I recently bought some fresh "pork and Chinese-sausage filled" steamed buns from a supermarket. The supermarket also sells fresh, pre-cooked Taro and egg custard filled buns, which are kept next to the pork-filled buns in the refrigerated section and which I have bought before.

It didn't occur to me until I went to eat them today that the pork-filled buns may need to be cooked. While the dough part of the bun had the light and fluffy consistency of a bun that had already been steamed, the filling was a light pink color (not the darker color I see when I simply Google images of "pork-filled buns").

I'm currently out of state, and the supermarket doesn't appear to have a phone number. How can I tell if these are pre-cooked, or if they are meant to be cooked? I've never cooked buns, and don't really know what I'm doing here. I tried cooking one in the microwave (I don't currently have access to much more) according to some online instructions which suggested wrapping the bun in a moist paper towel and heating it for 6-8 minutes, however the result was rock-hard (and a darker center).

  • One would imagine the instruction to cook for 6-8 minutes was for half a dozen or more at a time. 1 pre-cooked bun would have been ready in about 30s, a raw one in maybe a minute or a minute & a half, though having never tried cooking steamed buns in a microwave, I wouldn't be sure the result would be palatable, done from raw. BTW, your clue was that they were sold next to other cook-chill food. In many countries it's not legal to stock cooked & raw together.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 10:54
  • @Tetsujin The results of heating in a microwave are.... acceptable. Putting them in a closed container with a bit of water gives the best results, avoiding a leathery skin. (If you wrap them, they stick to the wrapping.)
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 13:46

2 Answers 2


The pork buns have been cooked already. By steaming them, hence the name “steamed buns”. The color of the meat is due to preservatives and/or food coloring.

  • Brightly coloured pork is likely to be char siu or some supermarket copy of that.
    – Tetsujin
    Commented May 25, 2023 at 10:48
  • 1
    This is a dangerous assumption to make. I worked at a frozen food manufacturer for over a decade, and we had among our offerings a Pork Mini Bun (aka soup buns, or 小籠包). We produced both a fully cooked as well as a heat-treated variety. In terms of quality, the heat treated SKU holds up better after cold storage and final cooking, so it was sold in higher volumes compared to the fullly cooked variant.
    – Arctiic
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 6:59
  • @Arctiic those aren’t steamed buns of the sort the OP is describing. Char siu filling is never uncooked.
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 7:43
  • @sneftel I did not say they are uncooked (Raw), I said they could be NRTE (Heat Treated, Not Fully Cooked, Not Shelf Stable), which requires achieving lethality prior to consumption. Unless you mean to say that Char Siu Pork has a Standard of Identity prescribed by FSIS that states all Char SIu Pork products must be fully cooked (gated under Appendix A)? If so, could you cite a reference to code? I can't seem to find any such reg.
    – Arctiic
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 11:24
  • @Arctiic I’m not talking about laws, I’m talking about cooking. It is not practical to sell a fluffy steamed bun of the sort the OP is talking about unless it’s fully cooked. “Heat treating” without fully cooking would utterly ruin the texture.
    – Sneftel
    Commented May 26, 2023 at 11:37

The product's labeling should have specific language/verbiage that would indicate whether or not the the product is fully cooked or not. Please note that there is a distinction between "fully cooked" and "pre-cooked"; fully cooked falls under the "Ready-to-Eat" category, which indicates — regardless of quality — the product is safe for consumption without further heating or preparation. On the other hand, while there can be raw product, many processors these days choose to utilize "heat-treatment", which is basically a "partial cooking" and falls under FSIS Appendix B: "Heat Treated, Not Ready to Eat, Not Shelf Stable". The easiest way to distinguish between the two of these if you aren't familiar with the regulatory vernacular involved, would be to look for a "Safe Handling Instructions" label; if the product is not fully coked, the vendor/processor is required by law to include this one the same panel that the ingredient statement is on (typically the rear). It should also state "cooking instructions" rather than, e.g., heating instructions, etc. There would also be a specific internal temperature target indicated (likely 160°F or 165°F) within the cooking instructions. Finally, note that this may or may not apply to "hot foods" served on-premise of a retail storefront, I'd have to defer to someone else on how much overlap applies to that sector.

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