*cooking to “tender” just means the meat is not done until it gets tender. This is used mainly in smoking/cooking ribs. To test for tenderness, grasp two of the bones and pull them in opposite directions. If the meat tears easily then the meat is considered “Tender” and is ready to eat.
If you want to check pork ribs for temperature, place the probe between the bones making sure to not touch the bone. You are looking for 91°C when the ribs are done and tender.
Why is there a difference between USDA safe finished temperature and the Chefs recommended finish temperature?
Just because a piece of meat is safe at a certain temperature does not mean it is tender yet. Many cuts such as brisket and pork butt are safe to eat at a relatively low temperature however, they are still tough as leather at that temperature. They must be cooked to a much higher temperature to break down the meat, melt the fat and collagen and make them tender.
Some cuts or types of meat are recommended to be cooked below what is recommended by the USDA. This is sometimes because the risk is low or it is strongly believed that the USDA is overshooting the safe done temperature. Some food is just not very good when cooked to the recommended safe temperature. For years, the USDA recommended to cook pork to 71°C which yielded a very dry, tough, tasteless pork loin, pork tenderloin, pork chop, etc. I have always cooked pork to 60-63°C as do most other chefs and recently the USDA changed their safe temperature to only 63°C for all cuts of pork that are not ground.. making a better finished product that is, in fact, safe to eat.
What about appetizers that use ground beef or pork?
Anything that uses ground beef or pork must be cooked to at least 71°C in order for it to be safe. Most bacteria and pathogens live on the outside of the meat. When the meat is ground, these are spread thoughout the meat and it must be cooked to a high temperature of 71°C to make sure it is safe.