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Hamburger cooking?

Godslamb Jan 24, 2013 07:43 PM

I have been watching the Food Network, and I am confused about something. I have been told (by my butcher father and mother and by health experts) that when you cook hamburger, it has to be cooked through to avoid E-Coli. Got it. Now, when I see these restaurant burgers on tv, they are half raw! How can they do that without poisoning people??
I used to think that if you cook a steak you can have it pink in the middle because the bacteria is on the outside of the meat, so when you sear it, you remove the bacteria. OK. But even if you used fresh meat and made your own ground meat for burgers, you are mixing the bacteria into the meat and all through it, How is that different then??
I hope this made sense...I kinda rambled.

  1. Chemicalkinetics Jan 24, 2013 08:35 PM

    I think you have answered your own question. For freshly ground beef, it is safe. There shouldn't be that much bacteria on the surface of a fresh piece of meat.

    5 Replies
    1. re: Chemicalkinetics
      Godslamb Jan 24, 2013 09:21 PM

      Okay, so how do they do it? Do they wait for someone to order a hamburger then grind the steak for that burger? Otherwise hey have meat that is sitting there becoming more bacteria-like.:) But if they grind it, make the patties, then freeze them right away, does that work? I guess I am wondering because we are moving to the States, and most of these shows are from the States.

      1. re: Godslamb
        z
        Zalbar Jan 25, 2013 09:11 AM

        They grind the beef daily for what they will use. Bacteria resides on the outside of a muscle and why they buy whole muscled to chop and grind.

        Industrial ground beef like you get at the grocery store comes from factory slaughter houses. If 1 cow is infected then that gets all ground together with all the other ground meat, and it's at that point you need to cook that burger to death.

        Grinding fresh you run the same risk as ordering a steak medium or rare. Essentially zero.

        Here, take a look how this guy does it for his burger shop in Illinois.

        http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-5eml7...

        1. re: Godslamb
          Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2013 09:20 AM

          I am not expert in restaurant operation, but I guess you are correct. They make the patties ahead of time, and then freeze some and cold refrigerate some.

          Different establishments take different risk. Many mom and pop restaurants will cook your hamburgers from medium to well done. Higher end restaurants often will go down to medium-rare. However, large chains like McDonald will only do well-done.

          1. re: Godslamb
            i
            Isolda Jan 25, 2013 09:38 AM

            I think if you want to be safe, order your burger well done at all chain restaurants and medium to low end places. (Burgers at fast food places are always cooked well done.) But at more upscale places, I think it's fine to order your burger the way you like it.

            The risk is always there, but in practice, most healthy people do not get sick from eating underdone burgers.

            1. re: Isolda
              z
              Zalbar Jan 25, 2013 12:21 PM

              Best burgers are the ones you do yourself at home!! :)

              Meat grinders are dirt cheap, people just have lost the knack of doing things for themselves and relegated that to the agri companies.

              Careful though, once you start down the path of doing things for yourself, like baking bread, curing bacon, or grinding your own meat, you may not be able to stop due to how much better they taste than the fluffed up store stocked stuff.

        2. m
          Maggiethecat Jan 24, 2013 09:45 PM

          I think a lot of people just take their chances when it comes to burgers. Most places that serve burgers, in my experience, will either serve them well-done by default, or ask how you want it done (similar to how you'd be asked how you want your steak done.) So the burgers you are seeing are probably being ordered by people who request them medium or rarer. These places will also have disclaimers on their menus stating that consuming undercooked meat may result in illness, etc. and that the restaurant is not liable for these types of illnesses and that people with compromised immune systems should eat meat and eggs well-done.

          As to why more people don't get sick...well I don't think every piece of beef is ladled with bacteria. Also some peoples' stomachs/immune systems are better able to handle a little bacteria than others. So, it's just a chance some people take.

          1. p
            Puffin3 Jan 25, 2013 05:30 AM

            Meat used to make hamburgers sold in 'fast food' places has been blasted off carcass using very high pressure air hoses. Before the carcass is blasted it has been
            treated with chemicals that destroy all bacteria. (That's the theory). When the meat is blown off the carcass it hits a special wall behind the carcass. When as much meat has been blasted off the carcass as possible it is sent on it's way to be ground up into bone meal or whatever. Before the next carcass comes along the meat is scoped up and scraped off the wall and floor by someone with a snow shovel into a big plastic bag ready to be added to the big vat were other things will happen to the meat to make the burgers.
            BTW all the 'hamburger' meat that is sold in those big plastic sausage shaped tubes is processed this way. Gotta keep the 'quality control' standards up.
            Butcher shops who make their own 'in-house' hamburgers/meat do not use the 'air blast' process.
            When you drive past a non-desrcript industrial building the size of four football fields in the middle of no-where and it's a meat processing plant you now know what's going on inside.

            1. BiscuitBoy Jan 25, 2013 06:37 AM

              I've seen those "tubes" of ground meat in kitchens, they buy them from their suppliers (sysco, usfood, whatever), and it's the chance you take when eating out. Lots of meat depts in grocery stores do grind their own onsite, and given the smaller scale of production, less of a chance of contamination (IMHO)....but then there's the whole "pink slime" story of a few months ago. You wanna have 100% reassurance? Don't eat ground beef! Or buy your own cheap cuts, grind your own, and cook till grey

              1 Reply
              1. re: BiscuitBoy
                mucho gordo Jan 25, 2013 04:59 PM

                I believe those 'tubes' are called chubs. They are a coarse grind. Before I started using chunked-up chuck roast for my chili, I would ask the bucther for 5lbs off the chub before it's reground and packaged as hamburger meat.

              2. t
                ttochow Jan 25, 2013 09:27 AM

                Not that they do it this way, but...

                If you grind your own meat and the bad stuff is on the outside, you can drop your meat into boiling water for a few seconds. I don't remember precisely how long. Then cool it off and grind it. I've never done this, but someone I trust has and claims it does not affect the texture. YMMV

                Or, my understanding is that you can sous vide a burger at a high enough temperature (above 131 IIRC) for a long enough time that depends on the thickness of your burger. This will pasteurize the interior as well. Killing pathogens is a function of temperature and time, but most only consider temperatures that kill in a very short time and overcook the meat.

                1. m
                  mwhitmore Jan 25, 2013 09:32 AM

                  The simple answer is that 'experts' vastly exaggerate the danger. PS Love your Westie!

                  6 Replies
                  1. re: mwhitmore
                    g
                    GH1618 Jan 25, 2013 12:32 PM

                    That's a simplistic answer. Food poisoning from undercooked hamburger is rare, but potentially fatal. In 1993, about 400 people were poisoned by e-coli in hamburger from a national chain restaurant, and two children died from it. If your child died from food poisoning, it would be no consolation to know that it rarely happens.

                    1. re: GH1618
                      Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2013 02:29 PM

                      <If your child died from food poisoning, it would be no consolation to know that it rarely happens.>

                      True, but in life, risk is sometime necessary. We cannot always live in fear. Afterall, more children die from car accidents than food poisoning. More importantly, a bit bacteria here and there actually make us stronger. Is there a chance that they will kill us? Sure, but completely elimination of all bacteria contact can be even more dangerous.

                      1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                        g
                        GH1618 Jan 25, 2013 02:44 PM

                        Because a few children die from car accidents, we teach them how to cross the street safely, and we make them wear their seat belts. The reason that accidental deaths are low, whether from car accidents or food poisoning, is that we understand the dangers and take sensible precautions, like looking both ways before crossing the street, and cooking our hamburger properly. Yes, death from car accidents is more prevalent. We need to do more there.

                        With all due respect, your last couple of sentences are mere rationalizations. They do not make sense. We are not discussing here the sterilization of our entire environment, we are discussing keeping dangerous pathogens out of our food. Eliminating all bacteria from hamburger is not more dangerous, it is less dangerous and good practice, because some of those bacteria can cause extremely serious illness, and even death.

                        1. re: GH1618
                          Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2013 03:09 PM

                          <Because a few children die from car accidents, we teach them how to cross the street safely>

                          My point is that we don't just stop doing something because there is a small risk. The risk will always be there for cases -- even if you wear seat belt, and even if you fully cooked the food.

                          <We are not discussing here the sterilization of our entire environment, we are discussing keeping dangerous pathogens out of our food. >

                          I don't think I was talking about sterilization of our entire planet. What we found and know, for example, is that any sterilization can have trade-off. Antibacterial soap actually may not be a good thing for you in the long run. This is not to say you should go into a surgery with unsterilized medical equipments.

                          <Eliminating all bacteria from hamburger is not more dangerous, it is less dangerous and good practice>

                          Less dangerous for that particular instance, but is it actually less dangerous in the long run? For healthy adults, it is not as bad as you think to get sick once in a while. It strengthen the immune system. Do you think a person who has never been in contact of cold and flu has a stronger or weaker immune system? A person who has never consume bacteria in his whole life (as you have proposed) does not have a better immune system.

                          Why do you think many Americans travel to Asia or South American countries get sick from foods, but the other way does not occur. Think no further to how the original Native Americans were affected by smallpox and other diseases.

                          <because some of those bacteria can cause extremely serious illness, and even death.>

                          I know, and I think I have acknowledged this point, but the elimination of all pathogens in all situations weaken our bodies. If you and a tribal man were to be tossed in middle of nowhere to survive. He will likely survive and you will get sick just from drinking dirty water.

                          1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                            g
                            GH1618 Jan 25, 2013 03:30 PM

                            Getting sick from exposure to certain pathogens for which one has not acquired immunity due to prior exposure or vaccination is entirely different and unrelated matter from the question of whether we should tolerate dangerous pathogens in our food. Straying off-topic in this way seems to me to be avoiding the question for want of a sensible answer.

                            Besides, you are getting into the area of medicine, and this is not a medical site. I happen to have some experience with immune system problems, so am reasonably well-informed on the subject for a layman, but this is not the place to discuss it.

                            Finally, if you are suggesting that humankind would be better off if we all had unsanitary drinking water and just let nature take its course by weeding out the weakest among us, I take exception. I live in a modern civilization with safe drinking water, and with the knowledge and means to make contaminated drinking water safe, and I choose not to return to the sanitary standards of the middle ages.

                            1. re: GH1618
                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 25, 2013 03:40 PM

                              < Straying off-topic in this way seems to me to be avoiding the question for want of a sensible answer.>

                              No, I am not. I am talking about food preparation including hamburger. I am talking about exactly how extensive we need to be super-clean about killing every pathogens on the hamburger. We are talking about that, aren't we? If I wasn't being more clear, then I will write it out more. I mean specifically the idea to cook and cook all foods to make sure all possible bacteria are absolutely removed is questionable. Yes, it is safer for that particular instance, but it is not safer and better in the long run. This is where the foreign country travel examples came into play.

                              <you are getting into the area of medicine, and this is not a medical site. >

                              With all due respect, you bought up e-coli, food poison, before I did, right? Since you are pretty well informed, then you may know about the Hygiene Hypothesis. That is what I am talking about along with others.

                              <Finally, if you are suggesting that humankind would be better off if we all had unsanitary drinking water and just let nature take its course by weeding out the weakest among us>

                              Pretty sure that is not what I said, and definitely not what I meant.

                              Like you said, it may be venturing to a deeper discussion than others may care for. So, you can read about the more recent development in Hygiene Hypothesis if you have not, and we will can leave it at that.

                  2. KaimukiMan Jan 25, 2013 02:23 PM

                    yes, the upscale burgers you are talking about are made of 'fresh ground' beef. and yes, some bad stuff from the surface does get ground into the meat.

                    1. Godslamb Jan 25, 2013 06:39 PM

                      Wow...thanks everyone! \lots of info here to "digest". :)4I appreciate the input from you all.
                      I know here in Calgary in the past few years it seems very often that people were becoming extremely sick due to undercooked burgers, hence the reason I asked when I saw all the undercooked burgers on tv.

                      1. g
                        GH1618 Jan 25, 2013 07:39 PM

                        Here's a link to an article from wired.com on the subject of increased regulation of e-coli in food since the 1993 incident:

                        http://www.wired.com/wiredscience/201...

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