Is It Worse To Eat An Undercooked Burger Or Undercooked Steak?

What does your average hamburger and filet mignon have in common? It's that they can be cooked to your exact specifications. If you've ever been to a steakhouse and decided to order a burger, chances are that you were asked how you would like your burger cooked just as you would be asked how you'd like your steak prepared. Just as any filet mignon or sirloin, you can ask for your burger medium rare, well-done, or even plain rare.

Just like custom-ordering a steak, however, your burger can just as equally carry the risk of being dangerously undercooked. Should someone make the mistake of serving a burger they assume to be rare when it's actually undercooked, it may have severe consequences for those involved. The most infamous example of undercooked beef in burgers is the 1993 Jack in the Box E.coli outbreak (via Food Safety News), caused by the restaurant not cooking its burgers all the way in order to serve customers faster. Gambrick also warns that undercooked steaks can carry foodborne bacteria, leading to anything from stomach cramps to extreme illness. When it comes to cooking beef (or any other meat for that matter), there must always be strict criteria to ensure that what you are served is clean and safe to consume.

But is eating an undercooked hamburger worse than eating an undercooked steak? In fact, if undercooking your steak or burger is supposedly such a huge health risk, why do most restaurants let you order it rare? 

Eating a burger can be worse for you than a steak

According to Southern Living, it's actually a bit more dangerous to order your burger on the rare or undercooked side when compared to your average piece of steak. The reason for this is because of the different ways a steak and a burger are prepared. Unlike your average cut of steak, your burger is just ground beef molded and pressed into a thick patty.

As Chef Ted Siegel explains to Reader's Digest, pathogens and other bacteria are commonly found on the surface of beef. When you take beef that's infected with a certain pathogen and grind it up with a bunch of other piece of beef, you not only spread the pathogen into the meat but also "move it around." The pathogen is now just not on the surface of the meat; now it's in the inside and underside. Undercooking a burger may kill pathogens on the exterior, but allow those same pathogens and bacteria to remain inside the pink center of the meat.

It is this difference in preparation that makes undercooked or rare steak safer to eat. Since the steak is one single piece of meat, the pathogen remains only on the surface of uncooked steak. As the steak is cooked, the heat kills off those pathogens, making the meat much safer to eat.

While ordering your burger rare is still perfectly okay, it's important to remember the certain risks you may be taking while you eat.