Burgers are moist yet tender and so delicious, especially if they are cooked on a natural gas grill or any type of grill. The char-grilled flavor of burgers is simply irresistible.
However, as delicious as BBQ burgers are, they can also create chaos if they are undercooked.
We’ve all been told that a burger with juices that run clear, is free of pink meat, and is heated all the way through is cooked.
Nonetheless, it’s time to reevaluate this statement and examine if cooked burgers can be pink.
Why Does Ground Beef Have To Be Cooked Different Than Steak?
Bacteria occur on the surface of food for multiple reasons. For example, how the food is processed and handed could affect bacteria levels in food.
The animal or plant may also be infected with bacteria at the time it was processed.
The tricky thing about bacteria is that we can’t always see or smell them. So, sometimes, there is no way to detect if your food is tainted with bacteria.
With this in mind, you should always assume bacteria are present in the food. This is why the USDA suggests washing produce and cooking meats like chicken thighs, burgers, and steaks to the recommended texture.
Every bacterium does not cause illness. However, meat can be contaminated with dangerous bacteria such as E. coli and salmonella. These types of bacteria can be dangerous if the meat is not cooked to the correct temperature.
It is especially dangerous to at-risk groups such as the elderly, pregnant women, young children, or any individual that has a compromised immune system.
Although they are both cuts of beef, ground beef and steak must be cooked differently.
It’s rare for bacteria to infiltrate the interior of the steak. Bacteria sits on the steak’s surface like a layer of fat sits on top of a soup or stew.
In short, bacteria develop on the surface of the steak. Therefore, cooking the steak’s exterior can neutralize any harmful bacteria that are present on the steak’s surface.
This is why you can safely eat a rare steak that’s been cooked to 130°F or a medium rare steak that’s been cooked to 145°F.
In contrast, ground beef is a different ball game. The beef is cut into smaller pieces and processed through a meat grinder to create ground beef.
In addition to this, grinding the beef also causes the bacteria to be mixed into the ground beef. Therefore, the same cooking rules do not apply to ground beef due to its increased surface area.
Can Burgers Be Pink?
Most people assume burgers with a pink center are undercooked. Sometimes, a burger with a pink interior may indicate the burger is undercooked.
However, burgers can be fully cooked and still have a pink center. This is why color is not an acceptable indicator of a burger’s doneness.
Several factors can affect the color of a burger, including the smoke, light, as well as temperature at which the burgers are frozen.
In addition to this, pink burgers can also be caused by nitrate contamination or carbon monoxide produced by gas ovens if you decide to bake your burgers.
In addition, burgers cooked on a wood grill, charcoal grill, or gas grill could cause the burgers to experience enzymatic changes resulting in a pink center no matter how long you cook them.
It is the same thing as cooking bone-in chicken thighs that retain a pink center close to the bone no matter how long they are smoked in your electric smoker.
Moreover, your burger could start to dry out while you are waiting for its interior to turn brown. This is why you should cook your burgers to the recommended internal temperature.
Even if your burgers have a pink tinge, as long as they have the correct temperature, they will be safe to eat.
How To Tell If Burgers Are Done
As I have already mentioned above, the color of the burger and its juices are not the most effective way of determining if a burger is cooked.
Taking a burger’s internal temperature is the best way to tell if it is done.
Depending on the kind of burger you are preparing, the temperature range for cooked burgers may range between 155°F and 160°F.
For example, beef or bison burgers should be cooked until they have a temperature of 150°F or 160°F. However, they must maintain this internal temperature for at least 15 seconds before you remove them from the grill.
In contrast, for turkey or chicken burgers, you must cook them to 165°F before removing them from the heat.
To measure the burger’s internal temperature, you will need a thermometer. It’s best to choose a digital thermometer instead of a dial thermometer.
Dial thermometers can give you an inaccurate reading. In contrast, digital thermometers are much more reliable and will help you cook the perfect juicy, moist burger.
Most burger experts recommend inserting the thermometer probe into the thickest part of the burger to get an accurate reading.
However, it may be best to measure the burger’s internal temperature at several different spots. There may be temperature fluctuations as much as 20 degrees off in a burger.
Therefore, the perimeter of the burger may have a temperature of the burger may be 165°F, while its center is 130°F. Nevertheless, once you’ve gotten several readings of 160°F or 165°, it is safe to eat.
Generally speaking, at temperatures of 160°F, burgers will transform from red to pink and then to brown. However, this is not always the case.
Burgers can be pink for several reasons. So, if you end up with a pink burger, there’s no need to panic.
Simply take the temperature using an infrared thermometer and cook it longer if it doesn’t have a temperature of 160°F.
If the burger does have the correct temperature, remove it from the heat and let it rest before assembling your sandwich and digging in.