the cooked meat to tell if pork chops are cooked all the way through.

As you cook pork or a pork chop, the meat becomes steadily firmer. You can use this knowledge to your advantage.

A raw or uncooked cut of pork will feel like a fleshy spot under your thumb.

Touch your index finger to your thumb. Now, feel the flesh under your thumb. This is what a rare cut of pork or pork chop will feel like.

Touch your middle finger to your thumb. The flesh under the thumb area will resemble a medium rare pork chop.

Next, bring your ring finger and thumb together. The flesh under your thumb will show you what a medium cut of pork will feel like.

Finally, touch your pinky finger to your thumb. See how firm it is? This is what a well done cut of meat will feel like when you touch it.

I would advise using the skewer test and the touch test in tandem to increase your chances of accuracy.

Marinated meat on the cooking pan

The Face Touch Test

I have seen some people compare the musculature on their face with the firmness of the meat.

For instance, the flesh under your cheekbones is similar to that of a raw pork chop.

The space between your bottom lip and chin has the same firmness of medium rare, while the tip of your nose is medium done.

The forehead area is closer in firmness to well done meat.

The Juices Test

When you feel like the pork is close to being done, insert a fork into the thickest part of the meat.

Check the color of the juices that run out. Clear juices typically indicate that the pork is done. If the juices are pink or red, then you need to cook the meat a little longer.

I should warn you that this test isn’t always accurate. It can be helpful with dishes such as roast pork, though.

I would suggest first trying out the other two tests mentioned above and then using the juices test to confirm the results.

Checking the Color of the Meat

I’ll be honest with you – this is my least favorite test. Once you start cutting into the meat, you begin to lose juices.

Thus, if you cut into the pork too early, you can end up drying it out.

Not to mention, no one really wants to eat meat that has been cut into – it ruins the aesthetic of the meal.

If you do want to carry on with this test, though, cut into the cut of pork or pork chops.

The thinner end of the meat should be opaque. At the thickest point, you will find slightly pink pork. Despite its color, it should be safe to eat.

Is Pork OK to Eat Pink?

Even if you use a meat thermometer to double check the temperature, you may notice that this pork is still a bit pink when you cut into it.

So, is this safe for you to eat?

Yes, eating slightly pink pork is safe. It simply means that the pork chops have been cooked to medium rare. The closer that the meat gets to well done, the more white meat will appear.

Keep in mind that the meat close to each of the surfaces should be largely white and only the meat in the middle should be slightly pink.

If the pork is pink all over it means that it hasn’t been cooked to a safe internal temperature.

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Lean Pork

Why You Shouldn’t Rely on Cooking Times?

Let’s be honest when was the last time that a recipe was right about how long it would take to cook your meat?

There is a reason that cooking times tend to be quite so off – they are at the mercy of too many incalculable factors.

These include the thickness of the pork or pork chops, the make and model of the cooker, the exact cooking temperature, and more.

Therefore, it is only natural for the time to be off.

This is why you should only ever use cooking time as a guide. When your pork or pork chops are close to being done, then use the test described above.

If all indicators point to cooked meat then go ahead and take the pork off the heat.

Tips for Cooking Pork and Pork Chops

Here are some guidelines that can ensure a delicious meal even if you don’t want to use a food thermometer:

Thaw Pork Thoroughly

If you are starting off with frozen meat, then make sure that the pork or pork chops are defrosted completely. This way, the meat can begin to cook immediately and evenly.

This makes it more likely that it will follow the cooking time mentioned in the recipe.

You can either defrost the meat in the refrigerator or use the water bath method to speed things up.

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Warm Meat Before Cooking

Now, you should never let the pork chops – or any meat for that matter – come to room temperature. There is a higher risk of food poisoning when the meat isn’t kept cool enough.

However, it is a good idea to make sure that the pork chops aren’t very cold either. Otherwise, the meat will take longer to cook.

Take the pork out of the refrigerator about half an hour before cooking. Let it sit on the countertop but make sure that it is covered.

Monitor Cooking Temperature

You will be surprised at just how many temperature fluctuations can occur with ovens, grills, and smokers. This is why you should use a hood thermometer to check what the temperature is inside the cooking chamber.

This will allow you to determine if the temperature dips or spikes at any point. If it does, you will be able to recalculate the cooking time accordingly for a more accurate result.

Make Notes While Cooking

Get into the habit of making notes while you are cooking. In particular, note down the weight or size of the meat, the cooking temp, and the time to cooking.

Once you start doing this, you will see a pattern emerging – you may even be able to discern at what time your pork is most likely to be cooked.

This will serve as an indicator for when you should run your tests.

Use a Meat Thermometer At Least Once

I know, I know – you want to be able to tell if pork is done without resorting to a meat thermometer.

May I just suggest that you do this just once, though? Borrow one from a neighbor or a friend and use it to get a rough timeline of when the pork chops are cooked through.

This way, you will know the rough time of when the pork chops should be done.

As a result, you will only have to run the above tests once or twice, close to when you know the pork chops should be done.

This can help to maintain the taste and texture of your meat!

Roast Crust Grill Pork

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Wrapping It Up

There you have it – you can know how to tell if pork is done without a thermometer! While I o advise you to use one, this can be helpful information to know if you ever need to cook without one. These tips can help you to become a more intuitive cook!

By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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