Monday, January 28, 2008

Tough times for the Hamburgese

Like so many residents of Hamburger-a-Go-Go-Land (and when will Louise Rennison have a new book out?), I have eaten way more than my fair share of hamburgers in this life. I've eaten hamburgers from one coast to the other. And while these hamburgers have varied dramatically in quality, as a rule, they were well-done. The thought of biting into a hamburger to find it pink and bloody inside would have always been the hallmark of a pretty nasty burger joint.

Only in the last few years, after some serious E. coli outbreaks and massive publicity about ground beef, raw eggs, and handling uncooked chicken, do I go to restaurants and have them ask with a straight face how I want my hamburgers cooked. And where once I would have pointed a raw burger innard would have elicited a "Ew, sorry," it now gets, "Oh, you wanted it well done," like I'm being a snooty aesthete. This is not a piece of steak: it's a hamburger. (I also learned today that the difference between ground beef and hamburger is the addition of extra fat. Like I need more reasons to stop eating hamburgers).

From the USDA:

"Is it dangerous to eat raw or undercooked ground beef?

Yes. Raw and undercooked meat may contain harmful bacteria. USDA recommends not eating or tasting raw or undercooked ground beef." (

How can this have trickled down to me, to whom food preparation is largely a mysery, and be so unknown to food service professionals?

Curiosity drove me to check out their other fact sheet on "Doneness Vs. Safety," in which they said that ground beef can and will turn brown before it's actually cooked all the way. So just being brown doesn't mean it's done. But how far from done is it when it's still pink and mooshy inside?

Wonder what I'm going to eat for lunch...

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