Toronto: what went wrong? Chefs into raw pork

Toronto has a crack-smoking mayor, the Leafs haven’t won the Cup since 1967 (I’m too embarrassed to wear my Leafs hoodie to the Brisbane arena), and now they’re pushing raw pork.

toronto.maple.leafs.67.cupJon Sufrin of Munchies writes that raw beef, commonly served in Toronto, is great. Raw pork is even better. Europeans eat it all the time, but in North America, the idea of eating raw pork can freak people out. According to Ontario’s Health Protection and Promotion Act, pork must be served well-done in restaurants, which means the meat has to reach an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. Like a good steak, a pork chop is ruined when it’s cooked that much. It becomes tough as wood, and Ontario chefs are bound by law to serve it that way.

“The reason why people cook pork until it’s black is because in the old days, trichinella was a lot more widespread,” says Dr. Keith Warriner, a professor of food safety at the University of Guelph. “A lot of our food safety practices are historic.”

It’s not all hysteria, though. Pork is susceptible to pathogens like salmonella and listeria, more so than beef. But while some pathogens—such as Hepatitis E—can reside inside the meat, most hang out on the surface, easily killed with the help of a quick hot sear. Warriner doesn’t recommend eating raw meat of any kind, but he admits that even undercooked pork is not necessarily hazardous, if proper precautions are taken.

“You can eat a rare pork chop,” he says. “As long as chefs take some mitigating effort, such as searing on the outside, then it’s the consumer’s choice.”

Jen Agg, owner of The Black Hoof, knows that people can be reticent about eating raw pork. That’s partly why she decided to partake in a bit of civil disobedience and serve it at her restaurant.

“It’s about educating the diner,” Agg says. “People think you have to overcook your chicken or your pork or you will die. It’s ridiculous. It took a long time to educate people about off-cuts in Toronto, and raw pork was really the next logical step for us. … The Japanese eat raw chicken. That’s the final frontier.”

As soon as someone says someone else must be educated, the discussion ceases and arrogance prevails. I’ll stick to science with my tip-sensitive digital thermometer. And I’ll eat raw pork when the Leafs win the Cup.