Pork cooked to a juicy, pink medium rare (photo: National Pork Board)

Mention you’re making pork at your next barbecue or dinner party, and chances are good you’ll get a lot of emphatic declarations of how dried out and flavorless it is, from people begging you to reconsider. Well, pro-pork people, that’s all in the past.

According to the National Pork Board there’s some big, juicy news for pork lovers who still enjoyed a chop or tenderloin, even though it had to be cooked all the way through to near shoe-leather density: The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has officially lowered the recommended cooking temperature for pork chops, roasts and tenderloins from 160 degrees, down to 145 degrees Fahrenheit.

Translation for non-chefs: Pork is now held to the same temperature standards as beef. That means, thanks to the new, lower safe cooking temperature for pork, your chops can now arrive on your plate tender and juicy – and even a little pink in the middle. So feel free to order your next pork tenderloin medium rare.

Restaurants have been cooking pork this way for nearly 10 years, but now, courtesy of the USDA, home cooks can make mouth-watering medium rare pork at home. Why did the USDA finally allow this? Trichinosis, the infection associated with roundworm from eating undercooked meat, is virtually a thing of the past due to stricter feed rules and cleaner meat-packing plants.

But even so, you’ll still need to follow safe cooking guidelines. Here’s how it’s done:

1. Cook your pork to an internal temperature of 145 degrees, followed by a three minute rest time. Use a digital meat thermometer to check the internal temperature of your pork before you let it rest for three minutes.

2. Sausages and ground pork (like all ground meats) should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees.

3. Once it reaches 145 degrees, the meat will be a nice medium rare, which will be juicy, pink and delicious.

For more information, and some recipes that take advantage of medium rare pork, visit Smithfield.com