• Some restaurants may serve pink burgers, but cook well at home

    Burgers Again

    The burger conundrum continues. Today is National Burger Day, and the Food Standards Agency is rightfully explaining to consumers why they need to cook a burger all the way through. Burgers are not like steak where just the outside surface could be contaminated with bacteria such as E. coli (and can be cooked off, leaving the middle rare). Burger meat is made from the outside and inside surfaces all minced up together, making the inside of a burger potentially contaminated.

    Pink burgers in Some Restaurants – why can they do it?

    However, some restaurants are serving pinkish burgers – so why can they do it but not us? Well the answer, as you may expect is quite complicated, but starts with the fact that they have followed the Food Standards Agency Guidelines, and gone through the process with their local EHO.

    Colour, Time and Temperature

    First, colour is not always an indicator of safety – temperature is the only really accurate way to know that a burger is cooked safely, and the best way to test temperature is with a thermometer. These can be bought from as little as £16 so it’s not a huge investment for anyone, even at home.

    Many restaurants cook burgers use the time / temperature table given by the Food Standards Agency and find that with lower temperatures over a longer time, they can achieve a moist, slightly pink burger that is still safe to eat.

    The easiest temperature to remember is 75° C for 30 seconds, but remember, meat carries on cooking after it has come off the heat, so you may want to remove from the heat at 70°C and leave to rest for two minutes as it will continue to cook. This will help make sure it is not incinerated and tough!

    From The Hygiene Doctor Shop:


    Other Methods

    Some restaurants have gone to a great deal of effort to carry out processes such as “sear and shave” which effectively means getting a large piece of meat, and searing all the surface. This kills off the bacteria (such as E. coli) on the outside. Then in carefully controlled conditions, making sure they don’t re-contaminate the meat, they sear off the outside surface so that the cooked meat is discarded (it may be used for other dishes) and the underneath part is still raw, but not contaminated any more. This is then minced in a special mincer kept only for this purpose and the minced meat is safe to cook less well, because effectively it is like a steak.

    There are also other processes used, such as using lactic acid to treat the outside of the meat, which also kills the bacteria off. Many restaurants have their meat tested before they allow it to be delivered, to be sure that, having gone through these processes, it is safe to eat less well cooked.

    Advice at Home

    Follow the time and temperature advice, and use a thermometer to be sure you have achieved a safe temperature.

    If you want to eat a less well cooked burger, go to a reputable restaurant where they have done all the hard work for you, and don’t risk it at home!

    For more information check out the British Hospitality Q and A

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