Is a Medium-Rare Burger Safe? (4 Must-Know Eating Tips)

Arianna Foster
Published by Arianna Foster
Last Updated On: December 4, 2023

Living a carnivore lifestyle often means savoring the occasional burger, but it also raises concerns about the risks of improperly cooked meat. With medium-rare burgers teetering on that culinary edge between delectable and dangerous, I felt compelled to dive deep into the subject.

Dedicating a month to exhaustive research, I scrutinized everything from bacterial risks to nutritional benefits, even consulting with food safety experts to get a well-rounded perspective on eating medium-rare burgers.

In the upcoming article, I'll distill what I've learned into key insights you can use to make informed decisions about your burger preferences.

So, if you've ever wondered about the pros and cons of indulging in a medium-rare patty, stay tuned for some eye-opening revelations.

Quick Summary

  • Eating ground meats served rare could lead to food poisoning, as harmful bacteria like E.coli may be present.
  • Rare steak is less likely to lead to an E. coli outbreak than a pink burger.
  • The USDA recommends cooking ground meat until it reaches an internal temperature of 160°F to ensure all pathogens inside have been killed.

What Is a Medium-Rare Burger?

A medium-rare burger that is unsafe to consume

A medium-rare burger is a burger cooked to an internal temperature of 130-135°F [1]. The burger will be dark on the outside but pink inside at this temperature.

This is generally achieved by cooking the burger for approximately 2 1/2 minutes to 3 minutes on each side on high heat.

The result is a juicy and flavorful burger with a pink center that many people enjoy.

It is important to note that medium-rare ground beef differs from a rare burger, which is only cooked to an internal temperature of 120-125°F and has a red center.

Is Eating a Medium-Rare Grilled Burger Safe?

A close up shot of burger patties being grilled

Eating a medium-rare grilled burger is not particularly safe because it carries a higher chance of food poisoning than eating solid cuts such as a rare steak.

This is because ground beef comes from the muscle tissue of multiple parts of the animal.

The ground beef mixture may contain pathogens from the beef’s surface carried inside the lean meat, while single cuts have fewer chances for contamination.

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) recommends cooking ground meat to an internal temperature of 160°F to kill any harmful bacteria present [2].

This includes strains of bacteria such as Salmonella, E. coli, and Listeria.

"A great burger is all about the quality of the meat. It should be freshly ground and grilled to perfection."
- Gordon Ramsay, British Chef

These pathogens can cause food poisoning and foodborne illness, leading to fever, chills, nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.

Pregnant women and those who have weakened immune systems are at higher risk of getting sick from undercooked meat and should avoid burgers that are not fully cooked.

However, cooking beef at a higher temperature can result in a dry and flavorless burger. So, a medium-rare burger is often the preferred level of cooking for many individuals, as it produces a tasty and juicy burger.

How to Enjoy a Burger Safely

A close up shot of fresh burger patties

If you choose to eat a burger patty, there are several things you can do to minimize the chance of illness.

Here are some tips:

  1. Buy fresh: Only purchase ground beef from reputable sources to reduce infection risks. Most people find the beef at their local butcher or from an online company to be higher quality than that in the grocery store.
  2. Cook thoroughly: Use a meat thermometer to ensure your burger reaches an internal temperature of at least 135°F. Let the meat rest for three minutes after grilling.
  3. Avoid cross-contamination: Keep raw meat separate from ready-to-eat foods such as vegetables or bread. Also, clean your cooking surfaces, utensils, and hands before and after handling raw meat to avoid infection.
  4. Don't eat undercooked burgers: If the burger is not cooked to your desired level, put it back on the grill and wait until it is done to your liking.

It's also worth noting that, for disease control, many restaurants are required by law not to serve rare or undercooked meat unless specifically requested by the customer.

One of the best tips is to buy ground beef only from reliable suppliers. Whether it’s patties, beef cuts, or chicken, a supplier like ButcherBox is worth trying as they provide fresh and wholesome beef delivered directly to my home.

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FAQs

Is It Illegal to Cook a Medium-Rare Burger?

No, it is not illegal to cook a medium-rare burger. However, it's essential to take food safety precautions when preparing burgers or other dishes containing ground meat. That said, while the USDA recommends cooking ground beef to an internal temperature of 160°F, it is not federal law.

How Do You Tell if a Burger Is Undercooked?

Testing the food with a meat thermometer is the best way to tell if a burger is undercooked. If the burger's internal temperature is below 160˚F, it is considered undercooked beef. Additionally, patties that are still pink in the middle or have an unusually soft texture may show that they are undercooked.


References:

  1. https://buythermopro.com/medium-rare-hamburger-temperature/
  2. https://www.usda.gov/media/blog/2022/10/03/cooking-meat-it-done-yet
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About the author

Arianna Foster
Nutritionist/Editorial Director
Arianna is a nutrition expert with unmatched management skills and a love for steaks. The only thing she enjoys more than educating people on how to improve their diet and live a healthier life is cooking and hiking.
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