The Ultimate Hamburger Temperature Guide (Every Doneness Explained)

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Are you planning to make hamburgers for your next cookout but are not sure what the recommended temperatures are?

Don’t worry, we have all of the information you need to cook your burgers to perfection here.

In this TheGrillingDad.com guide, you will discover:

  • The recommended temperature guidelines for hamburgers
  • Risks from undercooked ground beef
  • Tips for cooking amazing burgers
  • And much more!
a thick burger on a bun with fixings

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Hamburger Temperature Guide

Most people have their personal preferences when it comes to the doneness of their hamburger patties. While some people prefer their burgers to be rare, others would rather them be cooked well-done.

Although people often have their preferences, various recommendations are in place to protect you from food poisoning down the road. Depending on the type of meat you are using, these temperature guidelines can be quite different.

Most experts believe that ground beef should be cooked to an internal temperature of at least 160℉ before it is considered safe to eat. This is because temperatures below this often are a breeding ground for harmful bacteria.

When you are cooking with ground beef, it is important to use a meat thermometer to ensure that the inside of your burgers reaches this recommended temperature of 160°F. This will ensure that you and those you are cooking for stay safe and free from foodborne illnesses.

Many people question why ground beef has a recommendation of a higher temperature than steak and other beef cuts. The answer is that, with steak, the bacteria does not penetrate the meat the way it does with ground beef.

The reason for this is that with steak, the bacteria are often found on the surface of the meat and typically do not affect the inside. With ground beef, however, the grinding process can distribute the bacteria throughout the meat.

It is because of this that it is recommended that you cook your hamburgers to 160℉. Using a meat thermometer can help to save you and your guests from any harmful bacteria that are found within the meat.

What are the Temperature Guidelines for Ground Beef?

Because the USDA is the authority on what is safe or not, you should attempt to adhere to their recommendations at all times. This will ensure that you or your family is not exposed to certain food contaminants.

If you prefer burgers which are a little more on the rare side, in order to keep your family safe, you should purchase a higher quality of beef and then grind the meat yourself. Be aware that while this is safer, it doesn’t guarantee 100% safety from the foodborne illnesses commonly found in ground beef. 

Here are the temperature guidelines for cooking hamburgers to perfection according to your personal preferences:

Well-Done Burger Temp

Well-done burgers cook to an internal temperature of 160℉-165℉.

This temperature follows the USDA guidelines for beef that is purchased prepackaged. Hamburgers at this temperature usually have a tough texture and can be drier than others.

Medium-Well Burger Temp

A medium-well burger cooks to an internal temperature of 150℉-155℉.

Although this is slightly lower than the recommended temperature, it is still safer than others.

The texture of hamburgers at this temperature typically is drier on the outside and may have some pink on the inside.

Medium Burger Temp

A medium hamburger cooks to an internal temperature of 140℉-145℉.

Again lower than USDA recommendations, but tends to be one of the most popular. This is because the inside usually has a slight pink tinge which means that it will be juicier to taste.

Medium-Rare Burger Temp

Medium-rare burgers cook to an internal temperature of 130℉-135℉.

Cooking to this temperature puts you at a higher risk of food poisoning. If proper precautions are taken, such as grinding your meat, this can be considered perfectly safe.

Rare Burger Temp

A rare burger cooks to an internal temperature of 120℉-125℉.

Cooking to this temperature is never recommended since it puts you at a higher risk of food poisoning. This is because enough heat has not been distributed to successfully eliminate harmful bacteria. Plus, burgers aren’t that great when they are completely rare. 

Related >> What is blue rare steak?

a hamburger on the grill that has not finished cooking yet

Risks of Under Cooking Ground Beef

Ground beef tends to be at a higher risk of contamination than most other cuts of beef since the source can be from multiple animals. This is especially true when it comes to prepackaged meat that you purchase at a grocery store.

Since pre-packaged ground beef is mass-produced, you cannot be sure that all of your packages are coming from the same animal. Because of this, you can get beef that comes from both healthy animals and those that carry more bacteria than others. 

If the ground beef comes from even a small percentage of a cow that has been contaminated, because of the grinding process, the bacteria are distributed to the rest of the batch. This is typically because all of the beef in a factory goes through a specific grinder that is also used on other meats.

When contaminated meat is mixed with healthy meat it can cause the distribution of harmful bacteria to grow. This means that the ground beef you purchase that is prepackaged may not be as pure and free of contaminants as you would expect.

What Temperature Does the USDA Recommend for Ground Beef?

Because of the risks associated with contamination of ground beef that is prepackaged, the USDA recommends that it is cooked to an internal temperature of 160℉. Cooking the meat to this temperature ensures that the harmful bacteria have been eliminated and makes it safe to consume.

But, what if you have a different preference for cooking your hamburgers instead of the recommended temperature? Keep in mind that not reaching the suggested temperature of your burgers means that you are taking a risk that could be avoided.

If you are purchasing your ground beef prepackaged from the grocery store, you have a higher risk of contamination than if you were to grind the meat yourself. Since this is the case, following USDA guidelines is your best bet in avoiding harmful bacteria that can cause food poisoning.

For those who prefer their hamburgers to be more on the rare side, this typically means the internal temperature only reaches about 130℉. With temperatures this low, all of the contaminants may not be eliminated properly.

If you are having a hamburger in a restaurant, keep in mind that they are under strict guidelines of the USDA and have to abide by their rules. This means that if they choose to offer burgers at lower temperatures they have certain procedures that must be followed.Typically, this can only be done in a restaurant if the meat is ground directly onsite instead of purchasing the prepackaged variety. Per the USDA guidelines, this is the only way a restaurant can offer to adjust the temperature of a hamburger below 160°F.

How Can You Avoid Food Poisoning When Working with Ground Beef?

Like other types of meat, it is essential to follow proper food handling precautions when working with ground beef. This is because just the act of handling ground beef can cause harmful contaminants to spread to other surfaces.

Check out these food handling safety tips for when you are working with ground beef:

  • Keep the surfaces of your kitchen clean both before and after handling ground beef and other foods
  • Store your ground beef in the refrigerator and out of the danger zone until you are ready to prepare it for cooking
  • Wash your hands before and after handling raw meat of any kind
  • Use different work surfaces for raw meat
  • Store your ground beef away from other foods such as produce when it is in the refrigerator

While this is not an exhaustive list of safety precautions, it should give you a great start to protecting yourself and others from harmful bacteria. Taking certain precautions means that you and your family are at a lower risk of food contamination that can cause certain illnesses.

How Do You Know When Your Hamburgers Have Reached the Correct Temperature?

One of the most difficult parts of cooking hamburgers and other foods is ensuring that you are reaching the proper temperatures. This is mostly because hamburgers tend to cook at a faster pace than other types of meats.

Knowing whether your hamburgers are safe to consume typically means that you are going to have to use a meat thermometer. This is the only surefire way to make sure that the internal temperature has reached the recommended levels.

If you do not own a meat thermometer, you may want to consider purchasing one just to be sure that you have cooked your burgers to perfection. This will go a long way to keeping you and your guests safe from food poisoning.

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10/01/2022 03:06 am GMT

Although the recommended temperature can be adjusted some, it is important that you only do so if you are planning to grind the meat yourself. If you purchase prepackaged meat, you should have your meat thermometer ready to ensure the temperature guidelines are met.

The bottom line in knowing when your hamburgers are at the appropriate temperature is that you can only be sure if you are checking the internal temperature. This can only be done by using a thermometer that is specifically designed for meat.

Does Grinding Your Meat Affect the Freshness Quality of Ground Beef?

It is important to remember that most of the safety precautions concerning temperature guidelines are directly related to prepackaged ground beef. This is because you cannot be sure of where the source of the meat came from.

Grinding your beef gives you the luxury of knowing that your meat has come from a single cow instead of multiple. In addition, since a whole cut of beef typically only contains bacteria that live on the surface, you can be sure that when you grind it, bacteria will not be difficult to eliminate.

Since you know where your beef comes from when you choose to grind your ground beef, you have the luxury of adjusting the cooking temperatures. This means that if you prefer a medium-rare burger, you can do so without the higher risks    of contamination.

Check out these benefits of grinding your own beef:

  • Cost Savings

When you purchase ground beef in the grocery store, you often are paying for not only the meat itself but also the markup from processing it. This means that you will be paying more for pre-ground meat than if you buy the whole cut.

When you purchase a whole cut of meat, you may be initially paying more, but the benefits you get from knowing exactly where your hamburger comes from can outweigh this.

  • Better Quality

Buying whole cuts of beef rather than pre packaged ground beef can result in a fresher quality overall. This is because you cannot be sure how fresh pre packaged ground beef is even if the package gives you a freshness date.

Whole cuts of beef typically don’t lose their flavor since the insides are protected by keeping them together. This means that when you get the beef home, it is fresh when you put it in your grinder.

  • Authentic Customization

Oftentimes, you can purchase special blends of beef that are prepackaged in the meat department at your local grocery store. However, how can you be sure of what they mean by “special blend”?

By purchasing various whole cuts of beef, you have the opportunity to create blends that allow you to know exactly what is in your hamburgers. This means that you can have the burger flavor that you prefer and not just the temperature preferences.

You can also create stuffed burgers. One of our favorite recipes is burgers which are stuffed with blue cheese but you can also stuff a burger with other types of cheese, mushrooms, or even bacon. 

There are likely more benefits to grinding your beef than the ones listed here, however, these should give you a good idea of the advantages. Grinding your beef gives you more control over what goes into your hamburger.

Best Method for Cooking a Hamburger

In addition to the preferences people have for the temperature of their hamburger, there are also various preferences for the methods of cooking the perfect burger as well. This can include everything from the way it is seasoned to the method of cooking it.

We recommend always seasoning a burger before it is cooked, especially if you ground the meat yourself. Honestly hamburger meat doesn’t have a lot of flavor on its own and a little salt and pepper can go a long way! 

We also recommend that you cook your burger on the grill, after all, it’s the best way to add flavor to meat! Cooking burgers on a charcoal grill is our favorite, as the charcoal flavor mixed with the hamburger meat can’t be beat. But we also recommend cooking burgers on your pellet grill as well. 

If you don’t have a grill yet, your skillet will do, but you’ll need to season your burger a little more in this case to bring out the flavors of the meat!

Final Thoughts on Hamburger Temperatures

The bottom line when it comes to hamburger temperatures is that you should always use your best judgment to keep yourself and your family safe. This means that if you plan to purchase pre packaged ground beef, you should follow the USDA recommendations.

If you choose, however, to grind your beef, you may be able to be a bit more flexible when it comes to cooking your burgers. By following these guidelines and other safety precautions, you will be able to prevent most food-borne illnesses.

Hope Davis

Hope Davis

Born in Denver, Colorado as the oldest of 5 children, I learned at a young age that the grill was one of the best ways to prepare food for a crowd. And during the winter storm months, when the snow was likely to knock out the power to our house, the propane grill was a lifesaver! You wouldn’t believe the number of things you can cook on a grill when necessary. With parents who couldn’t tell salt from pepper unless you told them, I spent my late teen years making my own seasoning mixes and marinades to dress the meat before barbecues. It wasn’t long before I developed a secret marinade that people still beg me to make for them today! When I was 21 years old I bought my first smoker. Picked up some cedar chips for making a cedar plank salmon...and well, the rest they say is history! I’ve been grilling and smoking all kinds of creations ever since and I’m always excited to share my passion with others through my favorite medium--writing!

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