Posts Tagged ‘Medical Footnote: rare hamburgers’


Get internal temperature to 160 degrees F.   Consumerist.com

Well-done burgers are 160  safe and tasty degrees.   Consumerist.com.


By Paul Goldfinger, MD  (This article has been updated from our 2017  post)

Sal commented regarding our article about hamburgers.  He said, “Be careful mentioning that your burger was medium- rare… isn’t it now against the law to serve a burger in New Jersey that’s not well done?  No pink at all from what I know.”

Regarding Sal’s question,  I could not find an actual health department ordinance for restaurants about this, so if any readers know more, please comment below. I have checked the USDA recommendations (US Dept. of Agriculture. See link below)  They monitor meat processing plants routinely.

When you buy hamburger from the store, leave it in the original packaging and keep in the refrigerator at less than 40 degrees F.  for no more than 1-2 days before cooking or freezing.  Below 40 degrees will keep the bacteria from multiplying but will not kill the pathogens..

If the meet is frozen, thaw it in the refrigerator; never at room temperature. Do not leave the meat out at room temperature for more than 2 hours. But the best practice is never to leave it out of the fridge. Bring a cooler to the grocery store for the trip home.

Get a good food thermometer to check the burger while cooking it.

Here is a USDA link on this subject:



Hamburgers from fast food restaurants are OK because they are cooked safely to 160°F. In other restaurants, ALWAYS order your child’s hamburgers well done. Also, older people, pregnant women, or people with a serious illness should order hamburgers well done. But it is best for everyone to order “well done” burgers or ask the waiter to have the burger cooked to 160 degrees F.

At home, cook burgers to 160°F and keep cooking for at least  15 seconds. Looking  at the interior color is not a good way to know if hamburgers are cooked enough. Check the temperature with a good quality food thermometer.

The concern is about E. Coli or other worrisome bacteria such as Salmonella—- These are dangerous organisms that may grow on the surface of meat and which can be stirred into the mix when meat is ground.   It is also recommended that you do not grind meat at home. A person could get violently ill from such an infection; in fact, it could be fatal.

The pathogens may survive within the burger even if the burger is in the fridge.  You kill the bacteria when you cook the meat to 160 degrees.  When you use a thermometer, insert it into the interior center of the  burger.  If it is a thin burger, insert the thermometer from the side.

I saw a video of the famous chef  Daniel Boulud making a hamburger. He grilled it on a cast iron pan, stove top, for 3 minutes on each side. He then proudly cut a piece off and exclaimed success;  it was rare. But, of course, he is confident of where his meat is coming from and what the condition of his kitchen is.

To tell the truth, when I ordered my burger medium-rare at Asbury’s Ivan and Andy’s steakhouse (now closed,)  I didn’t worry about it because it was a fine restaurant where the owner was a butcher, and I suspected they cut and grind their own meat.

But, when I am in a diner or most other restaurants, I always ask for it to be medium.   (Experts say that we should order burgers “well done” in restaurants.)  Sometimes the restaurant will refuse to serve it rare or medium rare.  And some people will not order a burger in a restaurant at all.

On occasion, the health risks surrounding food are especially high, and so we must change our habits. About 15 years ago I stopped eating something that I loved: raw clams and oysters. One of my colleagues, an infectious disease specialist, had just returned from a medical meeting in New Orleans. He said that he did not eat any raw shellfish down there because of the substantial risk of hepatitis. If he could turn his back on those New Orleans oysters, then it was time for me to bite the bullet.

But as for hamburgers, I think the risk varies with circumstances. My official advice is to always order or cook your burgers well done  (160 degrees F.)    But if Daniel Boulud were making my burger in his kitchen,  I probably would still ask for it medium rare, which is the most delicious end point.

There is an adage: “Physician—heal thyself.”    So if we physicians do order our burgers medium-rare, we probably shouldn’t admit it on Blogfinger if we didn’t want Sal to give us the business.


DUKE ELLINGTON AND HIS ORCHESTRA like to stop at Dixie Roadside Diners:


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