Make Mine Rare

By | April 1, 2018

When I eat beef, I want it rare, although my husband and brother constantly tell me this is dangerous. Thinking I’d get them to stop bugging me about it, I did a little research…

I saw this 2004 article on BBC.com that described a study in which they found that E. Coli does not permeate the interior of a steak. This implies that searing the outside of a steak is sufficient. I’m vindicated! I sent this to my hubby, and he quickly sent me many other links to consider:

  1. First, he pointed out that the study the article referred to was funded by the beef industry, and what other conclusion would you expect it to reach? As the actual study no longer seems to be available online, we can’t see the methodology used to judge it for ourselves. However we do know that it only looked at E. Coli and not the other common food pathogens.
  2. A study in 1977 found that bacteria “can penetrate 10 to 15 cm into meat within 2 days, even at subzero temperatures.” This would mean that searing the meat would not actually make it safe, despite what is claimed in this BBC article about searing.
  3. Even if the findings if that 1977 were found to be outdated or incorrect, food producers sometimes mechanically tenderize beef, a process in which needles are pushed into the meat to make it tender. This may also push bacteria into the interior of the steak. In this case, while searing the meat would kill the bacteria on the surface of the potential steak, the bacteria inside would still be dangerous.
  4. More recently, food bacteria are becoming resistant to antibiotics and can make you bloody-stool-life-threatening sick. This review on  antimicrobial resistance  suggests that these “superbugs may be passed on to people by eating undercooked meat.” By some estimates, as reported by BBC, there will be more deaths from drug-resistant infections than from cancer by 2050.

The conclusion?

There still seems to be a lingering, widely held belief among cooks that the interior of a steak is safe to eat raw if you sear the outside. But the consensus among those who have investigated it in a laboratory setting is that you’re risking serious illness if you don’t heat the middle of your steak enough. However if you know the meat was not mechanically tenderized, and it is properly seared, then perhaps you can feel safe eating rare meat.

Will I rethink eating rare meat? By what I’ve read in researching this post, I know that my husband and brother are right and I shouldn’t eat it. But I know that the next time I order a steak, I’ll order it rare. But if I become ill, I’ll have to admit to stupid risk-taking instead of claiming ignorance.