As a microbiologist, I feel the need to share the importance of fully cooking ground beef. This sort of popped into my mind while I was writing about making ground beef tacos. It’s barbecue season: the season of the hamburger. This isn’t to scare you! It’s just to keep everyone aware of these safety tips on how to cook safe and stay healthy.
You want to fully cook ground beef to avoid food poisoning. Food poisoning associated with ground beef is also known as Hamburger Disease. Beef can be contaminated with bacteria like E. coli. Ground beef, in particular, puts you at a higher risk for becoming ill. The most common ways of getting sick from ground beef
are not washing your hands after handling raw meat and eating undercooked meat.
Think of it this way:
You’re cooking a full steak. If the steak had been contaminated with any type of bacteria, the bacteria would sit on the outside of the meat. Cooking your steak would kill this bacteria on the surface, making it safe to eat.
Now, if you had taken this contaminated steak and minced it, the bacteria from the surface of your meat would have mixed into the ground beef. If you are then to make burgers with this ground meat, you’ve got to be sure to cook your burgers through to the center to be sure any contaminating bacteria within the burger is killed before consumption. No rare burgers, guys. Cooking thinner patties makes it easier to be sure they’re cooked through.
Wash Your Hands
I can’t stress the importance of hand washing. I work in a bacteriology lab, so I have a good understanding of why it’s a must. I have to admit it scares me sometimes how careless some people are with washing in their kitchens.
**Always wash your hands after handling raw meat.**
There’s no excuses or exceptions. You touch raw meat, you wash your hands…with soap. You touch the meat, you touch the stove, a pot, the fridge, utensils. Before you know it, you’ve covered your kitchen in bacteria. Keep it clean.
Don’t Mix Raw With Cooked
Never use the same utensils or dishes that have come in contact with raw meat for your cooked meat. All the juices from your raw meat are still on the plate or bowl or tongs. By touching and mixing this in with your cooked food, you are potentially contaminating your food with whatever bacteria could have been on your raw meat. I’ve been shocked to see some of my friends casually throw a steak from the barbecue back onto the raw and bloody plate they carried it to the grill on.
Raw meat = wash dish/utensil/surface/hands.
Cooked meat = use clean dish/utensil/surface/hands.
I know that most people probably know all this, but I hope that one or two people that didn’t know have read this and learned something important.
Here’s a thorough summary of all the hamburger safety tips you’ll need, including shopping, chilling, cleaning, thawing, cooking tips and more.
Cook safe & stay healthy! Happy grilling! 🙂