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Jan 24, 2013 07:43 PM

Hamburger cooking?

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.

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  1. 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

      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

        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.

        1. re: Godslamb

          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 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

              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. 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. 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. 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

                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. 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.