Pork is not safe to eat when raw or undercooked. Although smoking the pork adds delicious depths of flavor, it doesn't necessarily cook the meat. While hot smoked pork chops may be safe to eat without cooking, cold smoked pork could give you food poisoning if you don't cook it before eating. If in doubt, always cook smoked pork chops before serving.
Cold Smoked Means Not Cooked
Cold smoking doesn't cook food. Instead, it adds a smoky flavor to meat while keeping it moist and tender. Meat is cured before cold smoking. The temperature inside a cold smoker reaches no more than 85 degrees Fahrenheit. However, pork must reach at least 145 F in the center before it's safe to eat, according to the USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service. If pork chops have only been cold smoked, they must be cooked before eating.
Hot Smoked Means Ready to Eat
The process of hot smoking cooks the food while adding a smoky flavor. Wood pieces such as apple, hickory or mesquite chips add distinct and delicious tastes to the meat as they slowly burn. Adding or taking away wood chips helps to regulate the temperature inside the smoker. For smoked pork chops, the ideal temperature for the smoker is between 225 and 250 F. If your pork chops are hot smoked to reach an internal temperature of at least 145 F, they're ready to eat.
Smoking Your Chops
Brining pork chops before smoking gives the best results. This involves sealing the chops in a plastic bag containing salt, water and other seasoning for at least three hours. When drained and patted dry, the pork chops are ready for the smoker. Add a rub to the meat, such garlic, brown sugar and pepper. The chops need around 90 minutes to cook. Always check the internal temperature before serving, and remember that the chops might stay a little pink inside even when cooked to the safe internal temperature.
Smoke With Safety
Smoked pork chops are found in many stores and butcher's shops and are often sold ready-to-eat. However, unless the package states clearly that the chops are ready to consume, always heat the meat in microwave or oven until cooked. In general, a cooked smoked pork chop tastes better than a cold piece of meat anyway.
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Based near London, U.K., Peter Mitchell has been a journalist and copywriter for over eight years. Credits include stories for "The Guardian" and the BBC. Mitchell is an experienced player and coach for basketball and soccer teams, and has written articles on nutrition, health and fitness. He has a First Class Bachelor of Arts (Hons.) from Bristol University.