HOME > Chowhound > General Topics >


Medium rare burgers? [Split from Ontario board]

I still don't get this facination with "pink burgers" and medium rare burgers. While I don't like my burgers well done, I do understand that temperatures of 160 F are required to kill eColi. In the case of beef, that's medium.
Keep in mind that the internal meat of a burger is still "surface meat" due to the forming of a pattie from ground beef, so it must be cooked 160F not on the surface, but throughout, yielding a not so pink burger.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Much safer to reach 160F and I am with you on not requiring a pink centre. I just need a juicy (NOT FATTY) burger. I added that for the others who make a big deal about it. At home though I like to keep some pink as it does add flavour.

    1 Reply
    1. It's simple. Pink burgers taste good. I'm not going to expound on this at length once again. Burger doneness is NOT legally regulated in Toronto. Food handling is regulated, but that's a subject for a different board. Burgers should be available cooked to taste. Medium rare burgers taste good. Well done burgers - to me - do not. Handle the meat safely and sell me a burger I can enjoy. (Your well done burger can be contaminated easily after it has been overcooked, but that, too, is a matter best discussed elsewhere.)

      5 Replies
      1. re: embee

        You may be interested that at Burger Shack in Toronto, I was able to order a medium-rare burger.

        1. re: Roberto7

          Location please...

          And was it any good?

          1. re: embee


            It was very good. If you search Chowhound you'll find a lot of comments and praise. I was shocked when they asked how I'd like it cooked. I ordered med-rare and it was very moist and pink. Be careful- they have two types of patty: 1) pre-formed and 2) hand-formed. Make sure you order the hand-formed. Great fries and huge onion rings too! Give it a try and post back what you think.

            Burger Shack
            233 Eglinton Avenue West (near Oriole Pky)
            Toronto, ON
            (416) 487-1974

        2. re: embee

          Cry me a river...as a restaurant manager, i understand the laws prohibiting rare and mid rare burgers and completly agree. Consider this: When we get shipments of ground beef, we have NO CLUE how it was handled before it arrrived at our door step. therefore it does not matter how safe we are, how clean we are or what precautions we take; if there are any low levels of Ecoli present, we are not equipted to know that. If it smells good to me and the texture and color does not set of any red flags, i am going to sell it! The only precaution my placed of business can take is to AT LEAST cook it Medium to well to ensure the guest is protected from any potential
          Ecoli which might be presents and not easily detected. Whenever we have allowed the guest to make these decisions and they became sick, we always see the restaurant getting sued and in the end, everyone loses...so why take the chance on risking life and livelyhood? Selfish are people who don't consider the entire issue!

          1. re: Sayyid08

            You taking said precaution would guarantee that I would never order a burger at your establishment, and would encourage others to do the same.

        3. 160 is way past medium in my book. those are McDonald temps.

          2 Replies
          1. re: vinovino

            I don't think 160 is McDonald temperature. :) But with good quality meat (ground chuck), not one of those non-descriptive ground beef, you can cook up to 145 for medium rare.

            1. re: baekster

              Although I cook to a lower temp than 145 F at home, I can live with a 145 restaurant burger. The "guideline" in Toronto is approx 160 (more likely a close metric approximation). A 160 burger is very well done. The point is that it's a guideline and not the law.

          2. It's because meat tastes better when it's cooked more on the rare side. I buy chuck roast at the supermarket and grind it myself at home to skirt most of the potential issues.

            Likewise, it's safer to eat cookies once they've been baked, but that doesn't stop me from eating the cookie dough.

            2 Replies
            1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

              Yup. That's what I do...although I have the butcher grind it after I pick out the chuck. :) I don't have a meat grinder at home.

              1. re: JK Grence the Cosmic Jester

                Here here! I don't eat burgers at restaurants any longer. When I want a good one, I'll do like you and grind it myself. I've even like to partake of a few few slices of raw beef with my dog.

                There are about a zillion more things out there to truly worry about than eating a nice medium rare hamburger.

              2. I don't even like pink...I hate to admit that I like my beef pretty bloody...rare or med rare for steaks and burgers- haven't caught a bad one yet

                16 Replies
                1. re: chef4hire

                  I like steaks medium rare but burgers?...especially if you did not make them yourself?

                  1. re: Pollo

                    Burger is just ground up steak, isn't it? People eat meat carpaccio all the time. If you can trust the source and the freshness of the meat, then go ahead---eat it as bloody as you wish.

                    1. re: baekster

                      When I said burger is just ground up steak, I meant YOU can grind up steak to be a burger... I think all these responders took what I meant a wrong way. Again, I said, if you trust the source (you and the butcher) to grind the meat up from good cut of meat, then go ahead.

                    2. re: Pollo

                      I'm not sure why this is such a shock...what is the difference between a rare burger or a rare steak? not to be difficult- I'm just not getting the difference

                      1. re: chef4hire

                        Generally organisms grow on the outside of the meat. With a steak, if the outside is seared, you've killed it off. With ground beef, the act of grinding will move the organisms to the inside, and cooking it rare allows them to survive the cooking process. So it's very different.

                        1. re: JonParker

                          sorry- I understand the science part but this whole thread is just killing me- would anyone truly eat somewhere that they didn't trust the quality of the food? is the guy cooking his burger to death also never going to eat a raw oyster or proper caesar salad?

                          not me, baby- we're living on the edge here in NOLA

                          I'm heading to the store right now so I can make a dinner in honor of this thread- we'll be starting with a couple dozen raw oyster shooters, followed by rare sliders topped with raw sheeps milk cheese and maybe we'll end with a small caesar- hand tossed in fresh dressing

                          thanks to all for the inspiration!

                          1. re: chef4hire

                            Just wash your hands before you toss that salad.

                            1. re: alanbarnes

                              duly noted, hands and feet washed here before dinner prep (just to ward off any errant bacteria I picked up wearing flip flops in the quarter today)

                            2. re: chef4hire

                              Ground beef is totally different than oysters or caesar salad. Oysters, provided they are fresh and properly inspected should provide no risk unless you have existing health issues. Caesar salad, coddle the egg, reducing your risk of salmonela.
                              Some good points on this overall thread, and yes, I do like my steak medium rare, but burgers are a different story. Its the surface meat vs internal meat. I have a butcher that I'd trust their meat, but I have no idea where a burger shop buys their meat from and how they handle it afterwards. It has nothing to trusting the quality of the food.
                              And yes it probably is more juicy, but I can make a pretty mean juicy burger at home without having to cook is less than medium.

                      2. re: chef4hire

                        I haven't had a good med rare burger from a restaurant in a long time. Down here (SC) there are temp guidelines which pretty much means you get well done and that is that. Sucks! The funny thing is the server still asks you how you would like it prepared. I will just make them at home. My mom & I used to just open a pkg of ground meat in the 80's and sprinkle a little salt on it and eat it raw! I don't do that anymore but I am tempted. I guess cooking it med rare isn't that far off. Oh well....

                        1. re: chocchipcookie

                          Is that where the ancient Jack-in-the-Box incident happened?

                          We seem to have a uniquely frustrating situation in Toronto. We do, indeed, have a 160 F guideline. But a restaurant can serve burgers cooked to taste, because the guideline is just that. There is no such law. But many restaurateurs believe that such a law exists, and that serving a rare burger can get them shut down. And some inspectors try to enforce this non-existent law. It's easier to comply than to fight.

                          1. re: embee

                            No, we don't have Jack-in-the-Box in South Carolina. You are right, the restos are probably just using the guideline to cover their bottoms.

                            1. re: embee

                              I believe it is legislated and law in Toronto. The guidlines are all part of the act created to protect people of Ontario. If a person gets sick and a restaurant is not following the legislated guidlines, they will not win in court. It also clearly states that fines, and worse, will be levied on restauranteurs who do not follow the guidlines.

                              1. re: deelicious

                                That's the crux of the problem, people don't want to be liable for getting people sick. Just because it's not a law doesn't mean they're in the clear when someone tries to make them pay.

                                  1. re: Blueicus

                                    Tis true. If someone gets sick from your burger, and the burger was not cooked to 160, and if they sue and can prove their case (e.g., the meat was seized and found to be contaminated), then the restaurant will lose in court.

                                    BUT...if the burger was cooked to 160, or 170, or 180, and you get sick from your burger (food handler with unwashed hands; sneeze, contaminated lettuce, etc, etc.), and if they sue and can prove their case, then the restaurant will lose in court.

                                    The burger temperature isn't the issue; the contamination is the issue. And overcooking the burger simply lessens the likelihood of the burger meat being the source. Unwashed hands and contaminated lettuce are much more likely sources. Reality = cook to 160 and still lose.

                                    Guideline = suggestion. Temperature = red herring. Handling practices = law.

                          2. From another CH thread:

                            "I've read of a technique wherein you plunge the raw, unground meat into vigorously boiling water for one minute, then remove and grind. This should kill any bacteria on the surface of the meat. If you grind and eat immediately, and have a normal immune system, this should be as safe as eating a rare steak. Obviously if you're starting with very thin steaks this might cook the meat to an unacceptable degree."

                            1. For my tastes, beef should never be eaten at any doneness over medium rare. Cooked more done than medium rare takes all the flavor, and juices out in my opinion. A place that cannot cook a burger less than medium will not get my business.

                              I remember as a kid when we would be forming the burger patties, or using ground beef for other items. Sampling some of the (gasp...) uncooked/raw ground beef rolled into little balls with salt, and garlic powder....

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: swsidejim

                                I'm the same way. I won't eat burgers somewhere that won't cook my burger rare because I assume that means they're using industrial grade ground beef and that's not something I'm interested in consuming.

                              2. In a recent (3/11/07) article in The National Provisioner it was noted that Cargill Meat Solutions (one of many meat processors) produces more than 1.5 BILLION pounds of ground beef per year. Let's see... um... that would be about 6 BILLION quarter pounders! The same article points out that McDonalds alone purchases 1 BILLION pounds on meat annually.

                                Unfortunately I could not find any more recent studies but, in a report by the CDC (Center for Disease Control) there were about 74,000 reported cases of Escherichia coli O157:H7 (the e. coli found in hamburgers) resulting in 3 deaths in 1997. I know that's 10 years ago but even if the number of cases were 110,000 (about half again as many) in 2007 and McDonalds sold one quarter of all hamburgers sold in the USA the odds of getting e. coli are about 1 in 218,000. The odds of fatally slipping in the shower are 1 in 2,232.

                                It tastes better... I'll have mine medium rare, thank you!

                                1. I thought that if you had a burger out of ground chuck, or ground round, then you don't have to worry about cooking it at medium or medium rare. But if it is ground beef, you have to be more cautious. Is this true? I like mine medium rare to medium, but when we were served burgers at someone's house, and I knew it was just ground beef, and it was charred on the outside and medium rare on the inside, I took a couple bites, and then declared I was stuffed from appetizers we had before dinner. Luckily, I am not known to be a big eater, so they didn't mind! I just didn't want to take a chance.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: danhole

                                    Ground meat is ground meat (as far as contamination is concerned). Chuck, round, whatever - if the equipment has been contaminated, it will all get contaminated. If a worker at a plant manages to get some e coli on one chunk of meat, all subsequent meat processed on the same equipment as the first could easily be contaminated (until it is torn-down and sanitized, which is a periodic requirement).

                                    Even chunks of meat - steaks, chops, roasts can be contaminated during processing. The reason they're safe is that you cook the surface that has been touched or processed, and the insides have never been exposed. Even if you cook a steak to rare, the surface is normally brought up to a safe temperature, so contamination on steaks and roasts is rare. Ground meat, on the other hand, has been exposed all over.

                                    Whatever your standards, don't believe for a second that the grade or type of ground meat matters at all.

                                  2. If I'm comfortable with the meat's source and handing, I want my burger at least an inch thick, preferably from the chuck, about 25% fat, well seared (preferably over an open flame, but a salamander will do), and cooked to about 135 F. While I don't want a "burger" to fall apart, I will eat tatare or kitfo on occasion.

                                    I don't believe anyone has mentioned it yet, but restos can, and sometimes do, use Pasteurized beef. In other words, all potentially viable surface bacteria has been killed before the meat is ground.

                                    We have a Toronto chain called Licks that once made the most incredible, fresh, cooked-to-order and to-taste burgers. Essentially, a fast food place serving, arguably, the best burgers in town.

                                    Licks burgers aren't incredible any more, and the management logic escapes me. They now cook their burgers way beyond well done. They even make their cooks hack up the meat as it grills to be sure it is sufficiently gray throughout. But follow this: the burgers do not (at least, if one believes the label) contain mechanically separated meat or "by products". They are processed in a federally inspected plant where they are Pasteurized before grinding and then flash frozen. They are likely to be handled properly (the management isn't casual about these things). They are cooked from frozen. While I can't cite CDC statistics about this product, I'd wager the risks are pretty low. Yet they so overcook the burgers that I can no longer eat them. I do, however, keep some frozen Lick's burgers in my home freezer for the occasional emergency meal. Since they are sufficiently processed to hold together (not a good thing in my mind), I cook them seared outside and very rare within. I have never been sick.

                                    I did once get violent food poisoning from a restaurant. It was over 30 years ago and it was a very fancy place. No burgers involved. The source was most likely something in the salad!

                                    1. There will always be the "crazies" on each side of the matter. Some of those crazies think you have to cook everything until every bacteria is killed, just in case. On the other side, there are the crazies that think it'll never happen to them and they eat their supermarket ground "beef" still quivering, potential health risks aside.

                                      I take the proper precautions, get my meat from the right places and eat my burgers medium rare. Medium burgers just don't taste good, just like a steak cooked to medium doesn't taste good to me. If I am a healthy adult male and do not have any immino-deficiency issues, so I do not need to be extra cautious about that stuff. just like I won't cook my pork tenderloin to 180 or whatever degrees to kill any potential chance of getting sick. I'll keep my pork slightly pink on the inside, otherwise, why bother eating...

                                      2 Replies
                                      1. re: ESNY

                                        Amen. Inform youself as best you can as to what the risks are, then decide whether you want to take them. Life isn't supposed to be risk-free, but those who disregard all risks, well, that's what natural selection is for.

                                        1. OMG they're just so much more juicy and tender! I don't like a tough bite; I like when my teeth sink into the burger. Mmmm....

                                          1. Sorry. Grenade coming!

                                            While I was in TO, before business meetings involving myself or my staff - "NO HAMBURGER LUNCH!!!". Hamburger bowel discomfort was so common that it led in large part to the city's " 160* " rule.

                                            The urge was, and probably still is, sudden and immediate. Urgent as an urge can be. There are other, less serious(?) pathogens than eColi involved. Does no-one recall the entreaties to report "food poisoning?"

                                            I too like my burgers slightly pink in the very middle, and charred outside - but, at home, or near home, when I don't have to travel any distance.

                                            1. Add jfood to the list of pink is better for burgers. yes he understands that there is a greater risk than eating incinerated meat, but he grew up in NJ, has a stress-laden job, loves oysters, is a Mets and Dolphins fan and j-walks, so what's a little pink meat in the grand scheme of rolling the dice of life.

                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: jfood

                                                this thread reminds me of the ban we had on sunny side up eggs...good grief

                                                1. re: chef4hire

                                                  jfood did not get that memo as sunny side up is the perfect way to serve eggs. jfood covers the pan while cooking so the whites are cooked through. interesting balancing to keep the yolks runny and the whites firm.

                                              2. I've had food poisoning twice - once from black beans, and once from lettuce on a fast food sandwich. (Was able to trace both times due to other people getting sick). Didn't stop me from eating black beans or lettuce. Didn't even stop me from eating at either restaurant. I like my burgers medium rare and I eat them that way whether at home or in a restaurant. And as far as I know, there are no nearby butchers to grind meat for me and I have no desire to grind it myself. So here I sit, almost 40 and never sick from uncooked meat.

                                                1. In Honolulu a few restaurants will cook the burgers medium rare, they have you sign a chit first taking responsibility. Usually I do if we go there. And yes, I am one of those crazies who still eats ground beef raw from the supermarket (and yes, sometimes even from costco). Been doing it my entrie life, and I suppose one day I will get sick, possibly stopping me from further indulging. I know I am taking a risk, but a raw hamburger sandwich on good rye bread with just a little butter and salt... so so good.

                                                  On the other hand, I certainly understand that it is not the way most people want to eat for a variety of reasons, and I think that needs to be respected.

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                    I'm and adult. I've been in combat. I've eaten street food from stange places all over the third world. I should be able to decide what I want to eat and I should be able to ask for a hamburger or eggs cooked the way I want them.

                                                    Wouldn't it just be easier if we shot all the ambulance chasers in the world.

                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      I used to do that all the time some years ago. My dad worked at the A & P and would tell the butcher to clean the grinder because his daughter would be eating the meat raw with some onions and pepper. Now I only do steaks somewhat raw.

                                                    2. I have been eating rare/ medium rare burgers for years and have not gotten sick. I only eat it at one restaurant, Main Street in Ocean, NJ. No other place can compare.

                                                      1. Ground Chuck, Medium rare: the only way to eat a burger. If ( and that is a big if, as I much prefer making my own) they tell me they will only make it medium, or if it comes to the table medium, either I don't order it or it goes back to the kitchen. Maybe they could make us sign a letter to release them of any suits if they make us a medium rare burger!!!

                                                        1. Folks, Chowhound is not a food safety website. We've had numerous posts about the safety of burger meat, and while knowing the temperatures to achieve desired degrees of doneness are fine, the conflicting opinions about the safety of meat is off topic and confusing. Please, let's move on.

                                                          1. Hi,
                                                            I completely understand how you feel. I am in such accordance with you that making a safe medium rare hamburger was the purpose of my science fair project. My project was recognized on a national level and it received the approval of an ontario representative in charge of recalls in the meat industry, university professors, local chefs, and a representative of the National Centre for Foreign Animal Disease.

                                                            160F as an internal temperature will give you a sufficient kill (1 in ten million survival) however for my project I seeked detailed cooking recommendations. These recomendations were from reliable sources such as the USDA and the National Canadian Beef Association. Essentially, they say that while E. coli kill is mainly a function of temperature, time also does play a role (i.e. you can get a safe hamburger at 140F or 150F too). The peak temperature that I targeted in my project was 150F because it takes 1.2 minutes at this temperature to reach the safety recommendations and it has a 1-4 minute window in which the hamburger can still be considered medium rare.

                                                            There is a way to make a safe medium rare hamburger. You can use a high heat barbeque (pre-heated to at least 500F), a high heat convection oven (also pre-heated to 500F), or a grill pan (the most popular method however this method has the smallest window of safe and medium rare). My basic recommendation is to preheat your cooking device and moniter teh temperature with an electronic meat thermometer. If you are using the grill pan or the barbeque, flip your hamburger at 120F (if you are using my favorite method, the convection oven, you don't need to flip your hamburger). Remove the hamburger from heat somewhere between 138-140F and then let it sit for 1-2 minutes before eating it. Then, the fats will continue to expell heat and the internal temperature of the hamburger will increase to 150F. If you are using lean of extra lean beef, take the hamburger off of the grill (or out of the cooking source) between 141-143F. Ideally, the hamburger will reach 150F and then go no higher.

                                                            After trying this, you may be thinking, "but my hamburger did nto stay at 150F for 1.2 minutes?!" The reason that it doesn't need to is because I used an analysis method that tells me how much the equivalent cooking at 150F is (so the entire cook was equivalent to "X" minutes at 150F). AVOID LOW HEAT COOKING IF YOU ARE TARGETING MEDIUM RARE BECAUSE IT IS IMPOSSIBLE TO COOK A SAFE MEDIUM RARE HAMBURGER WITH LOW HEAT! HIGH HEAT IS KEY!

                                                            Another thing that may be reassuring about my project is that this method will get an adiquate kill even if the meat is highly contaminated and is due to be recalled the next day.

                                                            Good luck cooking your safe medium rare hamburger!

                                                            If you have any questions or comments, please email me at kkg_lemontree@hotmail.com

                                                            10 Replies
                                                              1. re: cfoody

                                                                but at 150 degrees were the burgers medium rare and pink inthe middle?

                                                                1. re: cfoody

                                                                  That's great and all but 150F isn't "medium rare".

                                                                  1. re: jgg13

                                                                    You're right, of course, but in disagreement with the USDA.

                                                                    According to them, medium rare is 145 and medium is 160, so 150 would probably be considered medium rare.

                                                                    It appears that none of the bureaucrats who came up with these numbers knows anything about cooking red meat.

                                                                    1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                      Didn't they basically just raise the temps on all the terms at some point a good while back? Kinda like glamour sizing on clothes.

                                                                      1. re: jgg13

                                                                        Rare: barely pink.

                                                                        Medium rare: light grey.

                                                                        Medium: dark grey.

                                                                        Medium well: black.

                                                                        Well: charred through.

                                                                        1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                          That definition of medium is what i seem to usually get at a lot of places no matter how I ask for them.

                                                                          1. re: alanbarnes

                                                                            Oddly enough, I went to a Cheeseburger in Paradise the other night (not planned but needed a burger). When I asked for Medium Rare, the server said "pink throughout?" I said hell yes!

                                                                            A grey burger has no place on my plate.

                                                                    2. re: cfoody

                                                                      That is extremely interesting, and I admire your initiative. I would consider 140 to be someplace between medium rare and medium. Still, 140 will produce a burger that I can enjoy.

                                                                      Unfortunately, a significant issue undermines the real world application of your results. While you emphasize the time/temperature relationship in assessing safety, the people who monitor compliance in Toronto do not. Anything less than 160 in a cooked burger off the grill will fail because only temperature matters - not time.

                                                                      1. re: cfoody

                                                                        There is a way to cook a safe burger to any desired level of doneness. The answer is low temperature cooking specifically Sous Vide. I have found the forming the burger (adding whatever seasoning and ingrediants are in your perfect burger) and freezing prior to puting it in a vacuum pouch and heating from frozen produces the best texture and the shape isnt distorted when vacuuming. Anyway, if you cook in a 131 degree water bath and hold it there long enough it will be pastuerized. Douglas Baldwin's practical guide to sous vide has a table for the times (just google it). For instance a 30mm thick shows a time of 2:03 from 41 deg. Since I go from frozen I would cook for 3hrs going over time doesnt have any adverse effect until you get to really long times. This may sound like a pain but its all done in prep time. After pasturizing do a quick chill and simply cook normally when ready to serve. Or for an exceptional an new experiance reheat to 120 in a water bath and then quickly sear the burger with a torch and you will have a perfectly rare edge to edge juicy burger. Now if only health regs catchup with science and the new techniques we might be able to get a great and safe burger at a restaurant.

                                                                      2. I've read that the risk is much lessened by using "single cow" beef - that store ground beef consists of several animals. When we're in the mood for a juicy burger, I buy a chuck or round steak with some fat in it and grind it myself - I swear it tastes better that way.