The Reason It's More Dangerous To Eat An Undercooked Burger Than Undercooked Steak

Grillers take note.

Grilling Hamburger
Photo: porpeller/Getty Images

We have bad news for those of you who like their burgers almost mooing. While the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics standards say it's fine to eat your steak cooked rare, it's unsafe to do the same with hamburger and other ground meat.

The reason? Food safety experts say it's all in the process.

"Grinding the meat extends the fabrication (or cutting) process one more level," Ted Siegel, chef-instructor at the Institute of Culinary Education, explained to Reader's Digest. "Usually pathogens are found on the surface of the muscle tissue, so once you start grinding up the meat, you're dispersing the pathogens throughout more of the meat beyond the surface."

So, if you serve a burger that's rare or undercooked, any germs that haven't been killed off are still alive and well in the meat, increasing the risk of food poisoning, Siegel added. For ground meat to be enjoyed risk free, the meat needs to reach 160°F, making it well done. So, if you choose to eat a rare burger, keep in mind that there's a chance that bacteria are present.

WATCH: How to Make The World's Best Burger

Luckily, with steak, because the pathogens are only on the surface, as long as the outside is seared, it can be safely eaten at a lower degree of doneness.

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  1. Newgent J. Can rare meat be safe? Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

  2. U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service. Ground beef and food safety.

  3. Ferris IM. Hazard analysis and critical control points (HACCP). In Wernaart B, Van der Meulen B, eds. Applied Food Science. Wageningen Academic Publishers;2022:187-213. doi:10.3920/978-90-8686-933-6_10

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