For foodies – especially burger fans – one of the most controversial topics is what level of doneness is good for burger patties. While everyone’s taste differs, the real question is what kind of burger the majority of folks would like to eat, and how safe that really is.
Of course, safety in food is complex since different factors like allergens, etc., make food safe for some and unsafe for others. But with burger patties, there is the debate on how much the meat needs to be cooked for it to be consumed before you can safely eat it.
What is a Medium Burger?
But what exactly is a medium burger?
The ‘medium’ in medium burgers refers to how ‘done’ the patty within the burger is. There are generally three levels of doneness: rare, medium and well done. The most common type is well done, but again, as in the world of food, there is constant debate around what type is most delicious to eat.
Medium burgers are where the patty is cooked until the texture is slightly tender. From the outside, the patty would be nice and golden brown, but in the middle part, it would be red or pink. Medium burgers are great for people who don’t want the toughness of well done patties, but also don’t want rare patties, which many consider undercooked.
Because the patties need to be cooked until all the blood is gone, the cooking time for medium burgers is still relatively high but much shorter than well done steaks, which need to be cooked all the way through.
How Do You Know If Your Burger Is Done?
Most people assess whether their burgers are done based on the color of the meat. In fact, many bloggers and cooks you’d find on the internet would say the same thing. However, that’s not the best way to judge.
While you want your meat to be at a specific level of doneness, you also want to make sure it’s safe to eat. The best way to do that is to check the internal temperature of the meat, to see if it’s at a level that’s safe for consumption. Without this, you could be putting yourself at risk since meat contains many bacteria that could make you very sick.
Since the patty cooks from the outside in, it can turn brown before it’s reached the required internal temperature but this does not make it safe to consume.
Food experts agree that the internal temperature of the meat, rather than the color, is the best and most reliable indicator of whether the patty is done and whether it is safe to eat.
Burgers have to be cooked to a minimum temperature to make sure that any harmful bacteria are destroyed. As a general rule, medium burgers have a temperature between 135- and 155-degrees Fahrenheit. Most medium burgers will be around 145-degrees.
Another way to tell if your burgers are done is to check the color of the juice. This is, of course, less reliable than using a thermometer to check for temperature, but most people don’t have a meat thermometer lying around at home.
You can check if your burger is done by pressing down on it lightly and see what color juices come out. If they’re red, and the meat is pink inside, it means that the burger is anywhere from rare to medium. If the juices are clear, then the meat inside has been cooked, which means that it’s medium-done to well done. If there are no juices, your burger is overcooked and unfortunately, you cannot save it now.
Medium Rare and Medium Done
There are also ‘in-between’ versions of medium burgers, where the meat is cooked to medium, but it also leans towards rare or well-done.
For example, we know that when a burger is cooked rare it still has its juices intact, including the blood-like liquid called myoglobin and rendered fat, and will be red in color. While medium rare is not the same as rare, it is cooked to a lower temperature than a medium burger. The usual temperature for a medium rare burger is about 135-degrees Fahrenheit, and they are still a dark pink in the center, but not as red as rare burgers.
On the other hand, medium done burgers are, as you’d probably have guessed by now, more cooked than medium burgers. While they are not exactly cooked to toughness the way well done burgers are, they are also not as juicy as medium burgers are. Medium done burgers are often pink on the inside but the color is much closer to white than red. Being cooked more means that medium done burgers are also drier and have a much tougher texture than medium burgers.
The average internal temperature of medium done burgers is around 155-degrees Fahrenheit.
Safety Concerns Around Medium Burgers
While medium burgers are delicious for their juicy, tender patties, there are plenty of concerns around whether these burgers are really safe to eat.
Remember what we said about internal temperature? Experts suggest that to really get rid of harmful bacteria in meat, the right internal temperature is about 165 degrees Fahrenheit. This is much higher than the 155 degrees at which medium burgers are done, but just about right for well done burgers.
This is why there is plenty of discussion about whether medium burgers are safe to eat or not.
However, the real concern is not about the temperature, but about the way the meat is ground. In factories, meat is ground together without the different parts of the meat kept separate, so the likelihood of you getting patties that consist of more bacteria become higher. This possibility goes down when you get your meat from a trusted source, such as a butcher who sells high-quality meat, or if you choose to grind it yourself.
If you like your burgers medium, this is the best option.