Hamburgers are prepared using different ingredients. The most common of all is ground meat.
There are set rules and standards that must be followed when making burgers. Hygiene, temperature, and other food safety guidelines are highly considered during this process.
Some people are not aware of the correct burger-making temperature. Others don’t know how to acquire healthy ground meat. This article seeks to shed light on these issues.
The Correct Temperature Guide for Grilled Hamburger
The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA’s) required internal cooking temperature for ground meat is 160°F. The heat is enough to kill bacteria and makes the burger safe for consumption. The mandated temperature for ground poultry is 165° F.
Steaks served at 130°F are referred to as medium-rare. They are safe to consume because, unlike in ground meat, bacteria only live on the surface of whole meat. It is unable to move into the internal surface.
When whole meat is cooked at a temperature of 130°F, the bacteria on its outer surface is killed. The inner surface is safe to eat because bacteria is unable to maneuver through it.
Bacteria can easily navigate to any part of ground meat. This is facilitated by the spaces left once it passes through the grinder. High temperatures are required to eliminate this bacteria.
A Thermapen MK4 is the digital thermometer to buy if you want an accurate instant-read temperature.
Are There Risks of Consuming Ground Beef?
During processing, meat from different cows is mixed and put through a grinding machine. The result is ground beef. This may not always be the case. Some companies grind and package meat from one cow before proceeding to the next. This results in single-source ground beef and it is indicated on the packages.
Multiple-source ground beef poses dire consequences if one of the cows’ meat is contaminated before processing. The whole package becomes unfit for consumption.
Bacteria have a high probability of getting distributed throughout the ground beef when the correct storage measures are not taken. This is one of the greatest risks that can be faced by eating ground beef.
Cooking Temperature Guidelines from USDA
Measures set by USDA on food safety appear stringent. They are put in place to ensure that processed and packaged foods are safe for human consumption. Foodborne infections and diseases are common and can be fatal.
Fermentation of food is one of the instances that USDA seeks to curb. Most foods should not be consumed in such a state. Together with chefs, restaurant owners, and health departments at the local level, USDA enforces adherence to the set guidelines.
All types of meat have a set internal temperature that they should reach while cooking to be considered safe for consumption. When these guidelines are ignored, the consumers’ health is at risk.
The Hazard Analysis and Critical Control Point (HACCP), is another health body that oversees the adherence of food-related guidelines. It drafts measures to reduce hazards related to food safety at the international level.
A HACCP plan can be created by a restaurant seeking to gain permission to serve food prohibited on the menu by the USDA.
If a restaurant plans to include a medium-rare burger cooked at 130° F instead of the 160° F temperature set by the USDA, they have to discuss it with their health department. Thereafter, a statement stating this plan is drafted and sent to the HACCP.
In the plan, the restaurant must agree that the only type of meat they’ll be making under that temperature is that which they have ground for themselves. Any pre-packaged meat brought to them must be cooked at 160° F, as originally required in the USDA health guidelines.
How to Reduce Food Contamination Risks
When followed to the letter, simple measures can help reduce risks that result from food contamination. Here are some of them:
- Separate foods that are readily edible from the raw ones. Juices from uncooked food are hazardous when they come into contact with ready-to-eat food.
- Before handling or touching raw meat, clean your hands. The use of disposable gloves is highly recommended.
- When preparing both ready-to-eat and raw food, use different utensils and preparation spaces.
- Temperature below 40° F is considered a safety zone for ground beef. It should be stored in a cold space before cooking.
- Keep the preparation surfaces in the kitchen sanitized before handling the food and after you’re done.
The above safety guidelines are bent on the observation of food-handling hygiene.
Homemade Ground Beef
Having full knowledge and control of the condition of the food you intend to consume boosts your confidence to cook it at your preferred temperature.
Prepackaged ground meat doesn’t give you this power. There’s no elaborate information about the process it underwent before reaching the store. You are also unaware of the hygiene measures taken while handling it. For these reasons, you have to fully cook it. What if you prefer medium-rare burgers?
Has the idea of grinding burger meat for yourself ever crossed your mind? It is a relief to eat food whose contents you are sure about. In other cases, the most you can do is cross your fingers and hope that what you are taking as your hamburger is made to a standard.
Advantages of Home-ground Meat
Besides giving you the go-ahead of cooking burgers at medium-rare heat, grinding meat for yourself has the following benefits:
- Saves on cost– Cost of production and packaging is included in the final price of pre-packaged ground meat. Doing this by yourself saves you money. The only thing you’ll need to buy is whole chunks of meat, which is less expensive.
- Easy to customize – You have the choice of what type of meat you want to grind. It gives you the ability to experiment with different flavors and choose what you want inside your burger.
- Improves quality and stays fresh – Burgers made from home-ground meat stay fresh because it is prepared immediately. Packaged ground meat may remain in the store for a while before it is bought. This reduces its quality and freshness.
Hamburgers Cooked Under Different Temperature Guidelines
Burgers are named after the temperature used to cook them. One person may label their burger ready to eat at an internal temperature of 120° F while another one prefers it at 160° F.
Each burger’s preparation process has to adhere to USDA rules and regulations. The guidelines can be bent if your meat is freshly ground from the comfort of your home.
Between 160° F and 165° F
This is referred to as a well-done burger. It is the correct temperature under the USDA guidelines for prepackaged meat bought from the store.
Between 150° F and 155° F
A burger cooked under this temperature is called medium-well. Its center meat remains slightly pink but the outside is dry and crunchy.
Between 140° F and 145° F
Once you grind your meat on your own, it is within health guidelines to make burgers under this amount of heat. It’s called a medium burger.
Between 130°F and 135° F
A medium-rare burger is grilled using this temperature range. The inside is fully pink and the center is halfway raw.
Between 120° F and 125° F
Under no circumstances should you ever eat burgers made between 120 and 125° F. It is almost equivalent to eating raw meat and is highly discouraged in the hamburger temperature guide.
This type of meat is referred to as rare.
How to Make a Burger
After learning the temperature requirements for cooking a burger, it’s time to make one the correct way.
You’ll need ground meat. You can make it yourself or purchase the prepackaged ones from the store.
A recipe should be followed so that you know what you need.
After grinding your meat and making it into round flat shapes, set the temperature on your grill.
Cooking it over direct heat will make it dry and overcooked. For a perfect pull, follow the method of cooking known as the two-stage method.
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The Two-stage Cooking Method
As the name suggests, the burger undergoes two stages before it’s considered ready to eat.
- If you have a two-burner grill, light one burner and let the other one remain off. For a 4-burner grill, create a configuration that will make one side hotter than the other side.
- Place the burgers on the side that’s not lit.
- Cook them under your desired temperature according to the type of cooking you aim to achieve.
- Remove the burgers from the cooler side about 20 minutes before they are fully cooked.
- Place them on the hotter side and let them cook till ready.
Making burgers from home is a fun activity. Grinding your meat from home gives you the freedom to cook under any temperature that you desire, as long as it’s within the set guidelines.
Check out more recipes and continue the fun cooking experiments on your grill.
You might also want to check our complete guide to grilling frozen burgers.