I mean no disrespect to Martha Stewart – I really don’t. I actually quite admire her culinary brilliance. But folks, Martha is wrong about burgers.
My husband and I do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV – we like to kick it old-school with six local channels via the good ol’ antenna. Awhile back we were tuned into our favorite PBS station, Create TV, watching one of our favorite shows, Martha Stewart’s Cooking School.
The episode was titled “The Grind,” and I was happy to see Martha showing viewers how to grind and prepare the perfect burger. But then she asked, “Now do you like yours – rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done?” And then, a few moments later she went on to say, “I want mine to be rare.”
I nearly fell out of my chair…
As a self-proclaimed food safety enthusiast (you may be familiar with my “short list”), I could not believe my ears. Did Martha really violate the rules of food safety by under-cooking her burger? And did she really suggest to viewers that it is safe to eat anything but a well-done burger?
It so genuinely concerned me that I wrote Martha the following letter.
I am a life-long rural Nebraskan and raiser of beef. My husband and I do not subscribe to cable or satellite TV, we simply use our antenna to view local stations – one of which is Create TV. Martha Stewart’s Cooking School is one of our favorite programs – we truly love it!
The other night while watching the episode titled “The Grind,” I was happy to see you showing your viewers how to grind and cook the perfect burger. But then, you asked how folks liked to eat their burgers – rare, medium-rare, medium, or well-done. I must say that as someone who takes food safety very seriously, I was taken aback and fairly disappointed.
Those of us who raise beef work diligently to provide safe, wholesome and nutritious beef to tables around the world. However, food safety has to be a collaborative effort from pasture to plate. That means consumers and home cooks, some of whom look to you for guidance, need to be aware of and following the rules of food safety to ensure safe eating experiences.
The only burger that offers a 100% safe eating experience is a well-done burger that has been cooked to an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit. In my humble opinion, suggesting anything but well-done burgers puts people at risk for foodborne illness. That being said, I feel that at the very least you should have advised viewers on the food safety risks of eating an under-cooked burger.
Sincerely your concerned, but still faithful viewer,
It is because of this type of improper handling and preparation that foodborne illness is one of the most common causes of disease in the US, afflicting 1 in 6 Americans each year. That is why it is SO concerning to me that we have celebrity chefs – those to whom home cooks look to for guidance, and I know Martha is not the only one – disregarding the simplest of food safety rules.
Folks, foodborne illness is a totally and completely preventable affliction. But, as with combating antibiotic resistance, preventing it has to be a collaborative effort – food safety teamwork from pasture to plate.
I too raise beef, and wouldn’t have even considered that to be wrong, b/c I will eat my meat as rare as possible – so long as the internal temperature reaches 160 degrees, you should be perfectly safe. I eat all my cuts of beef rare. The bloodier the better, I always say. I guess we may have to agree to disagree on this one!
I do love a rare steak and even a roast that is perfectly pink in the middle. I am just not a fan of throwing up, or any gastrointestinal discomfort come to think of it. So, when it comes to ground beef it has to be well-done at that 160 degrees internal temperature for me. And I am totally cool to agree to disagree. 😉
PS – I love your photography! And thanks for reading!
I also raise beef and am concerned about food safety , especially when it comes to the image of beef. This is possibly an opportunity for education. Steaks and roasts are ok to eat rare. Ground beef, because of the increased surface area from being ground, must be cooked to 160 degrees internal temp. This is to insure high enough temps to kill bacteria that may be inside the patty. You may be aware of this, but I wanted to explain in case others were not. Thanks.
Thank you for reading, Rob! I actually have a follow-up post in the works for next week explaining why rare is ok for steaks and not ok for burgers.