Undercooked Burger? Not for Me, Thanks!

I had to send back my lunch yesterday after I was presented with an undercooked burger. There are some things I’m not willing to take a chance on.

I left one of my favorite restaurants the other day without eating my main course of lunch. It was all because of an undercooked burger that lost me my appetite.

When it comes to a nice ribeye steak, medium rare is the way I’d prefer to have it cooked. I tend to believe the gourmets out there who insist, at least when it comes to steak, that medium rare is much better for the texture and flavor of the meat than well done is.

I’ve never had a bad experience I can trace to a medium-rare steak.

I can’t say the same thing from an undercooked burger. I don’t know if it was true food poisoning, but I was definitely queasy for days after having one that I considered far too pink on the inside a few years back.

That’s why I’ve demanded refunds at fast food restaurants that seem to have forgotten how to thoroughly cook hamburger meat.

Research shows undercooked ground beef could be a big problem.

The US Department of Agriculture says all meat that comes from animals could potentially contain a variety of dangerous pathogens such as Salmonella, Shiga-toxin producing Escherichia coli (STECs), Campylobacter jejuniListeria monocytogenes, and Staphylococcus aureus. You can’t see any of these. But if you consume food that contains these pathogens that have not been killed in the cooking process, you could become sick.

So how do you kill them? Experts say that cooking the meat to an internal temperature of 160° Fahrenheit is enough to do the trick.

There’s no one color of meat that is a sure sign that the meat has been cooked thoroughly: if, for instance, the meat was already a little more brown than normal, it might look more cooked than it actually is by the time it reaches your plate.

And meat that has been sufficiently cooked to an internal temperature of that magic 160° level may still look a little pink on the inside.

My best friend is an incredible master of the grill. He’s cooked ribeyes and pork chops with homemade spice rubs that would leave you begging for more. I’ve seen him use a meat thermometer and very carefully measure the internal temperature. I’ve seen him do the same for burgers he’s grilled, yet the interior color of the burgers tends to look far more like medium rare.

So a burger that looks as though it may not be safe actually can be.

And by the time that burger makes it to your table, the internal temperature has probably already cooled from the peak it reached over the grill.

In USDA-inspected plants, beef that is intended to be ground and sold as ground beef is specifically tested for the presence of things like E coli. But beef that’s intended to be sold as steak or roasts aren’t necessarily tested. So that means that if that beef is ever ground up and slips by a test that could have found something like E coli actually was present, that pathogen is now spread throughout the patty, not just on the surface where the cooking process should have easily killed it.

A question of whom do you trust

You have to assume when you dine out that the kitchen staff is well-versed on safe cooking practices.

For me, this really wasn’t an issue; I’ve dined at this restaurant plenty of times and have never had an issue.

But you also, at some point, have to trust that the beef they tout as Angus beef was always, from the start, beef intended to have been served as ground beef, rather than Angus steak that ended up being ground at some point in the process. (If it’s the latter, you have to trust that the beef was taken through the same testing process to confirm pathogens weren’t present.)

And at some point, you just have to go with your gut.

If you eat an undercooked burger and it makes you sick, you have to take at least some of the blame.

When I took the first bite of the burger, it tasted great. But the pinkness of the beef just sort of turned me off.

In short, it made me lose my appetite.

When the server stopped by to check on me, I showed her the burger and pointed out that it was a far cry from the medium well burger that I’d specifically ordered. I told her I was just going to pass on it as I had an appointment I needed to get to.

She removed it from my bill and I paid for my appetizer and drink.

By no means will I stop visiting that restaurant. There’s also no chance that I’ll give up cheeseburgers.

But that particular day, things just weren’t meant to be.

I may well have consumed that burger and never had any problem as a result. But when I couldn’t bring myself to take a second bite, I knew my gut was telling me this particular burger appeared to be too undercooked for me to be able to enjoy.

Have you ever rejected a burger because it looked too undercooked to you?

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Patrick is a Christian with more than 28 years experience in professional writing, producing and marketing. His professional background also includes social media, reporting for broadcast television and the web, directing, videography and photography. He enjoys getting to know people over coffee and spending time with his dog.