Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Food question for you all

I first heard about this from my brother: he was traveling through the US and ordered a hamburger. They asked him how he'd like it done, and his confused response was, "Uh, cooked all the way through, considering the fact that it's made of ground beef?"

Since then, I've encountered cooking shows and other American shows that reference hamburgers being done "medium" or "rare," and this makes me wonder: is this common? Are your hamburgers made of something where there isn't a risk of E.Coli? I've always learned that you can only do that with non-ground forms of beef, but that ground beef has to be cooked completely through because it has all had contact with the air and the outside and all that.

I just looked it up on Wikipedia, and it looks like the US has the same food safety laws as we do, which state that ground beef has to be cooked to 160F, or else you risk bacterial contamination (and I guess that's just medium-well done rather than well done).

...Actually, I just Wikipediaed "Hamburger," and they say that for safety's sake hamburgers should be cooked the 170F, or "well done," but also acknowledge that you can cook hamburgers to any amount of doneness.

So, what's the deal, Americans? Are you eating hamburgers made from non-ground steak or something? Are you just risking e.coli? (And this isn't just a "using raw eggs in frosting"-level of risk here.) Is this actually legal? Do Canadians actually offer this and I just don't know about this? (I have strong doubts about that, considering that I know it would pretty much be illegal to offer not-well-done hamburgers in restaurants here in BC.) I'm seriously curious about this.

Inquiring minds want to know.

20 comments:

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

We do eat them at various levels of doneness.. there is often a warning on the menu -- this isn't the case at fast food and some chains.. but, if the restaurant has some kind of idea that they serve a gourmet burger, we'll usually get a choice.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Really? People look at a menu that has warnings about food safety and say, "Gee, Mildred, I think I'm going to eat some half-cooked ground beef today!"?

Is this something that happens in Canada and I just don't know about it?

C said...

the denny's restaurant has warnings about that in their menu, but now that i think about it, it must be about the done-ness of eggs, because i never go past the breakfast stuff on that menu. or the done-ness of their really gross steak and eggs. ewww, i cannot believe i have eaten at denny's.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

C: did I mention that I'm having my birthday at Denny's on Saturday? I'm a sucker for a Razzdango. I'll check their menu and find out if they do that.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

C: They have an online menu! And both their Canadian and American menus say that their eggs and steak are cooked to order, and then have a warning about undercooked meats. But an over-easy fried egg still gets up to the proper temperature usually...

ncsteph said...

I can't speak for all of the USA, but in NC, as far as I can recall, they banned cooking ground beef to order years and years ago - like in 1993. That was a total guess, but around that time. It was a big deal for a while. Steak and eggs can still be cooked to order, as per the Denny's menu :)

correct me if I'm wrong. I hope this helps! Not all Americans have the option to chance E.Coli transmission via burgers...

LynnieC said...

I just yelled "Razzdango!!" in my apartment. I LOVE RAZZDANGO. My friends and I are going for brunch at Denny's on Friday and I'm so excited, I could just bust.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Steph: That's super-helpful information! So, this boils down to the fact that individual states get to decide stuff, whereas decisions like this are usually decided on a national level in Canada, eh?

Lynnie: RAZZDANGO! I promise that I'll use jazz hands when I order mine on Saturday.

BrightStar (B*) said...

huh... I've never thought about this. If I am in a nicer restaurant (in the USA) and given options, I choose medium rare for my burgers because it tastes better. I've done this often and never gotten sick. Didn't realize it was potentially problematic? The body is pretty resilient, I'd guess?

C said...

well, to my shame, i love the heartland scramble, so that is why i go to denny's. who can pass up onions AND bacon in scrambled eggs? i have never had a razzdango, but that sounds fabulous!

Queen of West Procrastination said...

B*: That never occurred to me that anyone would make a hamburger "to order"! I've always assumed that it would be like ordering a chicken breast "medium rare"! (Okay, different bacteria.)

The History Enthusiast said...

I had never heard of any state banning under cooked burgers...interesting. I don't think it has been that way in any of the states I've lived in.

I always order medium well, if I'm given the option. I don't like risking E. coli, but I do know people who don't have any qualms.

Leslie M-B (trillwing) said...

I'm a vegetarian, but I definitely remember ordering hamburgers "medium rare," "medium," or "well done," and it's common at BBQs for people to order hamburgers cooked to order. (My aunt's answer? "Bloody.")

I also thought you'd appreciate knowing that the word verification for this post is "moleness."

ncsteph said...

so I started to second-guess myself & my memory and I googled the NC law and this is what I found, in case anyone is curious:

www.deh.enr.state.nc.us/ehs/Rules/t15a-18a.26.pdf

page 7, section 15A NCAC 18A .2609; d(3)

thought I'd share.

although, it looks like NC may be the only state that has this law... I just wanted to make sure I wasn't crazy (about this)!

I'm done :)

Queen of West Procrastination said...

So, I've looked it up and it looks like the whole ground beef thing here is a Health Canada guideline, but that it's enforced by health inspectors as law. It does vary by province (there's no way you could get away with it in BC, and even before things got stricter it sounds like there had been a restaurant in Victoria that ground their own beef and did burgers rare, a couple of decades ago, but they couldn't survive here - everyone was grossed out by the idea and wouldn't go there).

So, one part firmer regulations and two parts different culture here? This is interesting. And I've been too well raised by the Canadian system: I can't see pink ground beef as anything but undercooked.

roger said...

It's totally fine. Granted, I'm a medium well type of guy, so I'm not livin' on the edge like some folks. Lately it seems like green onions/spinach are causing a lot of the massive food poisoning outbreaks in the US. Pick your food poison, I guess.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Roger: Spinach and ground beef have the same kind of bacteria! E coli good times. (Chris took a Food Safe course with his students last year and he's been all gung ho about avoiding food poisoning now.)

Inside the Philosophy Factory said...

When I have a choice, I generally have my burgers medium-rare... I suppose because I like my steak that way. I also eat sushi and just about anything else I'm not allergic to... so perhaps I'm not average.

Don't tell my oncologist, but I even did this during chemo...

liz said...

Most American restaurants won't insist on cooking a burger past medium unless they're serving to a kid.

Queen of West Procrastination said...

Wow. This is so foreign to me, because the food inspection part of the Canadian government won't even acknowledge "rare" or "medium" hamburgers: they're either "cooked" or "undercooked." They even have videos on their website about how to cook a hamburger "properly", as in to 71C.