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Can You Eat Raw Beef?

8 Mins read

Can You Eat Raw Beef? This question often sparks curiosity and intrigue among food enthusiasts and culinary adventurers. While the idea of consuming raw meat may seem unconventional and even risky, certain cultures and cuisines have embraced the concept of raw beef as a culinary delight. 

From the Japanese delicacy of beef sashimi to the European steak tartare, raw beef dishes have carved a unique niche in the world of gastronomy. So, let’s embark on a journey to explore the realm of raw beef and uncover the traditions, precautions, and flavors associated with this unconventional culinary choice. Get ready to tantalize your taste buds and challenge your preconceived notions as we delve into the intriguing world of raw beef consumption.


Is raw beef safe?

Raw beef has been a staple ingredient in many dishes, from tartare to carpaccio, for centuries. Although undercooked food is generally not recommended due to the risk of foodborne illnesses, one may wonder if raw beef is safe to consume given the widely accepted consumption in certain cuisines. 

Raw meat can harbor harmful bacteria such as E. coli and Salmonella, which can cause serious health problems if ingested. Therefore, it is crucial to handle and prepare raw beef with care, especially when serving dishes that require raw beef. While many people enjoy the taste and texture of raw beef, it’s important to exercise caution to ensure that we can safely indulge in its flavor.

Raw vs. cooked beef nutrition

When it comes to beef, there are two camps – raw and cooked. Some swear by the taste and nutritional benefits of raw beef, while others believe that cooking beef is essential to avoid foodborne illnesses. Raw beef enthusiasts claim that cooking meat destroys essential nutrients and enzymes in the meat, while those who prefer their beef cooked argue that it’s safer and easier to digest. 

However, both raw and cooked beef can have similar nutritional profiles in terms of macronutrients like protein and fat. Ultimately, it’s up to personal preference and dietary needs to decide whether raw or cooked beef is the better choice for you.

Is Raw Beef Safe To Eat?

Eating raw or undercooked beef can increase the risk of foodborne illness, so it is not considered completely safe. Beef can harbor harmful bacteria like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria. These bacteria are destroyed by thorough cooking to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C).

Some tips to keep raw beef safe:

  • Choose high-quality, fresh cuts of beef from a trusted butcher or grocer. Avoid pre-packaged or ground beef which has more surface area for contamination. 
  • Inspect the raw beef carefully for any discoloration or bad odors which may indicate spoilage. Discard if present.
  • Store beef below 40°F (4°C) in the refrigerator and use within 2-3 days of purchasing for best quality. Freeze the beef for longer-term storage.
  • Avoid cross-contamination by keeping raw beef sealed and away from ready-to-eat foods. Use separate cutting boards and utensils.
  • Wash hands, surfaces, and tools thoroughly with hot soapy water after handling raw beef.
  • Cook beef thoroughly to an internal temperature of 145°F (63°C) as measured by a food thermometer to destroy any harmful bacteria present. Allow thicker cuts to rest for 3 minutes before consuming.
  • Consume cooked beef promptly after cooking. Do not let sit at room temperature for more than 2 hours.

While not 100% risk-free, handling raw beef carefully and cooking it thoroughly can greatly reduce the chances of foodborne illnesses. Those at higher risk like children, the elderly, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals should avoid undercooked beef.

Can You Eat Raw Beef?

Eating raw beef is generally not recommended from a food safety standpoint. Raw beef can harbor harmful bacteria such as E. coli, Salmonella, Listeria monocytogenes, and Campylobacter. These bacteria are destroyed through proper cooking to an internal temperature of at least 145°F (63°C) as measured by a food thermometer.

However, raw beef dishes like steak tartare or carpaccio are sometimes consumed after being freshly prepared. Here are some precautions if choosing to eat raw beef:

  • Purchase high-quality, fresh beef from a trusted source and inspect it carefully. Avoid pre-packaged or pre-ground meat.
  • Make sure no cross-contamination occurs during preparation by using separate cutting boards, knives, and utensils only for the raw beef.
  • Wash hands thoroughly before and after handling the raw beef.
  • Only consume the freshly prepared raw beef immediately. Do not let it sit out at room temperature.
  • Understand the health risks involved, especially for those in high-risk groups like pregnant women, children, elderly, or immunocompromised individuals. Avoid consuming if in those categories.

While it is possible to eat raw beef in limited cases, it carries an inherent risk of foodborne illness. Thorough cooking is the best way to destroy potential pathogens present and reduce food safety risks. Consult with your healthcare provider if concerned about eating any raw meats.

Can You Eat Raw Beef 2

Is Rare-Cooked Meat Safe To Eat?

Rare-cooked meats like steak or burgers are not recommended for food safety reasons. Cooking meats to only rare doneness does not destroy all potential foodborne pathogens like E. coli, Salmonella, and Listeria present.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture states that the following minimum internal temperatures should be reached when cooking meats:

  • Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal: 145°F (63°C)
  • Ground Meat (Beef, Pork, Lamb, Veal): 160°F (71°C)
  • Poultry: 165°F (74°C)
  • Fresh Ham: 145°F (63°C)

Meats cooked rare or medium-rare generally only reach internal temperatures of 125-135°F (51-57°C). This is not hot enough to kill any bacteria that may be present in the meat.

Consuming undercooked meats comes with a higher risk of contracting foodborne illnesses. Symptoms can include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, fever, and abdominal cramps.

Some people still choose to eat rare meats despite the risks. To reduce the chance of food poisoning, only consume rare meat at high-end restaurants using thoroughly vetted suppliers. Avoid giving rare meat to high-risk groups like the elderly, children under 5, pregnant women, and immunocompromised individuals.

For optimal safety, meats should be cooked to the proper internal temperatures listed above. Use a reliable food thermometer to verify doneness when cooking meat yourself. The safest approach is to cook meats to at least medium or medium well when preparing at home.

Is Raw Canned Beef Safe To Eat?

Eating raw canned beef is not considered safe and carries a high risk of foodborne illness. Canned goods, including canned beef products like corned beef, are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and must be cooked before consumption.

The canning process involves cooking meat to a certain time and temperature to destroy bacteria and pathogens. However, it does not sterilize the contents to make it safe for eating raw. Pathogens like Clostridium botulinum can survive the canning process and produce toxins.

Consuming raw canned meat without thorough cooking to 165°F (74°C) as measured by a food thermometer can potentially lead to:

  • Botulism – muscle paralysis caused by botulinum toxin
  • Salmonellosis
  • E. coli infection
  • Listeriosis

Symptoms include nausea, diarrhea, headache, fever, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and in severe cases paralysis or even death.

The USDA explicitly warns against consuming raw or undercooked canned meat and seafood of any kind. Proper handling is also crucial to avoid cross-contamination when cooking canned meat.

Are Raw Beef Delicacies Safe To Eat?

Raw beef delicacies such as steak tartare, carpaccio, kitfo, and gored carry potential health risks and may not be completely safe for all to consume.

These dishes are made from fresh, high-quality raw beef that has been carefully prepared and served immediately. However, raw beef can still harbor harmful pathogens including:

  • Salmonella
  • E. coli O157:H7
  • Listeria monocytogenes
  • Campylobacter

These bacteria are killed by cooking meats to the proper internal temperatures, usually a minimum of 145°F to 165°F. Raw preparations do not reach these temperatures.

To reduce risks, raw beef dishes should only be prepared and enjoyed with caution:

  • Use freshly ground meat from a trusted butcher or source. Avoid pre-ground beef.
  • Follow strict hygiene, and avoid cross-contamination of surfaces, and utensils.
  • Only prepare small portions that will be consumed promptly. Do not store leftovers.
  • Understand the elevated risks for pregnant women, young children, the elderly, and immunocompromised individuals. Avoid if in those categories.

While delicious, raw beef delicacies do carry a real risk of foodborne illness. Thorough cooking of beef to safe internal temperatures is the best way to reduce potential food safety hazards. Consult a doctor if concerned about eating raw meats or experiencing any symptoms after consuming.

What happens if I eat raw ground beef?

Eating raw ground beef is extremely dangerous and can cause severe foodborne illness. Ground beef is especially risky because any pathogens present get mixed throughout the meat during processing. Key concerns with consuming raw ground beef are:

Salmonella – The most common bacteria found in raw ground beef. Causes diarrhea, fever, stomach cramps, and sometimes vomiting and headache.

Coli O157:H7 – Virulent strain of E. coli that can cause severe bloody diarrhea, severe stomach cramps, nausea, and vomiting. This can lead to a life-threatening complication called hemolytic uremic syndrome (HUS) that causes kidney failure.

Listeria monocytogenes – Causes listeriosis which can induce fever, muscle aches, nausea, and diarrhea. Particularly dangerous for pregnant women as it may cause miscarriage, stillbirth, or illness/death in newborns.

Other risks – Raw ground beef may also contain Campylobacter and Yersinia enterocolitica bacteria. They typically cause symptoms like diarrhea, cramping, and fever.

In rare cases, food poisoning from raw ground beef can even lead to death. The dangerous Shiga toxin resulting from E. coli O157:H7 infection can cause kidney failure. Listeria infection during pregnancy can be fatal to the fetus or newborn baby.

To avoid getting extremely sick, ground beef should never be consumed raw or undercooked. Always cook thoroughly to an internal temperature of 160°F as checked with a food thermometer. Take proper precautions when handling raw meat as well. Eating raw ground beef is simply not worth the risk.

Safe Alternatives to Eating Raw Ground Beef

Eating raw or undercooked ground beef is risky, so what are the safe ways to enjoy the flavor and texture without health concerns? Here are some alternatives:

  • Cooked Rare Beef – Ground sirloin or other premium beef can be cooked rare (125-130°F internally) while being safe. The cut should be whole muscle that is freshly ground right before cooking.
  • Beef Tartare – Hand-chopped or minced raw beef served immediately. Use the highest quality beef and proper food safety precautions when preparing. Still has some risks.
  • Carpaccio – Thinly sliced raw beef often drizzled with olive oil or other sauces. Freeze the beef for 14+ days at 0°F or below to kill parasites before slicing.
  • Beef Crostini – Toast bread slices then top with cooked, seasoned ground beef. Broil/bake to melt cheese if desired.
  • Beef Slider – Make mini hamburgers using cooked ground beef patties. Add cheese, sautéed mushrooms/onions, or other creative toppings.
  • Meatloaf – Mix cooked ground beef with breadcrumbs, vegetables, and seasoning. Bake in a loaf pan until fully cooked through.
  • Lasagna – Layer lasagna noodles with cooked, crumbled ground beef and cheese sauces. A tasty baked dish.

The bottom line is to always cook ground beef to 160°F as measured by a food thermometer. This eliminates the safety hazards of raw beef while still offering great flavors and textures. Use fresh, high-quality beef and spice it up with herbs, cheeses, vegetables, and sauces.

Health Benefits of Beef

Beef provides many important nutrients that offer health benefits:

Protein – Beef is an excellent source of high-quality protein. The amino acids in beef help build and preserve muscle mass. Beef protein is easily digested and absorbed.

Iron – Beef contains heme iron which is more readily absorbed by the body compared to non-heme iron from plants. This helps prevent anemia and aids in transporting oxygen in the blood.

Zinc – Crucial for immune health, cell growth, wound healing, DNA, and protein production. Beef provides zinc in a well-absorbed form.

Vitamin B12 – Necessary for proper nerve and blood cell function. Beef is one of the few natural food sources that provide vitamin B12.

Selenium – Beef contains antioxidants like selenium which may boost immunity and support thyroid health.

Other nutrients – Beef also provides niacin, vitamin B6, phosphorus, and riboflavin.

Conjugated linoleic acid – A type of fat found in beef that has antioxidant properties and may help reduce heart disease risk.

When eaten in moderation as part of a balanced diet, lean beef can provide high-quality protein, iron, zinc, and a range of vitamins and minerals that offer potential health benefits. It is important to choose appropriately portioned, leaner cuts of beef and use healthy cooking methods.

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About author
As the founder and chief editor of Scills Grill, I'm a self-proclaimed BBQ nut. I love cooking outdoors over live fire and smoke, no matter the weather. I use various grills, smokers, and wood-fired ovens to produce epic food. Peter Cobbetts is the president and founder of Scills Grill, with over 15 years' experience in barbecue. He's an exceptional pitmaster and grill expert who specializes in smoking briskets, pork shoulders - using charcoal, wood or propane grills/smokers - as well as reviewing kitchen appliances such as grills, smokers etc., having tried out almost every model available on the market.
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