I bought some italian pork and garlic sausages from Whole foods. I cooked them on a low heat, they were in the pan for probably an hour but the middle remained slightly pink. To be precise, by middle I mean if you cut the sausage the inner 2/4 would be slightly but noticably pink. I checked with a thermometer (which I checked as accurate) and the temperature was at in the 180s, although I could just be measuring wrongly (I cut the sausage open and stuck the thermometer straight into the pinkish park). I tried them still and they taste kind of dry and overcooked.

I understand sometimes preservatives are used which makes things pink but 1) These were from wholefoods and there is nothing in them except for salt, garlic, pepper and sugar 2) The outer area near the skin was gray and not pink.

Any ideas?

  • 2
    It isn't "some preservatives" which keep meat pink, it is nitrite salt. Buying in an organic store doesn't mean that the food doesn't contain nitrite salt or other additives. I am sure your sausage contains nitrites, else it would have turned gray long before you started cooking it. Nobody sells nitriteless sausages, most people today will probably think they are bad if they see them.
    – rumtscho
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 11:13
  • Fresh sausage normally does not contain nitrates/nitrites. Also, Whole foods tries not to carry foods containing nitrates/nitrites (wholefoodsmarket.com/products/unacceptable-ingredients.php).
    – AaronN
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 20:36
  • Would be interested in the answer to this, since my sweetie recently had a similar experience with "carnitas" sausage, which should have been nitrite-free.
    – FuzzyChef
    Commented Dec 18, 2011 at 7:34

2 Answers 2


Checking for redness is not a good indicator of doneness. For instance, freezer burned chicken tends to look less red or pink--taking on white spots and a grayish color. Some meats will also stay red no matter what. Think back to every time you saw real pork bacon. Were the meat strips ever any color except red, even when fried to a crisp?

The most advised way to check for doneness is to use a meat thermometer, inserted into the deepest part of the meat. Once it reaches a temperature you're comfortable with, that should be sufficient. The FDA publishes a table, which was revised in 2011 here. For some of their meats, I go off of other sources that actually suggest lower temperatures for more desired textures--but some people want a higher guarantee and that's fine.

For me, the main reason to heat meat is to eliminate bacteria. This chart illustrates how long it takes to sterilize cook chicken at various temperatures. The bacteria-death-rate chart will look similar for other meats, but might have different temperatures because of different natural bacterias. Often times when I cook, meats come out reddish or pinkish in the middle, and I enjoy that.

Edit: This link provides a detailed bio-chemical explanation for why meat will turn brown or not during cooking. Nitrites and nitric oxide are one explanation, but in general a lack of oxygen, presence of carbon monoxide, or certain pH levels in the meat will cause cooked-pinkness as well.

Some presence of carbon monoxide is common when cooking in a gas or charcoal oven. Furthermore, a sausage cooked in its casing fully intact will have very little oxygen available to the meat--meaning the iron inside will not oxidize and brown.

  • 1
    At the risk of sounding pedantic (and the Serious Eats article is the source of this misinformation), but the heating chart referenced does not indicate sterilization, which would infer that all microbes were killed in the process. Rather, it's the temperatures at which significant reductions of bacteria occur (on the order of 4 9's or more, depending on the meat). This is a great post on the topic: tvwbb.com/eve/forums/a/tpc/f/1780069052/m/…
    – Sean Hart
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 12:48
  • 4
    Less pedantic: The more appropriate term is "pasteurize", not "sterilize".
    – Aaronut
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 15:37
  • Pasteurize is more descriptive, but something tells me that the acceptable bacteria count for cooked food is higher than it is for something to be considered pasteurized
    – Eric Hu
    Commented Dec 14, 2011 at 23:05
  • Thanks, but then how we explain the difference in colour between the outer area and inner area? Also if Wholefoods does not use nitrates, then where is the pinkness coming from?
    – zenna
    Commented Dec 17, 2011 at 14:05
  • See my edit and the link included for other explanations. TLDR: Pink sausage, when cooked to temp is safe and does not necessarily have nitrites
    – Eric Hu
    Commented Dec 19, 2011 at 22:07

why is my sausage pink? the answer is due to the myoglobin. When pork is minced the myoglobin has a chemical reaction with oxygen which can produce a different colour when exposed to heat and can create three different forms: deoxymyoglonin purple, oxymyglobin red and metmyoglobin brown. This won’t happen with joints, chops etc as the centre has not been oxidised like mince. Therefore meat with more myoglobin, once minced can stay pink when cooked or brown before its done! Just remember this doesn’t happen with all sausages. http://www.topsausages.com/blog/is-pink-in-cooked-sausages-safe/

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