When Is Ground Beef Done?

One of the most well-liked and practical meats to use in many homes is ground beef. It can be used in many different dishes, including burgers, casseroles, and stews. As with all meat, it’s crucial to properly prepare ground beef so that it’s safe to consume.

In this article, we share some cooking advice for ground beef, including the ideal internal temperature that it should achieve.


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The Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) of the U. S. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) has long run a consumer education program on how to handle and cook meat and poultry safely. Situations that encourage bacterial growth, cross-contamination, and foodborne illness are avoided by following good food safety procedures. Thorough cooking destroys bacteria.

To ensure that a temperature high enough to kill bacteria has been reached when cooking meat and poultry, the FSIS has long advised consumers to use a food thermometer. Ground beef patties were added to this recommendation by FSIS in June 1997. Salmonella and Escherichia coli O157:H7 are just a couple of the pathogens that succumb to prolonged heat exposure. Use a food thermometer to cook all raw ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F.

E. A bacterial strain called coli O157:H7 produces a toxin that can lead to hemorrhagic colitis. Hemolytic uremic syndrome, a condition that can result in kidney failure, brain damage, strokes, and seizures in young children and the elderly, is a very serious condition that this illness can progress into. E. Numerous sporadic cases and outbreaks of foodborne illness caused by coli O157:H7 have resulted in illnesses and fatalities. This pathogen can survive both refrigerator and freezer storage. A number of E. Since 1982, undercooked ground beef has been identified as the main source of coli O157:H7 outbreaks.

The 1993 Western states outbreak of E. The discovery of E. coli O157:H7 linked to undercooked hamburgers at a fast-food restaurant marked a turning point. The outbreak sickened hundreds and was responsible for four deaths. Although it was not the first outbreak of foodborne illness to hit the United States, it was a particularly difficult one for the public to accept because many young children fell ill and the traditional American hamburger was the source of the outbreak.

When the outbreak began in 1994, the USDA declared E a monitoring program for E. coli O157:H7 an adulterant in raw ground beef coli O157:H7 contamination of raw ground beef (testing revealed sporadic, low-level contamination) Additionally, the FSIS started a program to encourage industry-wide improvements in controls and testing, and it mandated safe food handling labels on all raw meat and poultry products.

FSIS has continued to promote food safety at home while collaborating with industry to increase the security of the food supply. The need for thoroughly cooking ground beef stems from the possibility of harmful bacteria being present in meat and poultry products. If food handlers are aware of and follow this simple rule, future cases of foodborne illness may be avoided. Cooking food thoroughly until the internal temperature reaches 160 °F kills E coli O157:H7.

Many people who handle food and consumers alike think that outward signs, like color changes in the food, are proof that it has been cooked properly. However, studies have demonstrated that color and texture indicators are not trustworthy. In particular, a 1995 Kansas State University study (Hunt et al., 1995) discovered that a significant enough proportion of ground beef patties were turning brown before they reached 160 °F, rendering color an unreliable indicator of doneness. A consumer who assumes a brown-colored hamburger is always safe is taking a chance on contracting a foodborne illness.

Unfortunately, research indicates that a large number of consumers rarely or never use a food thermometer when cooking ground beef (FDA-CFSAN/USDA, 1998; Koeppl, 1998). FSIS previously advised consumers to cook ground beef patties until the center and cooked-out juices were no longer pink if they did not use a food thermometer. Additionally, it was advised to look for a firm “cooked” texture in the meat rather than a softer “raw or rare” texture.

The suggestions for the visual checks for doneness, however, have drawn criticism from research findings (Hague et al., 1994; Hunt et al., 1995). Therefore, the USDA issued a press release in June 1997 advising consumers to use a food thermometer when cooking ground beef patties rather than relying on the internal color of the meat. Instead, customers should use a food thermometer to cook ground beef patties until they reach an internal temperature of 160 °F.

Color as an Indicator of Doneness

FSIS is aware that using the color of ground beef to test for doneness and ensure the destruction of pathogens has two paradoxical issues:

  • Before it is fully cooked, some ground beef may appear to have completely lost its pink color. It might appear fully cooked if the raw ground beef is already brown before it reaches a safe temperature.
  • At temperatures significantly higher than the final cooking temperature of 160 °F that is advised for consumers, some lean ground beef may still be pink.

Browning Before a Safe Temperature is Reached

Before they reach a safe internal temperature, cooked ground beef patties may appear brown. This can happen, for instance, with the prolonged thawing of frozen ground beef or the refrigerator storage of thawed ground beef, and is primarily brought on by extensive oxidation of the fresh ground beef pigment.

The ferrous iron in ground beef’s myoglobin pigment is oxygenated when it is exposed to air, creating a ferrous iron-oxygen complex. Unoxygenated myoglobin is purplish-red in hue, and oxymyoglobin, which is formed when iron binds to oxygen, is red. This is what gives fresh beef its red color. However, if meat is kept for an extended period of time, stored above the recommended temperature, or is exposed to excessive air, ferrous iron loses an electron and turns into ferric iron. The resulting ferric pigment, known as metmyoglobin, is brown.

Consumers frequently express concern when ground beef has a red exterior and a brown interior because they believe that bright red color indicates high quality (Lynch et al., 1986). This coloration may be caused by varying levels of oxygenation in various areas of the meat’s interior and exterior (the grinding process increases air contact with the meat’s surface area). Ground beef will turn grayish-brown if it loses contact with the air, as with the interior of the package of ground beef. Additionally, ground beef may prematurely brown if it is stored, even for a day (USDA-ARS/FSIS, 1998).

The color of cooked ground beef changes from red to pink to brown. If the meat is already browned, cooking will not alter its color. Some ground beef patties can appear well-done at internal temperatures as low as 131 °F, according to recent research (Hague et al., 1994; Hunt et al., 1995; USDA-ARS/FSIS, 1998).

Older carcasses’ raw meat may also be less red or darker in color, giving the impression that it is fully cooked when it is still undercooked. It has been discovered that ground beef patties cooked to 131 °F are similar in color to patties cooked to 140 °F when made from a combination of older and younger carcasses. According to research by Hague et al. (1994), patties cooked to 150 °F are not visually distinguishable from those cooked to 160 °F.

FSIS started its own study to determine the frequency of premature browning in cooked ground beef after reviewing existing research. Patties made from ground beef purchased from various locations across the nation were cooked and prepared by USDA researchers. Prematurely was defined as occurring before the fresh ground beef patties reached the safe temperature of 160 °F. More than 25% of the patties did this. USDA research findings confirmed the Agency’s recommendation that color is an unreliable indicator of doneness when they were presented at a public meeting on May 27, 1998, in Arlington, Virginia. To ensure that ground beef patties reach 160 °F, consumers should use a food thermometer (USDA-ARS/FSIS, 1998).

Even when controlled cooking procedures were used, the USDA researchers discovered significant variation in endpoint temperature and color between and within beef patty formulations. Because of this, it can be challenging for customers to tell whether ground beef patties are fully cooked without the use of a food thermometer.

Persistent Pink Color in Cooked Meat Patties

Ground beef may continue to be pink at temperatures above 160 °F for a number of reasons. This phenomenon is primarily related to the pH, level of pigment, and fat content of the meat.

Normal fresh muscle has a pH ranging from 5. 3 to 5. 7. Normal meat’s myoglobin, oxymyoglobin, and metmyoglobin pigments are transformed when fully cooked (i e. denatured) to denatured hemichrome, the grey pigment of cooked meat. Meat with a pH of 6. 0 or higher can remain pink at 159. 8 °F. pH has an impact on how quickly normal muscle pigments transform into grey denatured hemichrome. According to Mendenhall (1989), a higher pH results in longer cooking times and/or higher final internal temperatures needed for complete denaturation. Instead of the anticipated grey cooked color produced by denatured hemichrome, a high pH reduces the amount of myoglobin denatured by cooking, resulting in a pink color (Trout, 1989).

The red color of cooked meat is also a result of a high concentration of pigment. Meat from bulls typically has a higher pH and higher pigment concentrations. According to Mendenhall (1989), there are noticeable differences in cooked internal color when patties are made from a combination of bull meat, chuck, and beef trim with similar amounts of total pigment. This suggests that the pH is to blame. However, the quantity of total pigment contributes to the abnormal internal color when pH is kept constant. Additionally, it was demonstrated that cooked bull meat (pH 6) 2) is contrasted with a mixture of chuck, trim, and bull meat (pH 6). 2) The bull meat patty is noticeably redder as a result of the higher pigment concentration.

Because ground beef is formulated to achieve a very specific fat content, the majority of store-bought ground beef is a mixture of meat from various sources (bulls, steers, cows, and heifers). Trimmings from many sources are combined.

The quantity of fat in beef patties is a third element influencing the color of cooked ground beef. Compared to high-fat beef, low-fat beef seems to conduct heat less effectively. In order to reach a specific internal temperature, low-fat beef patties—including those made with water, oat bran, carrageenan, and/or isolated soy protein—need to be cooked for a longer period of time and at a higher temperature. Additionally, patties can maintain their pink color even after reaching internal temperatures above the advised 160 °F. Low-fat beef patties have occasionally not only taken longer than anticipated to reach the desired end temperature, but have also continued to be pink at temperatures between 160 and 165 °F (Berry, 1994; Troutt et al, 1992).

Even when controlled cooking procedures are used, there is a significant variation in endpoint temperature and color both between and within beef patty formulations.

USDA advises consumers to thoroughly cook meat and poultry to prevent foodborne illness. A food thermometer is the most accurate tool for measuring complete cooking. The thermometer should penetrate the thickest part of the food. It would be in the middle of a casserole or meat loaf.

Use ground meat that is fresh or thawed within one day. Customers should either tightly wrap and freeze ground beef, or keep it in a 40 °F refrigerator for no longer than one day.

Use an accurate instant-read thermometer to ensure that a ground beef patty is cooked to a temperature high enough to eradicate any potential harmful bacteria.

A digital instant-read food thermometer can be used to check the doneness of ground beef patties near the end of cooking time by inserting it at least 12 inch into the thickest part of the patty. The thermometer needs to be inserted sideways if the ground beef patty is not thick enough to be checked from the top. Take another reading of the temperature if you’re unsure of the first one. Use a food thermometer to cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F.

The color of cooked ground beef can be quite variable. A safely cooked patty may appear brown, pink, or some shade of brown or pink at 160 °F.

Regardless of color, a patty can be safe and juicy when cooked to 160 °F throughout.

A significant risk factor for foodborne illness is consuming pink ground beef patties without first ensuring that the safe temperature of 160 °F has been reached (Kassenborg et al., 1998; Slutsker et al., 1998).

Ground beef patties that are pink or red in the middle should not be consumed by consumers unless a food thermometer is used to confirm the temperature.

Ask your server if ground beef patties have been prepared at least 155 °F for 15 seconds when dining out (as advised by the U S. restaurants or other food service establishments can use the FDA Food Code, which is a secure option.

For those who prepare or serve ground beef patties to those most at risk for foodborne illness, using a thermometer to ensure proper cooking temperature is especially crucial because E coli O157:H7 can lead to serious illness or even death. Young children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems are those who are most at risk.


Berry, B. W. 1994. Beef patties’ sensory, chemical, and physical properties are affected by the amount of fat, high cooking temperatures, and degree of doneness. J. Food Science. 59 (1): 10-14, 19.

Cornforth, D. ; C. R. Calkins, C. Faustman. 1991. Techniques for Recognizing and Avoiding Pink Color in Cooked Meat Reciprocal Meat Conference Proceedings, AMSA 44:53-58.

FDA-CFSAN/USDA-FSIS. 1998. Consumer Food Safety Survey Results. U. S. Food C.

Hague, M. A. ; K. E. Warren; M. C. Hunt; D. H. Kropf; C. L. Kastner; S. L. Stroda; and D. E. Johnson. 1994. Relationships between the endpoint temperature, the internal cooked color, and the expressible juice color in ground beef patties J. Food Sci. 59 (3): 465-470.

Hunt, M. C. ; K. E. Warren; M. A. Hague; D. H. Kropf; C. L. Waldner; S. L. Stroda; and C. L. Kastner. 1995. The color of cooked ground beef is a poor indicator of the internal temperature. Department of Animal Sciences, Kansas State University, Manhattan, KS 66506-0201. Presentation to American Chemical Society April 6, 1995.

Kassenborg, H. ; C. Hedberg; M. Evans; G. Chin; T. Fiorentino; D. Vugias; M. Bardsley; L. Slutsker; P. Griffin. 1998. Sporadic Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infections in 5 FoodNet Sites (CA, CT, GA, MN, OR): A Case-Control Study On March 8–11, 1998, Atlanta, Georgia, hosted the International Conference on Emerging Infectious Diseases.

Koeppl, P. T. , Macro International, Inc. 1998. Focus Groups on Challenges Preventing Consumers from Using Thermometers to Cook Meat and Poultry Products Submitted unpublished report to the Food Safety C.

Lynch, N. M. ; C. L. Kastner; and D. H. Kropf. 1986. Vacuum packaged ground beef acceptance among consumers: effects of product color and educational materials J. Food Sci. 51 (2): 253-255, 272.

Mendenhall, V. T. 1989. The internal color of cooked ground beef patties is influenced by pH and total pigment concentration. J. Food Sci. 54 (1): 1-2.

Slutsker, L; A. A. Ries; K. Maloney; J. G. Wells; K. D. Greene; P. M. Griffin. 1998. Escherichia coli O157:H7 Infection in the United States: A National Case-Control Study J. Infectious Diseases 177:962-6.

Trout, G. R. 1989. The effects of pH, sodium chloride, sodium tripolyphosphate, and cooking temperature on the variation in myoglobin denaturation and color of cooked beef, pork, and turkey meat J. Food Sci. 54 (3): 536-544.

Troutt, E. S. ; M. C. Hunt; D. E. Johnson; J. R. Claus; C. L. Kastner; and D. H. Kropf. 1992. Characteristics of Low-fat Ground Beef Containing Texture-Modifying Ingredients. J. Food Sci. 57 (1): 19-24.

USDA-ARS/FSIS. 1998. Premature Browning of Cooked Ground Beef. Public Meeting of the Food Safety and Inspection Service on the Premature Browning of Ground Beef May 27, 1998. USDA, Washington, D. C.

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How To Cook Ground Beef


How do I know when ground beef is done?

Use a food thermometer to cook ground beef to an internal temperature of 160 °F. The color of cooked ground beef can be quite variable. A safely cooked patty may appear brown, pink, or some shade of brown or pink at 160 °F.

Is it OK if ground beef is a little pink?

All products containing ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of 160 °F to ensure that all potentially harmful bacteria are eliminated. After being properly cooked, ground beef can still be pink inside. The pink hue may result from a reaction between the heat from the oven and myoglobin, which turns it red or pink.

How long does ground beef take to cook?

How long should ground beef be cooked?Once the water comes to a boil, cover the pot and let it simmer. About 15 minutes should be sufficient to completely cook it. When the meat is done, it will turn brown, so keep an eye on it.

At what point is ground beef cooked?

According to the FDA Food Code, restaurants should cook ground beef for 15 seconds at 155°F. However, according to the CDC and USDA, consumers should cook ground beef to 160°F. Because it is easier to meet one standard (temperature) than two (temperature and time), there are different recommendations for consumers.

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