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I bought a smoked pork chop from the butcher yesterday, and assumed I would cook it like any other pork chop, but after looking at it, it seems like it may be edible as is. The appearance is close to that of a cooked ham.

I saw some suggestions online about using it in soups or as breakfast meat, but nothing mentioned just eating it fresh from butcher.

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Ask the butcher. –  rfusca Aug 29 '11 at 3:25
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up vote 6 down vote accepted

OK - for my bona fides, I'm a microbiologist and have made a career of quality control in food processing including meat processing so I know what I am talking about.

There are two kinds of smoked pork chops, cold smoked and hot smoked. Cold smoked pork chops aren't heat processed, so they aren't cooked. They have the redder color and the more resilient, moister feel of raw meat. You are only apt to run into them in specialty meat markets or at small local butchers. These need to be cooked to 145F to be safe and palatable to eat. What you find in the grocery store and most meat markets is almost always hot smoked. It is heated during the smoking process and is fully cooked, just like a smoked ham. It looks and feels to the touch liked cooked meat. That sounds like what you have. If you aren't sure ask the butcher or meat department manager. They should know. If they don't, buy your meat elsewhere.

Having said all that, it is common to find the smoked pork chops in the meat case right alongside the raw pork. Being exposed to raw meat undoes the kill step the heat of cooking does to foodbourne microorganisms. Salmonella, e.coli and other organisms are easily transferred from utensils, trays and workers hands back onto the cooked meat. This could be done in the meat case, or in wrapped product it could happen in the back room where the chops are cut up and wrapped. Organisms that find their way onto the meat quickly grow and spread over the meat's surface and may find their way into the interior of the cut through any break in its surface. Unless you are certain it has been factory wrapped, sealed and labelled rather than in the store you should treat it as raw meat and heat it to 145F before serving. At the least be sure the surface of the meat has been seared before serving. I just don't trust the expertise and commitment to providing safe foods you are apt to find in a grocery store or butcher shop. On the other hand, if it looks like it came from a factory already sealed in plastic wrap I would feel certain it was processed on a line that only processes cooked meat and is promptly sealed. I would have no qualms about eating it cold right out of the package.

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It is "probably safe" but (IMHO) not worth the risk.

The chief "scare" for pork is a condition called trichinosis (or trichinellosis). There has not been a case of this disease reported to the Center for Disease Control from commercial pork since 2001. Assuming your butcher received the chops from a reputable commercial source then you it should be 'ok'. If the source was wild hog then there is some risk.

Personally I would just as soon grill it up than take the chance, but you should know that smoking is not considered an adequate safeguard.

(your profile does not say where you are, so if you are outside the US, your mileage may vary)

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I'm in Michigan. As for cooking them, grilling them to the standard safe temperature the way to go (i.e. 145 F)? I sent the store an email too, so I'll post back with what they say. –  Dolan Antenucci Aug 29 '11 at 13:48
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