The Reason Rare Steak Is Usually Safe To Eat

While it might not be everyone's favorite way to prepare steak, there are still plenty of purists that will insist on ordering their NY strip or ribeye cooked rare. While the dangers of eating raw meat are well publicized, why is eating a seemingly undercooked steak considered safe by most people?

According to Healthline, eating raw meat is a common practice in many cuisines around the globe, but that doesn't mean it's always safe. Eating raw meat poses a serious risk of contracting foodborne illnesses and could result in severe food poisoning. The bacteria that cause infections, like salmonella or E. coli, are usually killed off when the meat is cooked. The USDA recommends bringing all red meat to an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit before consumption because most bacteria will be eliminated by this point. In raw meat, though, these bacteria may still be present and could even have spread and multiplied.

Science ABC points out that raw fish is often an exception to this rule because it is usually served fresh or quickly frozen, killing off much of the bacteria. Meat from fish also typically contains fewer of these dangerous bacteria.

Most of steak's bacteria lives on the surface

The next time you go out for a proper filet mignon, is it safe to still order it rare? Yes, for the most part. According to Delighted Cooking, most of the bacteria in a steak will accumulate on its exterior surface. While it's possible that some may have penetrated the meat's interior, it isn't very likely that it will be enough to get you sick. Science ABC points out that the meat of most steaks is too dense for bacteria to make its way inside sufficiently.

It's worth noting that the USDA still does not recommend consuming rare steaks. Certified Angus Beef says that a steak is considered rare when it is cooked to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. This falls short of the USDA's recommendations by 20 degrees, so it's still not considered safe to consume. It's also important to use a meat thermometer to measure your meat's interior temperature for the most accurate results.

It's even riskier to consume hamburgers or other ground beef that has been cooked rare (via Today). When red meat is ground up, the surface bacteria may spread throughout. The muscle fibers are also broken down, and the meat is not as dense. This allows bacteria to make their way into a patty's interior. For this reason, hamburgers should always be cooked completely before being served.