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Ontario's hamburger temperature cooking law (split from Ontario board)

[MOD NOTE: this was split from the following thread: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/860114

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Really? Not a single burger in Canada for 10 years? I question your love of burgers Norm. I would be willing to bet BP would love to serve you a burger rare. But considering the hype surrounding the restaurant and the food police focus on ground meat, it probably makes them nervous. I don't blame them. They don't control the laws. Its unfortunate.

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  1. Ok, might have been exaggerating slightly to make the point that overlooking burgers is poor taste. I still found BP to be the best in the country based on my preferences (griddle,coarse,loose).

    They may not control the laws but that is no excuse for their rudeness both at the management level (deleting a FB question rather than addressing the issue) and on the front line.
    Also, they obviously can choose to cover their ass and take this approach and I can look for a new Burger joint which is what I'm doing.

    Finally, why can I order steak tartare or carpaccio just about anywhere...are those restaurants Freedom Fighters? :)

    16 Replies
    1. My understanding is that grinding beef is an issue because the of surface area contact. They also typically use less favourable cuts of meat that aren't treated with the same amount of care that better cuts are treated with, and they are portioned in to smaller pieces - ie, the scraps, which lends itself to more surface area. The surface area is where the harmful bacteria can exist (on the outside of the meat). Since you're grinding that meat, the external surface area comes in contact with that of other pieces, or bits of meat. Finally, after grinding you have a big ground clump of meat that has a lot of "external surface" area that's been "internalized" (as opposed to a steak, where you cook the outside of the meat), as well as having spread that external bacteria to the other 'bits' of meat. If you serve that "internalized" part raw (or close to it), you don't kill off the harmful bacteria that may now exist in the center - hence why there's a law stating that ground beef has to be cooked to a certain temperature. A bit difficult to explain, but I hope that helped.

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      1. re: Norm1966

        It seems there's (usually) higher quality control at upscale restaurants, so I'd expect the chances of getting sick from tartar or carpaccio are much lower. Tartar and carpaccio are also usually hand- chopped or sliced by a knife, which is easier to keep clean than a meat grinder. I wouldn't trust most burger joints grinding out tons of ground meat and charging $6/burger to clean out their grinders as carefully as most upscale French or Italian restaurants would clean their knives.

        It's often the cheaper restaurants that are cutting corners that end up with health violations. I would think TO Public Health watches burger joints like a hawk. TO Public Health might even read this Board for tips on where to find rare or undercooked burgers, so you might have to do your own field research, and keep the results offline once you find a burger joint that serves rare burgers, if you want to be able to continue to eat rare burgers under TO Public Health radar.

        1. re: prima

          I don't know if I buy that - if you only had one product, and your entire business was based on that one product, I'm pretty sure you would ensure that every measure was taken to ensure that the product was safe for consumption, at all costs. Some may get sloppy - but I don't think they'd last very long if people were getting sick from their meat.

          Cutting meat with a knife doesn't produce the same risks at the level that producing ground meat does. Carpaccio is just sliced meat typically given a light sear on the outside - so not the same concern in this case either.

          1. re: justxpete

            I disagree. Just because a restaurant has one product, and bases their business model on the product, is not enough to lead to a conclusion that every measure will be taken to make sure the product is safe for consumption. Sometimes even successful businesses take short cuts when they're watching their bottom line, sometimes employees make mistakes, sometimes employees don't follow the protocol, and sometimes the system fails even when everything was done according to the protocol.

            I don't disagree that cutting meat with a knife produces less risk than grinding meat with a grinder. I don't think anything I wrote says otherwise.

            While some tuna carpaccio has had a light sear, most carpaccio I have ordered typically does not have a light sear.

            1. re: prima

              No, you're correct, it's not, but it is safe to say that if a business produced one product, and that product made people ill, that people would soon stop patronizing their establishment.

              re: Carpaccio In some instances they'll give it a light sear and then cut it away.

              1. re: justxpete

                So, TO Public Health could be thanked for helping keep more restaurants serving burgers in business. :-)

        2. re: Norm1966

          i've never understood the steak tartare/carpaccio law.

          i want someone in the know to explain how those are ok, unless heating the meat up instantly increases E Coli numbers (which i doubt it does)

          1. re: atomeyes

            Cooking meat kills E Coli. Ground beef is often contaminated with E Coli, thanks to the commercial butchering process and/or the grinding process. The E Coli numbers decrease as a E Coli contaminated patty is cooked, but if am E Coli contaminated patty is not cooked thoroughly, the E Coli in the rare middle of the patty are not killed off.

            Steak Tartare and Carpaccio don't tend to start out as a piece of meat contaminated with E Coli. and hand chopping in a restaurant kitchen with a clean knife is unlikely to bring E Coli into the mix. That's why Steak Tartare and Carpaccio aren't as much of a concern to Public Health department.

              1. re: prima

                Also - an acid is frequently added to Tartare that will help kill off any bacteria.

                1. re: prima

                  Well, even places that pasteurize their beef before grinding still cook to the same temperature as everyone else, and that I don't understand. I don't understand why, if a restaurant is grinding in-house, they have to follow the rules. I understand that in a grocery store meat department contamination happens readily. Also, I wouldn't mind a hand-chopped burger. In fact, I bought hand-chopped patties at a butcher shop some years back, and they were delicious. So, does that mean if someone opened a burger shop and hand-chopped the beef for their patties, they wouldn't have to cook to 71C? (In fact, just did a search for "hand chopped burger," and the first link that pops up is for The Queen and Beaver. So, it does exist in the city.)

                  1. re: prima

                    doesn't explain BP or Holy Chuck, who hand-grind their beef.

                    1. re: atomeyes

                      I would think in-house hand-grinding through a grinder would still carry more risk of E Coli contamination than hand-chopping with a knife.

                      Also, patties that are hand-packed would have more opportunity to pick up some other bacteria from the hands of the prep cook, than tartare or carpaccio would. One more reason to cook the patty a little longer.

                      1. re: prima

                        e coli comes from the butchering process where the blades transect the intestine and thereby contaminate the outside of the meat or the ground product in the case of ground meat. whole meat muscle only hold the bacteria on the outside not within the meat itself.

                        the in-house hand grinding or machine grinding will only take what is on the outside of the meat and deposit it within the burger. if the outside of the meat is free of e coli then it shouldn't be a problem (so long as the remaining surfaces that come in contact with the meat are not infected). other bacterian and contaminants are more problematic than e coli in these instances due to cross contamination or unhygenic practices.

                        1. re: ingloriouseater

                          Ok, good point, it's quite possible e coli wouldn't be the main concern with a grinder.

                          If the in-house grinder is not cleaned properly, it could add some non-e coli bacteria to the freshly ground meat, couldn't it?

                          1. re: prima

                            Well that is true, but if someone doesn't wash their hands and touches your bun you could get sick as well. There are countless ways to mishandle food and a food item itself or a particular preparation should not be banned if it is just the mishandling or incorrect practice of it that could make you ill. Cleaning of all kitchen utensils and appliances is of paramount importance. If some idiot in the kitchen uses a knife for raw chicken and then chops some parsley with it there is a strong possibility you will get sick.
                            The reality is that the regulations are essentially directed at the commercial end of the industry. If a grinder is a single purpose grinder in a restaurant used for one purpose only, and using the same type of meat, it is no more dangerous than hand chopping the same piece of meat.

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