Timothy Woods
Published by Timothy Woods
Last Updated On: May 6, 2022

Many culinary dishes incorporate raw meat as the main ingredient. These are traditional dishes passed down from generation to generation in many cultures. Is it safe to eat raw meat? What are the dangers if your grilled or smoked meat is raw?

Our experts will guide you on the minefield of eating raw or undercooked meat!

Quick Summary

  • Raw meat can be eaten if the meat is fresh, the source of the meat is known, and it has been kept in conditions to minimize the meat contamination with dangerous pathogens.
  • Wild meat such as venison and bear meat is the riskiest meat to eat raw.
  • Raw meat may be a delicacy in some cultures, but this practice has inherent dangers, resulting in unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening consequences. If you intend to eat raw meat or cook your meat rare, you need to know this information.

Dangers Of Eating Raw Meat

Raw meat on circular wooden platform

Even though eating raw meat, including rare or undercooked meat, is widespread across many cultures and cuisines, there are inherent dangers in this practice.

The potential contamination of meat can happen anywhere along the supply chain, from the butchering of the animal to the conditions the meat is stored in, to the handling of the meat during transport, and how long it has been on the shelf at the store.

Pathogens such as salmonella, listeria, and E.coli, can contaminate the meat and cause problems after human consumption ranging from diarrhea and vomiting, food poisoning, severe illness, and even death [1]!

“Eating raw meat is not generally recommended. It should not be eaten by people with low or compromised immune systems, children younger than 5 years, people over 70 years of age with certain underlying conditions, and pregnant women.” New South Wales Food Authority [2]

Meat can be contaminated when the animal is butchered, and the intestines are pierced during the cleaning of the animal. Bacteria from the gut will escape the intestines or compromised gut and contaminate any meat it comes into contact with.

Even if this meat is stored and transported according to protocols and standards, the bacteria can survive the trip and make you ill if the meat is eaten raw or very rare.

The majority of these pathogens are destroyed by the heat used to cook the meat properly, so to cook the meat properly; meat has recommended minimum temperatures and cooking times.

Pathogens are not the only risk of eating raw meat. Parasites such as tapeworms and other gut parasites can enter your body through eating raw meat, especially pork. Trichinella worm infestation occurs from eating undercooked or raw bear meat and can be potentially lethal [3].

Can You Eat Raw Meat?

Raw steak on meal tray with different spices

You can eat raw meat if you are specific regarding the freshness of the meat and how the meat has been handled before arriving in your kitchen or on your plate.

Eating raw meat is never wholly risk-free, even when consumed at popular restaurants that specialize in serving raw meat dishes.

However, the risk can be minimized to lower the risk if specific criteria are maintained for the meat.

  • The meat must be fresh. The fresher the meat is, the lower the risk of contamination because the meat has not been stored for a long time, risking exposure to contaminants.
  • The source must be known. Meat to be eaten raw should be purchased from a butcher who knows how the meat will be consumed and has taken the necessary precautions to handle the meat correctly.
  • The meat must be kept at the correct temperature. Meat to be consumed raw must be kept refrigerated till the time the dish is prepared. The meat must not be left exposed to the air or left at room temperature.
  • Must be kept separate from other raw meats. Do not store meat to be eaten raw alongside other meats intended to be cooked. Cross-contamination may occur.

Most restaurants that serve raw meat dishes are aware of the potential dangers of serving raw meat and take every precaution to prevent contamination.

It is a little more challenging to maintain these standards and ensure the correct handling of the meat throughout the supply chain as a home cook. For this reason, it is not recommended for raw meat dishes to be prepared at home unless the risk can be minimized.

What Meat Can You Eat Raw?

Tomahawk steak on cutting board black background

Almost any meat you can imagine has been eaten raw in some cultures worldwide, from raw steak in steak tartare from France to Mett from Germany made from raw pork and raw chicken in Toriwasa from Japan.

In Toriwasa, the chicken is lightly seared on the outside but left raw on the inside.

The popular dish sushi relies heavily on the production and consumption of raw fish. Some shellfish, such as oysters, are also consumed raw as a delicacy.

In some cultures, raw organ meat such as liver consumption is considered healthy and delicious. However, the liver is more easily contaminated due to its proximity to the gut in the animal's innards.

Of all the meats eaten raw, the meat that is the least likely to cause problems from parasites is raw beef. Chicken and pork are more likely to have parasites that pose health risks, so these meats should be consumed raw with extreme caution!

Which Meat Should Never Be Eaten Raw?

The meat with the highest potential to cause problems when eaten raw is arguably the healthiest meat to eat when cooked!

Venison, or wild meat, is very healthy to consume when cooked because of its low-fat content and less likelihood of antibiotic loading than farmed meat.

However, venison should not be eaten raw because of the higher exposure of wild game to parasites, disease, and bacteria.

Bear meat should never be consumed raw and should also not be eaten rare since the low heat for rare-cooked meat is not sufficient to destroy the trichinella worm larvae in the meat.

Read More: What Is the Healthiest Way to Cook Meat?

Does Rare Cooked Meat Count As Raw Meat?

Rare cooked meat with vegetables

Rare cooked meat is not considered raw meat, but it holds similar risks for food poisoning and parasite contamination as raw meat.

The temperatures for rare meat are often below what is needed to destroy the pathogens or parasites. A better level of cooked-ness to eat your meat at is medium-rare.

The only way to cook medium-rare meat safely is to use an instant-read thermometer.

Using your senses such as touch and sight are not accurate enough to guarantee the meat is cooked to the correct temperature for medium-rare.

For a steak to be cooked to medium-rare, it must be cooked to an internal temperature of 145°F or 62.8°C and then left to rest for at least 3 minutes before being eaten.

An instant-read meat thermometer is a tool you should not be without when grilling or smoking meat outdoors or cooking meat in the kitchen to ensure you are getting your temperatures correct in your meat!

Conclusion

While it is possible to eat raw meat, it is not without its risks to your health. Cooking meat is the better and safer option and will limit the risk of any of your meat making you or your family sick.

Use an instant-read thermometer to confirm the internal temperature of the meat you are cooking to ensure safety.

Raw meat may be considered a delicacy in some cultures, but why would you want to eat your meat raw when you have a beautiful grill or smoker sitting outside in your backyard?

And if you don't - make sure to check out our list of top 10 indoor and outdoor electric grills.


References:

  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6116329/
  2. https://www.foodauthority.nsw.gov.au/consumer/special-care-foods/raw-meat-safe-eating
  3. https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/trichinellosis/gen_info/faqs.html

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