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Eating Raw Beef and Raw Steak - need guidance (moved from Boston board)

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Alright, Hounds, here's a question:

I've recently had some fairly tasty Ethiopian dishes involving raw beef. It occurred to me that the dishes, while tasty, are really just a mix of basic spices (berbere') and raw cuts of beef. Hence, I'm pretty sure I can make this at home for pennies on the dollar.

But, for some reason I can't get over the "eating raw beef" idea when I combine it with home preparation. There's some special psychological voodoo that lets me believe that a professional kitchen somehow is safer for raw beef prep than my home kitchen.

So, I'm wondering: How can I obtain, process, and consume raw beef as safely as possible?

- Can I just go get a nice cut of steak from a grocer or butcher, wash it off, carve some slices, and wamo, dig in? Or is that very unsafe?
- Do I need to shave off the surface layer of the beef cut, to get rid of aerobic bacteria?
- What am I missing here?

From my understanding, ground beef is dangerous due to the mixing of surface bacteria with the meat, so does that mean I have to remove the surface of the steak I plan on using?

Hounds, unite, and give me your knowledge!

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  1. By the way, the dish I had was called Gored-Gored, which is sometimes very lightly cooked, but mostly raw. Here's a photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/rosemani...

    1. The most important factor is definitely where the meat comes from. If you get the steak from a reputable butcher who knows exactly where the meat is coming from (tell him it's for a raw preparation), there's really nothing else you can do. You don't even really need to wash it off in that case.

      Ground beef is technically more dangerous because there's more surface area to be exposed, but it is not in and of itself more dangerous. It's an issue of probability. There's greater risk in ground beef, but that does not make ground beef dangerous.

      1 Reply
      1. re: FinnFPM

        I can't think of a local butcher who can even begin to tell you the origin of the beef. City Feed & Supply and Concord Prime & Fish sell Brandt Beef, and it's all source-verified. So I guess I can think of one. And if I remember correctly, Savenor's sells Snake River's beef, also source verified, but overpriced. To be safest, use a clean knife and clean board and keep the beef under 41 degrees whenever possible. For the most part, a little bacteria won't hurt you, so if you don't allow them to multiply, you're all set. Remember, for example, that you consume salmonella bacteria with every 2 cartons of eggs for your over easies in the morning, and you're still okay.

      2. My understanding is that the safety issue with raw meat is surface contamination during slaughter and processing, not anything within the meat muscle itself. As you imply above, ground meat is more problematic because the grinding process brings uncontaminated meat into contact with contaminated surface area and provides a nice wet medium for microbes to grow. (Or as Eric Schlosser put it more bluntly, there's sh*t in the meat. Nasty, I know.)

        But while this is bad news for rare hamburgers, it's good news for properly prepared tartare and carpaccio, etc. - as long as you sterilize the outer layer completely and use good sense about keeping it cold, etc., you should be fine. You could shave the outer layer off with a knife but then the knife itself just brings the microbes along for the party. Honestly I would just drop the meat into boiling water for 10 seconds, pull it out with clean tongs and then mince or slice it however you'd like. Assuming you start with good quality beef and keep it cold, you should be fine. Apart from the food safety issue, I would think you'd want the leanest cut you can find - fat is great when it's heated but waxy and tough when raw.

        You could also post this query on the Home Cooking board and get thoughts from a wider cross-section of hounds.

        1 Reply
        1. re: MichaelB

          That's a great idea. And thanks all for the input so far!

        2. Raw meat can and will contain bacteria, from toxogenic E-coli to Campylobacterand Salmonella. Ground beef simply spreads the contamination, and the breakdown of the beef allows for it to act as a better culture medium.

          Given that, it is a risk benefit. No butcher can tell you if the meat he or she is selling is safe to eat raw. If they do, it is out of hubris or ignorance. Removing the surface will help, as that is where most of the bacteria are located, but it would require the surface to get hotter than 160 degrees for about one minute.

          I eat rare hamburgers all the time. This is my decision, and realize that the risk is real and potentially fatal. If you are very old or young, immunocompromised, or pregnant, this becomes far more hazardous. Each year thousands of people die from food borne illness, but from many sources and for many reasons. E. Coli 147 H7 can result in Hemolytic-Uremic Syndrome, as well as a toxic megacolon like syndrome. Even a slight food borne illness can be the progenitor, according to some theories of everything from irritable bowel syndrome, to ulcerative colitis.

          I believe that each individual should have the right to eat undercooked meat, as long as they understand the potential consequences.

          1 Reply
          1. re: aadesmd

            It's my understanding that most of the harmful bacteria are indeed aerobic, that is, they only live on the surface of meats as they require a more oxygenated environment. So dropping the meat into boiling water for a quick bath might do the trick? Any thoughts?