Rare or Well-Done? The Meat Safety Debate

It’s a sure sign of summer: the savory smell of meat on the grill wafting through the neighborhood. And with the beginning of barbecue season, comes the age-old question: How do you want your meat cooked? Everyone has a preference. And each level of doneness has its own set of risks and benefits.

The case for well-done

We all know that person who likes their meat cooked like shoe leather. The good news with well done is that it’s definitely thoroughly cooked eliminating any potential health risks that come with undercooked meat. There’s likely a lower risk of salmonella, E. coli, and other bacterial infections. That can be reassuring for some. But cooking meat well done not only makes it tough, but also has some dangers. Charring your meat can add carcinogens to your meal. There’s a reaction that happens at high temperature that can produce hetero-cyclic amines (HCA).

These chemicals have been shown in studies to cause bladder cancer in people who eat their meat well done over a long people of time. Another study found a connection between HCA and breast cancer. Another study presented to the American Heart Association indicated that eating any kind of meat well done raises your risk for high blood pressure.

The case for medium

At least with medium cooked meat you’re striking a balance between safety and taste. You’re ensuring the internal temperature is a safe level but still holding on to the moisture, juiciness and tenderness of the meat.You don’t have the risks associated with rare or undercooked foods or the cancer concerns of charred meat. Yes, there is still a slight chance that harmful bacteria will survive in the center of your meat. That could be a serious risk for someone with a compromised immune system or a pregnant woman.

The case for rare

Those who choose rare are the adventurous meat lovers who like the tenderness and enhanced flavor of rare meat. Your meat retains the natural juices and flavors and holds a more succulent taste. But there are risks. If you consume undercooked or raw meat you increase your chances of ingesting harmful bacteria such as Campylobacter, Salmonella or E. Coli.

Food poisoning is no joke. It can lead to nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. No matter how you prefer your meat cooked, be sure to use a meat thermometer. For beef, make sure the internal temperature reaches a minimum of 160 degrees to kill any potential pathogens.

Gracefully Greying puts a spotlight on those who are 50+ or are helping aging parents and family members. A weekly livestream on social media platforms highlights relevant information and meaningful discussions about growing older and staying young in heart and mind. Lila Lazarus is an award–winning news anchor and health reporter who speaks five languages and holds two master’s degrees. She has covered the news all over the world. Lila believes we all can infuse our lives with passion and excitement and leads by example. Lila is the Health and News Correspondent at Gracefully Greying.

Opinions expressed in this blog belong solely to the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions or beliefs of Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan or its subsidiaries and affiliates.