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Is It Safe to Eat a Rare Hamburger?

Updated on June 29, 2013

It is not safe to eat rare hamburgers. However, whether to eat a rare or semi-rare hamburger is a personal decision based on your own beliefs and risk tolerance. Sure there is always the risk of E. coli and bacteria in under-cooked or rare meats. But is the risk low enough?

Personally, I would not eat a rare hamburger. To be safe there should be no pink in the hamburger. But occasionally, I might eat medium rare steak that is semi-rare on the inside. But the outside should still be fully cooked because that is the part that is exposed to the air and bacteria.

The risks are higher in hamburgers than that of steaks. This is because hamburger meat is ground up in advanced in a mixer and every part of the meat is exposed to the air. In a steak, the inside portion of the meat is only exposed when you cut into it just before you put it into your mouth. explains it better ...

"When you make a hamburger, though, you are using ground meat. This means that you're taking all the inside meat and turning it into outside meat, while simultaneously touching all of that previously inside meat on the outside meat."

Bacteria and virus live on the outside of the meat. This is assuming that the meat is from a healthy animal. The risk depends on the quality of the animal. The pastured raised and grass-fed cows will have meat of higher quality than the commercial fed-lot cows which are kept in cramped and sometimes unsanitary conditions.

Meat of Hamburger is from Many Cows

Another problem with hamburger meat is that it consists of grounded up meat from many cows and sometimes from many different farms. This increases the risk of getting a meat of a sick animal in there.

As written on page 6 of the book The Happiness Diet, it says ...

"The greater the number of cheap cuts of meat ground into a single patty, the greater the risk of contamination with E. coli. A standard fast-food hamburger contains the trimmings of dozens of cows raised around the globe."

Hamburgers Should Be Cooked to 160 degrees

According to Food Safety News, hamburgers should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. And you can not judge this be looking at its color. You need a meat thermometer inserted into the side of the hamburger (not the top). Some meats can turn brown without reaching this temperature. And other can still be pink after reaching this temperature.

The article further says that it is a myth to think that it's safe to eat medium-rare hamburger even if they are organic and from grass-fed cows.

Problem with Overcooking Meats

Then there is the problem on the other extreme where the meat is charred or overcooked. When meats are heated at high temperatures, it produces harmful heterocyclic amines (HCA) that some believe is carcinogenic.

You can learn more about HCAs on Wikipedia which says that...

"Carcinogenic heterocyclic amines are created by high temperature cooking of meat"


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    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

      Thanks for stopping by.

    • profile image

      mjkearn 4 years ago

      Hi Bliss

      And to think I used to love burgers before seeing this, LOL.

      I never touch pink meat of any sort and always went for the overcooked, charred, blackened to the point of being harder than steel, break your teeth meat but the last bit of this article has just confirmed that I'm doomed.

      It's OK I've been doomed for a long time and it has had nothing to do with what I eat, LOL.

      Great read and thanks for writing.


    • BlissfulWriter profile image

      BlissfulWriter 4 years ago

      You are welcome.