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Burgers: Should They Ever Be Pink Inside?

Jo Milligan asks Manchester restaurants and local authorities

Written by . Published on July 8th 2014.

Burgers: Should They Ever Be Pink Inside?


IT doesn’t matter if you like your burgers still mooing under the mayo or whether you prefer carbonised meteors in a brioche bun.

Personal choice is all important.

Gorilla, Common and Grill on New York Street amongst others manage to serve burgers pink without bumping off their clientele. Smoak’s burgers even run the full gamut of reddy-pinky-brown.

Which is why, there was an understandable outcry when it seemed that Westminster City Council were out to ban the pink and juicy burger that has jostled the leathery discus of yesterday out of the nation’s affections.

With Westminster City Council controlling an area encompassing numerous restaurants including Gordon Ramsay’s Maze Grill restaurant and Angela Hartnett’s York and Albany (the menu of which includes burgers), it’s safe to assume that the chefs have all been sharpening their knives.

Westminster City Council deny any burger-banning plans but due to the increasing demand for rare burgers and the accompanying food safety issues, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) has a working group investigating the subject which should report back early next year. For now, rare burgers are safe.

Safe might be an overstatement. A dodgy burger can be fatal.

Pretty BacteriaPretty BacteriaThe reason why the humble burger is seen as such a ticking time-bomb of terror is thus: with a steak, any bacteria is on the outside of the meat and is killed when it is seared but with mincing, any external bacteria are then spread throughout the meat so it has to be thoroughly cooked to make sure the bacteria are gone.

Manchester City Council has no policy in place at the moment regarding the cooking of burgers: 'All premises are assessed on their own merits to see if they have the right structures in place for serving raw or rare meat. Restaurants are advised against serving rare or medium-rare burgers but it is their choice. However, if it is known that a restaurant is serving rare or medium-rare burgers, they would be given a food-hygiene inspection, which is something that all restaurants are subject too.'

Neither Trafford nor Salford Councils have a policy on the matter either but both advise restaurants to follow FSA guidelines.

Councillor Gena Merrett, assistant mayor for housing and environment at Salford City Council said: “The Food Standards Agency’s advice is that burgers should be thoroughly cooked to kill bacteria including E.coli 0157, which is known to cause serious illness and even kill. Salford City Council would advise anyone cooking burgers to follow the Food Standards Agency’s advice.”

There are places that follow this advice to the letter, just like the class swot, although this doesn’t necessarily result in top marks.

A recent dining experience at The Barton Arms in Worsley was definitely of the school of ‘your burger can be anything you like, as long as it’s well-done.’ Moist and yielding it was not. Further investigation showed that this vast smorgasbord of choice was part of the Ember Inns’ company policy.

The burgers are bought in rather than lovingly hand-crafted on site, which for £6.95 for the Classic burger is what you might expect. On the plus side, no food poisoning.

Solita in the Northern Quarter play it safe by serving all their burgers medium but will serve them medium-rare on request. Or almost. “We recommend more towards the medium end of medium-rare.”

However, the juicy, pink burger has become ubiquitous in Manchester’s eateries and we’re not dropping like flies. Or at least not yet, we’re still waiting for the cholesterol monster to strike.

Cholesterol Monster

The cholesterol monster is coming

Gorilla, Common and Grill on New York Street amongst others manage to serve burgers pink without bumping off their clientele. Smoak’s burgers even run the full gamut of reddy-pinky-brown. A burger rainbow.

That is to say, just like the steaks, they can be served well-done or medium-well or medium or medium-rare or rare or blue. Take your pick. Although you might be surprised to learn that the Classic burger, straight from the Josper grill at £14.95, is also bought in. Common’s burgers too are delivered rather than made on site and Grill on New York Street buy their burgers in, albeit from a butcher who makes them to their own recipe.

Whilst FSA guidelines are to cook burgers to a core temperature of 70°c for two minutes, which will result in a burger that is cooked through, there are other techniques to eliminate the nasties lurking within which mean you can enjoy a pink burger without feeling the need to have 999 on speed dial.

Most simply, if the meat is seared before mincing, the minced product will be safe to eat no matter how it is served later on. Another method is challenge testing, where a testing house is commissioned to identify a specific time/temperature combination that will achieve pasteurisation yet leave the burger pink inside. This process will vary depending on the recipe of the burger.

Pretty in pinkPretty in pinkWhilst there are no policies governing the burgers you eat in Manchester at the moment, each restaurant is responsible for making sure the food you eat is safe.

And given Manchester City Council’s policy of vetting the procedures of any places serving rare burgers, if you are given a pink burger, then the hygiene and food safety practices of the kitchen in question should be pretty top-notch.

But unless, like Confidential’s editor Jonathan Schofield, you have given up burgers and resorted to burying them instead (click here), make sure you get your chops round a great hunk of juicy burger this year in case the FSA report back and return us all to the dark days of the leathery mousemat when there was no such thing as choice in the burger world. 

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17 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

Angela HiltonJune 27th 2013.

if the meat is good quality then yes.

Burgersmasher!June 27th 2013.

Has to be pink and the quality of the meat dictates whether they can even offer it pink as an option? Only high quality burgers should be pink and they are much better for it!:)

Graeme WrightJune 27th 2013.

If it's made from top quality steak and fresh rather than pre-formed then there's no reason why a burger can't be cooked to the diner's preference. Hopefully Westminster's nanny police will never make it to Manchester

1 Response: Reply To This...
Phil HowellsJune 27th 2013.

The quality of the meat shouldn't have too much effect on the food saftey aspect. The bacteria form on the outside of a steak and this is usually killed by heating which is why you can have bleu steaks without too much harm. With burgers by mincing the meat you mix the bacteria in. You probably aren't killing all of it by heating it to pink (although you may). I always eat pink burgers and my guess is that 99% + of people will be OK every time because our bodies are deisgned for this kind of thing. V much agree about nannying. Westminster have always been bastards though - remember Lady Porter and the Gerrymandering scandal - social cleansing in the late 80s.

JimJune 27th 2013.

I like a pink burger but Smoaks was ridiculous. Actually raw in the middle! Like the chancellor I'm a big fan of the Byron burger

AnonymousJune 27th 2013.

Manchester Council did serve almost famous an order, not to serve meat pink. So they're on it at least

Steve5839June 27th 2013.

If I want to stand in front of a car and get run over I can, so why should I not be able to order pink meat? If required, have the customer sign a consent form, you do that for all other dangerous pastimes.

tblzebraJune 27th 2013.

Could you sign a disclaimer saying you don't want NHS care when you decide to get run over please Steve5839?

AnonymousJune 28th 2013.

Also if were naming burger joints that get their burgers bought in premade. U might want to mention that the untouchable almost famous also do these days!!

1 Response: Reply To This...
AnonymousJuly 8th 2014.

And always have.

AnonymousJune 28th 2013.

Not now.....there's been a fire.

Carole EaseyJuly 9th 2014.

We have eaten delicious pink burgers for years, who gives these people the right to say what's right or wrong, we prefer a juicy pink burger to a rubberised one. When is common sence going to prevail. Enough.

TimetoshineJuly 9th 2014.

A good burger should be made of minced steak, salt and pepper. You'd eat a steak pink wouldn't you? So what's the difference?

2 Responses: Reply To This...
SmittyJuly 9th 2014.

The difference is that the bacteria lurks on the surface of the steak, not the interior, so even the slightest flip on the pan on either side will give kill the bacteria on a steak. As someone points out above the mince is, well, minced and hence the bacteria can go all the way through, so it is a lot more risky (and this isn't health and safety bollocks, it's actually a real issue). I would only have a rare burger if I was convinced of the impeccable cleanliness of the establishment and that the chef knew what they were doing. If you have a dirty bitch burger, which is pink in the middle, from a filthy van you absolutely should chuck it in the bin. Also, if getting a burger from a van never ever have lettuce - this is the bit that is most likely to make you sick!

TimetoshineJuly 10th 2014.

I can promise you I never get a dirty burger from a van NOR eat lettuce!! Thanks for the info.

Charles CohenJuly 9th 2014.

Excellent comment Smitty, I wish rare burgers carried no risk, but unfortunately they do.

Leesa SikvelandJuly 17th 2014.

Yes, people should have a choice but judging by some of the comments above, some people clearly need educating too!

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