Food Safety: Is It Safe to Order Hamburgers Rare?

Food Safety: Is It Safe to Order Hamburgers Rare?

Emma Christensen
Apr 16, 2008

Granted spring has barely gotten a foothold in many parts of the country, but we're already starting to daydream about summer and burgers on the barbecue!

Many of us like a good medium-rare burger: piping hot, crispy and savory on the outside, juicy and pink in the middle.

But with all the beef recalls and slaughterhouse scares of the last few months, we're wondering if it's time we changed our order.

The primary food safety concern with ground beef is, of course, the E. Coli bacteria. Normally, this bacteria only lives on the outside surface of the meat and is killed when the meat is seared. This is why it's perfectly fine to order a rare steak without risk of getting sick.

The problem comes when the beef is ground and tissue that was on the surface gets churned together with the interior meat, which effectively disperses any surface bacteria throughout all of the meat.

To be safe, all ground meat needs to be cooked to 155-degrees Fahrenheit in order to kill all bacteria.

If you're really craving a rare burger or just want to reduce your risk of illness, buy your meat from reputed vendors (like local and organic farmers) where you are sure they are maintaining safe slaughtering practices. Risk is also reduced if you grind your own meat at home right before you cook it. You can do this with a Cuisinart meat grinder attachment or even with a few pulses in your food processor.

When eating out, we're edging on the side of caution and have started ordering our burgers cooked medium. When we're eating at a fine dining establishment where they either grind their own meat in-house or buy meat from local farms, we feel a bit safer asking for some pink on the inside.

What do you think?

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