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Grilling Steaks: Are Undercooked Steaks Unhealthy?

Grilling steaks and other foods has become a summertime tradition. For many people, there is nothing that compares to a thick juicy steak done on the grill. You just don't get the same results from pan frying or even broiling in the oven as you do from grilling steaks. And most people agree that steaks are better when they're still pink in the middle. But is undercooking when grilling steaks unhealthy?

​The Basics of Bacteria

​Beef, pork, and chicken are three of the most popular grilling menu items. In fact, they make up much of the diets for non-vegetarians in many parts of the world. Sometimes in the processing, these meats come in contact with bacteria. And pork and chicken also can have organisms in the inner layers of the meat as well.

​It might be a bit unsettling to think of bacteria on our food, but it is not just meats that are susceptible. Eggs, veggies, mayonnaise - basically any food that is handled, left out, or grown in soil can contain contaminants.

​That describes just about all of the things we eat, and we have learned to take precautions and handle different foods correctly.

​What's a Cook To Do?

​When it comes to meats, if cooked properly, the heat from grilling steaks, chops, chicken strips and other meats destroys these bacteria on contact. With pork and chicken, the heat needs to completely penetrate the inside layers. That's why experts recommend cooking these meats thoroughly.

​With beef cuts, it's only the outside layers that are prone to bacteria. The inside flesh typically doesn't contain any organisms. So when grilling steaks made from beef, as long as the outside layers have been completely cooked, the meat is safe to eat rare, medium rare, or however you like it.

​The high heats usually associated with searing and grilling steaks are more than adequate to eliminate bacteria on the outside surfaces. Just be sure that you don't put the steak on the same plate that the raw meat was on.

​Hamburgers are another story. Because the meat is ground up, all the layers get ground together. So if bacteria are on the outside, they get mixed in.

​Therefore, just like chicken and pork, hamburgers need to be cooked thoroughly. And as with grilling steaks, be sure not to put cooked foods back on a plate that was used for raw meat.

​Whether cooking with a stove or a grill, it is important to properly cook meats to avoid health concerns. As the health experts caution, meats like pork and chicken must be cooked thoroughly. But when it comes to grilling steaks, as long as the outside is nice and brown, you can leave the inside pink and juicy.