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How Pink Is Too Pink for a Burger?

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Burgers are an all-time favorite. Juicy, tender, and so delicious — there’s nothing like biting into a burger and experiencing that rush of flavor in your mouth!

But wait, the burger is pink in the middle! Is it raw? Is it safe to eat? Let’s find out!

So, how pink is too pink for a burger? A cooked burger that is pink on the inside is safe to eat as long as the internal temperature of the meat has reached 160°F.

Read on to find out more about the color of the burger, how to tell if it is done, the best way to cook burgers for people who like them on the rare side, and more!

Is It Safe to Eat a Burger That Is Pink on the Inside?

When it comes to meaty foods, they must be cooked properly, especially in the case of burgers — you don’t want to overcook them and make them tough, but neither do you want to undercook them so that they stay raw.

Color is not a reliable indicator of the doneness of a burger. Some burgers remain pink even when they are fully cooked while some take a brownish hue very early on during the cooking process. 

The best way to check the doneness of a burger is to check its internal temperature. A perfectly cooked burger has an internal temperature of 160°F, despite the color of its patty.

pink for a burger

Consuming improperly cooked or undercooked burgers is not safe and may lead to foodborne illnesses. This happens because of pathogens and bacteria present in the ground meat.

Symptoms of food poisoning include diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, fever, stomach cramps, fatigue, chills, and aches. 

Don’t worry if you ate an undercooked burger, though. You will most likely start to feel better after 12 to 48 hours of your symptoms. In the worst-case scenario, it may take up to a week. 

If the symptoms are severe and don’t subside within a few days, make sure to seek immediate medical attention.

Why Is a Pink Steak Safe to Eat, But Not a Pink Burger?

Some people may argue that if it is safe to eat a medium-rare steak, why is it unsafe to eat a medium-rare burger?

pink steak

Well, the reason is the type of meat used.

In whole cuts of meat, such as in steaks, the bacteria stay on the surface and are killed when cooked at a high temperature.

This makes them safe to eat, even when they are not cooked all the way through. If your steak is medium-rare but is cooked to a minimum temperature of 145°F and allowed to sit for 3 minutes, you can safely eat it even if it is pink on the inside.

Burgers, on the other hand, are made up of whole pieces of beef that are ground together and any germs on the surface of the beef get mixed into the ground beef mixture.

Therefore, the safest way to eat a burger is to cook it all the way through until it reaches a safe minimum internal temperature.

According to the USDA, beef burgers must be cooked to an internal temperature of 160°F, while for chicken and turkey burgers, the safe temperature is 165°F.

Rare vs Raw Burgers

The difference between a raw and rare burger is the internal temperature that they are cooked to. 

A rare burger has an internal temperature of 125°F, whereas a medium-rare burger is cooked for a bit longer till it gets to 135°F.

A raw burger, in contrast, is one where the inner temperature has not reached the minimum acceptable threshold.

Both rare and raw burgers may pose a health risk since they are not cooked properly all the way through.

burgers on a grill

Since the color of the patty is not a very reliable measure of the doneness of the burger, it is best to use a meat thermometer to check the internal temperature.

To correctly check the temperature, you need to insert the meat thermometer through the side of the burger so that the point is in the middle of the patty.

If you are using a regular food thermometer, make sure to leave it in the burger for an additional 10 seconds for a more accurate reading.

While this is easy to do if you are cooking the burgers yourself, if that is not the case, you may have to rely on a visual examination of the burger.

If you are at a restaurant, ask for a well-done burger to make sure that it is cooked all the way through.

Burger Internal Temperature Chart

Following are the internal temperatures of a burger based on its doneness level:

Doneness LevelInternal Temperature
Well-done160°F and above

How to Keep Well-Done Burgers Juicy

The reason that most people are reluctant to have well-done burgers is that they think they will be too dry.

While it is true that overcooking your patty can turn it into a hockey puck, cooking it to the right temperature will ensure a perfectly juicy burger!

Here are a few things to keep in mind when cooking burgers so that they stay moist and juicy while still being cooked to a safe temperature:

  • Sourcing is just as important as the technique. Avoid extra-lean ground meat; instead, opt for ground beef with a higher fat content for a moister patty. A burger with 20% fat is ideal.
  • If you have lean ground beef, try adding a bit of moisture to it to help the burgers stay juicy and tender. You may use water or tuck a few ice cubes in the middle of the burger for added hydration.
  • Minimal handling is key. Gently form the patties and compress them as little as possible. Overworking the meat may make it tough, which is something you do not want.
  • Make a divot in the middle of each patty to prevent it from puffing up while cooking. Use your thumb to gently make an indentation as it will allow the burger to cook evenly.
  • Avoid pressing the burgers with a spatula as you cook. You may be tempted to do so, but you must resist the urge as it forces out all those yummy juices! Keep the spatula strictly for flipping the patty once.
  • Keep in mind that the burgers will continue to cook for a while after they are taken off the heat. Therefore, pull them off the stove or grill when they are almost done.
  • Try stuffing the burger with some cheese for a classic Juicy Lucy!
  • Add fatty and moist condiments such as ripe tomatoes, bacon jam, aioli, and sliced avocados to make the burger juicy.

Best Practices for Handling Ground Beef

Regardless of how you like your burger, it is very important to properly handle the meat so that it is safe to eat. 

Oftentimes, due to unsafe practices, you may fall sick even after cooking your burger to the recommended internal temperature — the culprit here is the meat and the way it is handled, not the way that it is cooked!

beef patties

Meat can be a source of various bacteria, which is why it must be treated carefully if you plan on cooking it.

When handling raw ground beef for burgers, there are a few best practices to follow to avoid the risk of foodborne illnesses:

  • Never leave ground beef at room temperature as the meat can become a breeding ground for bacteria.
  • Thoroughly wash your hands, utensils, and any surfaces that the raw meat comes in contact with.
  • Seal raw ground beef properly in an airtight container or Ziploc bag before storing it in the fridge or freezer to avoid cross-contamination.
  • Label the meat clearly so that you don’t store it for longer than the recommended time.
  • Thaw frozen ground beef in the fridge overnight, never at room temperature.
  • Never refreeze raw ground beef.

Related Questions

Now that you know all about pink burger patties and whether they are safe to eat, here are a few additional questions we thought you might have!

How to Properly Store Ground Beef?

Ground beef must be refrigerated or frozen as soon as possible after being purchased. You can keep it in its original packaging if you plan on using it soon.

Refrigerated ground beef must be used within 2 days. Frozen ground beef can be stored for up to 4 months.

Why Do Burgers Shrink When Cooked?

Burgers shrink and lose their shape when cooked because the muscle fibers change their shape and the water is forced out of the cells.

Before cooking, the protein molecules present in the meat are coiled together. During cooking, they begin to uncoil and lengthen and then recombine into longer units.

Can You Freeze Cooked Burgers?

Yes, whether you’ve cooked them on a pan, grilled them on the BBQ, or baked them in the oven, you can freeze cooked burgers for up to 4 months.

Once the burgers are cooked through, allow them to cool on the countertop. Wrap them individually in aluminum foil to prevent air from entering, place them in a freezer bag, label them, and pop them in the freezer!

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