Raw ground beef dishes are becoming more and more popular all over the world. Case in point: Cannibal sandwiches which are a longtime tradition in Milwaukee. (*) But there’s a catch—the State Health Department warns residents against eating it. (*) If you’ve been contemplating consuming a raw beef dish, you may wonder, can you eat raw ground beef? or Is it safe to eat ground beef raw?
Yes, you can eat raw ground beef—but not without potential health risks. That’s why it’s essential to take safety precautions before you do so. If you want to know how to safely eat raw ground beef, keep reading.
Can You Eat Raw Ground Beef?
Yes, you can eat ground beef raw. However, doing so comes with a few potential health risks.
Eating undercooked or raw ground beef is considered dangerous because it might contain harmful bacteria that can only be destroyed through thorough cooking.
According to the US Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service, ground beef must have an internal temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to thoroughly kill any bacteria it might contain.
Because of this, it’s best to take the necessary safety precautions before you eat raw ground beef.
Warning: Because of the high risk of food poisoning, eating raw ground beef is not recommended for people under high-risk groups like older adults, toddlers, and people with a low immune system.
What is The Risk of Eating Raw Ground Beef?
The biggest risk of eating raw ground beef is food poisoning. This is because ground beef contains different types of bacteria that cause a wide range of foodborne illnesses like:
- Escherichia coli Infections: Mild to watery diarrhea, stomach cramps or tenderness, nausea, and vomiting (*)
- Salmonellosis: Diarrhea, stomach cramps, fever, vomiting, chills, and bloody stools. (*)
- Shigellosis: Diarrhea (sometimes bloody), stomach cramps, and fever. (*)
Aside from that, eating raw ground beef may also lead to parasitic diseases such as:
- Tapeworms: Loss of appetite, stomachache, gas, nausea, loose stools, and weight loss. (*)
- Giardiasis: Diarrhea, abdominal cramps, nausea, and gas. (*)
What Happens if You Eat Bad Raw Ground Beef?
When you eat ground beef, you won’t feel any symptoms right away.
The onset of signs and symptoms of foodborne illnesses may start from 1 hour to 72 hours from the time of consumption. These will last for up to a week.
The onset and duration of the foodborne illness will depend on the severity and type of the infection.
On their own, the severity of these foodborne illnesses may range from mild to severe. But when left untreated, unattended, and not properly managed, these may lead to severe dehydration, which can be life-threatening when not addressed right away.
How to Safely Eat Raw Ground Beef?
If you insist on eating raw ground beef, the least you can do is take some necessary precautions to reduce your chances of getting foodborne illnesses. Here are some of them:
1. Choose Grass-fed Beef.
When choosing ground beef to eat raw, the best thing you can do is to ensure the quality of the meat. With that said, grass-fed beef might be one of your best choices because studies have shown that this type of beef contains fewer bacteria than conventional beef. (*)
2. Properly Store Ground Beef.
Keeping the ground beef cold won’t kill any bacteria. However, it can help slow down bacterial growth.
Because of this, you should avoid leaving out your raw ground beef at room temperature for prolonged periods. Instead, make sure that you store it in a cold place immediately.
If you plan on using it right away, you can store it in the refrigerator. If you won’t use it immediately, store it in the freezer. You can thaw it by transferring it to the fridge the night before using it.
Inspect The Meat Before Serving.
Before serving or eating the raw beef, inspect it thoroughly by checking its color. It must have a good shade of red or light gray (if frozen). If the meat has a dark brown to gray shade, throw it away.
You should also check its texture (not slimy and sticky) and smell (no off smell).
Aside from storage and sourcing, it’s also essential that you prevent cross-contamination if you plan on eating your ground beef raw. (*)
Why Is It Safer To Eat Raw Steak Than a Raw Hamburger?
You might be wondering why it’s not safe to eat raw ground beef but safe to eat raw steak. That’s because the interior part of the steak doesn’t come in contact with air or equipment.
Because of this, it’s less likely that there are bacteria at its center, so it’s safe to eat even if the center remains raw—as long as its exterior or surface is properly seared.
On the other hand, all the parts of ground meat are exposed to the air or equipment, increasing their chances of contamination.
What Recipes Use Raw Ground Beef?
Even with the health risks of consuming raw beef, you’ll be surprised to know that raw beef recipes are pretty popular. Here are some fantastic examples:
- Cannibal sandwich or Tiger meat: Raw, lean beef with sliced onions, salt, and pepper and served with rye cocktail bread on the side.
- Kitfo: Ethiopia’s raw minced beef flavored with spiced clarified butter and chili powder.
- Koi Soi: Thailand’s raw beef salad features raw ground lean beef marinated in a mixture of lime juice, herbs, fish sauce, and garlic and topped with roasted crushed peanuts.
- Tartare: French dish with raw ground beef with pepper, mushrooms, onions, capers, and seasonings and served with raw egg yolk on top.
- Parisa: Mexican delicacy with cured ground beef mixed with onions, spices, cheese, and peppers and served with crackers.
Will Freezing Ground Beef Kill Bacteria?
Freezing will kill only some bacteria but not all. Cooking is the only way to ensure that ground beef is completely free of bacteria.
Can you eat raw ground beef? Yes, you can and it’s safe to eat. However, please take note that it doing so comes with health risks.
There are no hard and fast rules for eating raw ground beef. But to stay safe, you should avoid raw beef dishes altogether. On the other hand, make sure to take the necessary precautions we shared with you if you want to give that cannibal sandwich a try.
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