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Can't get hamburgers cooked the way I want

I've noticed that in several restaurants I can't get hamburgers cooked medium rare or rare. Medium is the least cooked I can get. In some restaurants it's the company policy, in others it's the local board of health. Yes, I know all about the dangers of undercooked meat. My feeling is that the restaurant should be required to warn you about undercooked meat, but that I'm an adult and paying for the food so I should be able to get the meat cooked any way I desire. As long as I am told about undercooked meat (the lawyers talking) it's nobody's business. How do others feel about this policy?

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  1. Drives me crazy. But get this! I've eaten in a couple of places that refused to serve eggs over-easy! They said it was against health regs or company policy or something. They'd only do them with the yolks cooked solid. Ick!
    But then other places can serve steak tartare, sushi, house made mayo, caesar salad, etc.
    I'll sign a release. Just give me good food.

    1. This recent thread might interest you. It got so heated the Chow team put the brakes on it. FWIW, I like them that way too and can never find a place that will do it either.

      1. I always order rare, I would order raw if I could. Squires in Briarcliff cooks them perfectly. I always get them rare at Blazer's too (both in NY).

        Have you tried them?

        As to the health risk, bugger the health risk. Then again, I used to adore the steak tartare at Town Tavern in Bronxville, NY, so what do I know.

        2 Replies
        1. re: dolores

          dolores, come on over to Brussels! If you order "l'americain" (The American) what you get is a big beautiful mound of raw, slightly seasoned, beef. You usually get small side piles of chopped onion; cornichons, etc. It is on practically every menu here, from cafe to fine dining. It's in all the delis as well.

          1. re: briedemeaux

            LOL, briedemeaux, I've love to, that sounds wonderful! There used to be a place here in Westchester NY that served steak tartare, which is similar to what you describe. The place has since closed and I doubt, due to liability, that many other places serve the dish you describe.

            Whenever I cook London Broil, I always eat mine raw...:O)

        2. Thankfully here in MA most places will cook to order (with the possible exception of some chains -- someone with more info hopefully will correct me if I'm wrong) and EVERY menu, from the lowest diner to the fanciest fine dining room has to state on their menu something to the effect that raw stuff can make you ill, so you're taking a chance. Of course, it's worded a little nicer... when I was a waiter people from out of state would often wonder at this statement, as if that particular restaurant was warning them that they could get ill by eating there. When I explained it though, they understood.

          1. It's all about liability - the fact that they warned you doesn't prevent them from getting sued if you get sick and you're inclined to sue. Since they're usually not paying for their own legal defence, it's their insurers who get to set guidelines on recommended practices. Whether they win or not, the legal defense still costs money.

            1. I don't know if it's regional or local health codes make a difference but in Calif you can get a med-rare burger just about anywhere that's not a chain or fast food. The thing is, only places that use fresh beef will cook it that way. It's the inexpensive frozen beef from non-reliable sources and the liability thing with big chains that provokes the cook it well done ethos.

              1. Perhaps I'm incorrect, but I assumed that places that will cook your hamburger rare are grinding their own from sides of beef they butcher in-house. It think it is the preprocessed hamburger patties that often are fouled and must have all the contamination and flavor cooked out of them.

                2 Replies
                1. re: BN1

                  I've worked in a lot of places that serve burgers, and all of them would cook rare if asked. None of them ground their own beef. And there's a Virginia farmer in deep trouble right now for butchering his own meats, rather than taking it to a USDA-approved slaughterhouse.

                  1. re: mojoeater

                    Of course, there is a difference between the slaughtering of live animals versus the hanging, aging and butchering of sides or full carcasses of meat supplied by a licensed USDA facility. I know restaurants that prepare their own cuts of meat in-house. Just go to any local meat market to see full carcasses hanging and being butchered. The meat department in my local supermarket makes their own hamburger and ground chuck, which I confidently cook rare/medium rare when I grill. It is the preprocessed, bulk patties that I believe are dangerous.

                2. If they don't technically allow rare or medium rare burgers I find I can get what I want by changing how I ask for it. I just ask the waiter to ask the chef/cook to cook the burger as lite as possible

                  1. Never had a problem getting burgers cooked (or *not* cooked) however you request here in the Carolinas. As a matter of fact, at one of our favorite restaurants last week, Mr. Q ordered his burger medium rare and it came practically tartare.

                    1. If a restaurant won't cook their burgers medium or rare, it speaks volumes for the quality of meat they are serving. One of the reasons Jack `N The Box has had so many e-coli incidents is the standard of meat they purchase. In their corporate guidelines, they specifically list the "parts per thousand" of feces and insect parts they will accept and still serve to their unwitting customers.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: Glassman

                        When I first started out cooking in low rent places, the burgers had to be cooked through because the suppliers could not guarantee that the meat had not come into contact with other raw meats such as chicken. It was a legitimate safety issue when buying cheaply.

                      2. any place that will not cook my burger medium rare, or cook my eggs over easy will lose a customer immediately. I will walk out.

                        1. I have this thing where I like good hamburgers cooked rare also. Im not talking fast food...Im talking steakhouses or a really good diner. Here's my scam: When I ask for rare and I get a lecture and told something like "i'll see what I can do" and one of those dry, grey, compacted abomination patties comes out, I cut into it in front of the wait staff, I make a disgusted-ill-unhappy face as I look at it and send it back as overcooked. Generally after the face THEY are asking ME what's wrong. If you get something you don't like (no matter what degree of cooking they call it) send it back as overcooked. Don't say "it's not rare" just say something like "this is way overcooked and i can't eat that" Most places will always strive to please a dissatisfied customer even if the end result is a rare burger on your plate. When you're all done and have savored your delicious rare burger, leave the wait staff a decent tip (more than the going rate). Works every time!

                          1. When I was 4 or 5, my parents would take us to this pool hall kind of joint that served a "cannibal sandwich" - basically just a raw burger, bun and all. My mom got it all the time, would give us bites, we loved it!

                            things change, eh?

                            I don't know if I'm a victim of the cooties hype or not, but I would be hesitant to order a rare burger out. I don't sufficiently trust the source and handling of ground meats these days, so for me its no loss to have burgers cooked a bit more in a restaurant.

                            But on principle I agree.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: lisa13

                              I have a similar problem but for opposite reasons, I like my meat virtually cremated (no comments thank you!). However chefs (or cooks) seem to think that my request for extra well done, tell them to burn it I don't care, means medium rare. How could a customer dare to ask for her steak or burger well done? well stuff her, she will get it how we want to serve it. So back my meal goes and it wrecks the flow of dinner with friends while my food goes back to be recooked (bleh).

                              1. re: smartie

                                My MIL and FIL are in the same boat. I can't tell you how many times we've taken them to very fine establishments, only to have the kitchen "punish" our table in various ways for daring to order well done meat. I can synpathize with the kitchen for feeling it's just plain wrong to do that to good meat, but I have to agree that it *is* still the customer's choice, and they should make the best effort to accomodate that choice.

                                1. re: lisa13

                                  what I don't understand is why do restaurants ask you how you want your steak or burger cooked then do it how they want to serve it anyway? It's like saying what side would you like with your meal and you ask for brocolli and they bring you spinach!!

                            2. I HATE it. Food Nazis. On the rare occasion I cant get a med rare burger, I leave.