Bloody Burger

HamburgerWhen it comes to a steak, cooking directions are clear. Rare, a steak is warm but uncooked in the center. Medium, it is pink in the middle. And well-done, a steak has no pink whatsoever. The reason it is safe to eat a rare steak is that disease is primarily limited to the surface, so as long as the outside is cooked, all is well.

The same does not apply to hamburger. Since hamburger is ground up steak, it is essentially all surface. As a result, hamburger should never be served or eaten rare (or medium—whatever that means for hamburger). Because hamburger is all surface, it has no middle.

When I first saw the movie Pulp Fiction, I was struck by the scene when Vincent takes Mia out to dinner at Jack Rabbit Slim’s. Mia orders a hamburger and their waiter, Buddy Holly (Steve Buscemi), asks, “How would you like that? Burnt to a crisp or bloody as hell?”[1] This was the first time I had ever heard someone ask how a patron wanted a hamburger cooked. Since then, it has been a common occurrence.

It happened to me today. I had lunch with my father and we got hamburgers. I ordered mine well-done, after bristling over the question; my father ordered his medium. When they arrived, they were identical: burnt to a crisp, which is probably for the best. Many times, I have seen companions who ordered medium or rare burgers get just what they asked for: a bad tasting, potentially deadly uncooked sandwich.

I like my steaks cooked very rare. As I tear into my partly cooked meat, I am reminded of the feeding of the big cats at the San Francisco Zoo. There is something primal about it—in addition to delicious. Hamburgers are another thing altogether. There is really only one way to cook them: enough to be safe and tasty, not enough to be dry and tasteless.

Unfortunately, I think the reason there has been this rise in the popularity of the bloody burger is that people think it is cool to eat meat rare. Certainly I think of people who order well-done (or even medium) steaks as clueless dolts who don’t properly appreciate beef. But there are plenty of people who eat their steaks rare not because they like it but because they think they should. Perhaps this is even most people. It is not surprising then that they would ignorantly take cooking directions designed for steaks and apply them to hamburger. It is, however, surprising that restaurants would go along.

Death to the bloody burger!

[1] This is not exactly right. Buddy Holly asks this of Vincent. When it comes to Mia, I believe she orders her hamburger and then adds, “Bloody.” But had she not said that, I feel sure that Buddy would have asked her.

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About Frank Moraes

Frank Moraes is a freelance writer and editor online and in print. He is educated as a scientist with a PhD in Atmospheric Physics. He has worked in climate science, remote sensing, throughout the computer industry, and as a college physics instructor. Find out more at About Frank Moraes.

3 thoughts on “Bloody Burger

  1. Uh oh. I didn’t realize that hamburgers were all surface, but since the beef is ground it does make sense! I’m definitely ordering my burgers well done from now on… No more medium for me!! :)


  2. I know that for burgers we are supposed to eat it at least medium but as someone who grew up on medium rare steaks I like my meat medium rare! Cooking it any more than that really destroys the flavor, and sadly my tastebuds get the best of me and I end up ordering it rarer than I probably should.

  3. @Corner – I understand. But here’s the thing: I will eat a nice piece of meat raw–it is delicious. Try eating raw hamburger and see if you don’t vomit. When a burger is not well done, its center is raw. It is disgusting and far more dangerous than completely raw steak.

    But I’m okay with people doing dangerous things. And if it tastes good to you, that’s all that matters!

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