How do you know when your burger is done? No, really! It may look, feel and smell done, then you cut it in half and the oozing red from the meat tells you, you were wrong!
The problem is, the majority of people don't know when a burger is actually "done" because they rely on very unreliable methods to detect doneness such as:
The problem is, none of these methods--though oh-so-scientific in nature--will guarantee your burger is done. Underdone and overdone are common results of this ambiguous methodology, and the ONLY way to guarantee the proper cooking of your burger to your liking is using an instant read thermometer (psst...the widely-accepted wellness standard for a burger is medium-rare).
Using a thermometer, the general rule of thumb is to cook ground meats until the internal temperature of the thickest part of the meat reaches your desired temperature, generally between 130 and 160°F. The safest temperature for beef is well done at 160°F. However, the following temperatures are commonly accepted with proper handling for doneness:
Medium: 140°F to 145°F – Slight pink throughout the inside of the burger.
*Medium Rare: 130°F to 135°F – If proper precautions are taken, you can cook and eat at this temperature.
Rare: 120°F to 125°F – You should never cook and eat a burger at this temperature for safety reasons.
Note: Due to the natural nitrate content of certain ingredients sometimes used in burgers such as onions and/or bell peppers, the burger may remain pink even when 160°F internal temperature has been reached, so the color of the alone is a misleading. Yet another reason to consider a thermometer!
In addition to proper detection of doneness, there are a few other considerations when working with raw beef to help avoid cross-contamination:
So poke it, smell it, cut it, taste it--just also check it with a thermometer! This will prevent having to hide the chef's-cut burger and keep your burgers perfectly cooked and safely served.