You Can Eat Raw Beef … For Real

Last month, we talked about the popularity of sushi and how people can eat raw fish if bought from an approved supplier, farm raised or previously frozen. I would like to add a correction and clarification here in regard to raw fish consumption. In an interview conducted with Joseph J. Lasprogata, vice president of product development at Samuels and Son Seafood Co., he kindly corrected me that “According to the current FDA Food Code Chapter 3-402.11, aquaculture fish, both fresh and saltwater, are exempt from the necessity to be frozen, as well as several species of tuna, and live molluscan shellfish. Only wild species of fish are required to be frozen for set time and temperature, if the product is to be served in a raw, raw-marinated, partially cooked, or marinated- partially cooked, to prevent the possibly transfer of parasites.” This means you still have to purchase wild water salmon as pre-frozen, but not farm raised. Tuna is an exception to this rule. Thanks, Joe, for your help and corrections.
When conducting our food safety classes and discussing proper cooking temperatures for meat, I love shocking our students by asking ‘Can you eat raw meat?’ and seeing their chins drop when I tell them you can.
The Food & Drug Administration recommends in its food code that we cook whole cuts of meat — including beef, goat, lamb, and pork — to an internal temperature of 145°F for at least 15 seconds. The concern here is that the heat from cooking to that internal temperature is sufficiently hot enough to kill any bacteria that might have developed on the surface. For the same meats, when ground, i.e., hamburgers, meatballs, sausage or meatloaf, the cooking temperature recommended by the FDA is now 155°F for at least a duration of 15 seconds to compensate for the fact that the bacteria from the outside surface might now be comingled in the middle and the higher heat required can kill bacteria that might be in the middle of this meat product.
Steak ordered rare or medium rare means, per the FDA food code recommendation, it is not sufficiently cooked to be considered safe. A rare steak is actually only cooked to an internal temperature of 130°F to 135°F.  Refer to the following chart for cooking steak doneness.
Many people enjoy steak tartar (finely cubed raw beef) or steak carpaccio (paper thin sliced raw beef). Obviously, this means the beef has to be sourced from a reputable butcher facility and that the beef is unquestionably fresh.  Nathan Stambaugh from Meyer Natural Angus Beef explained to me that beef is generally sold via two different types of packaging procedures. Wet-aged beef is packaged via Cryovac in its own juices. Dry-aged beef is older and aged with temperature and humidity controls. Nathan stated that it would be preferable to make steak tartar and steak carpaccio from internal prime cuts of beef which are closer to the center of the animal, such as tenderloin, strip loin and even heart, as opposed to the outer cuts. He also explained that it would be preferable to use wet-aged Cryovac packaged beef versus dry-aged. For quality control and more tender beef, you would want to use wet-aged beef that is at least 10 days old but preferably at least 21 days old, so that the muscle has had a chance to break down using its own enzymes to yield a more tender product. Dry-aged beef is desirable for a cooked steak but less so for a raw beef dish as the flavor is more intense and you would have to trim the outer surface to ensure you are removing bacteria and mold.
Here’s a great idea if you are preparing steak tartar or steak carpaccio. Consider searing a thick piece of beef to kill any bacteria on the outside surface and then carving the cooked bit off.  It would definitely make a tasty treat for the chef.
Why, then, are we not able to eat raw pork or raw chicken?  Because the flesh is not as dense as beef and, therefore, bacteria can permeate the meat.
My final recommendation is that you don’t serve raw meat, but you can if it is fresh and properly sourced from a reputable supplier. The FDA food code states that you are not permitted to serve raw or under- cooked meat to those in a high-risk population facility, and that you must inform your consumer of the risks of consuming undercooked or raw meats in your consumer advisory.
Steak Doneness   Remove from Grill         Final Cooked
at This Temperature    Temperature
Rare                      130-135°F                      130-140°F
Medium Rare      140°F                              145°F
Medium               155°F                               160°F
Well Done            165°F                               170°F


About the Author

Juliet Bodinetz is executive director of Bilingual Hospitality Training Solutions and has over 30 years industry and training experience. She and her team of instructors specialize in food safety, alcohol training and ServSafe training in English or in Spanish and writing HACCP Plans in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area., or 443-838-7561. For latest food safety tips: Become a fan on Facebook or Twitter: @BHTS

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