When making hamburgers, I prefer to grill the beef until it is very dark and the outside is entirely black. I know that it is dangerous to eat beef that not cooked enough, but is there any hazard in eating beef which is cooked too much?

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    There is the danger of the food police arresting you for mistreatment of good meat :) – rumtscho May 29 '12 at 8:46
  • It is safe, but the meat will turn out dry and rubbery. – Mischa Arefiev May 29 '12 at 10:20
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    Who says it is dangerous to eat beef that is not cooked enough? People eat beef raw (steak tartar). Now, pork or chicken might be another matter... – Leo May 29 '12 at 15:35
  • @Leo unless you've sterilized the surfaces (and ground beef is all surface) you run an e. coli risk. Mass market ground beef needs to be fully cooked to prevent it. – Dan Is Fiddling By Firelight May 29 '12 at 17:43
  • @Dan Neely: that does not mean that raw meat is dangerous. It can be, if not properly handled. Cooked meat left outside for two days can be dangerous too for that matter. You cannot really generalize (here tartare is very common and I never heard of anyone that got sick from it) – nico May 29 '12 at 18:17

From a food safety point of view, no. There is no danger, because the meat contains no pathogens after overcooking.

From a "healthy living" point of view, it might be a problem, because you can have created carcinogens by charring. But we don't discuss such topics here, because nobody in the world knows how much eating charred meat contributes to the risk of developing cancer.

From a cook's point of view, you are doing it wrong. Well cooked meat is juicy and tasty. Overcooked meat is tough as shoe leather. You can continue doing it, if you want to, it is just irrational, like saying "I let my salad wilt for at least a week before eating it, I prefer it that way."

  • There is some scientific literature on the relation between charred meat and cancer. Just to pick some random papers: ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/21598178 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/45723 ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3562295 – nico May 29 '12 at 18:21
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    Sure there is scientific literature. The problem with health topics is that there is so much contradicting evidence that not even specialists (who know all papers in their field) can make a general statement of the sort "you shouldn't eat X" with any credibility based on the finding of one study. But people who 1) don't know how many studies exist on the question and 2) don't know what the limitations of an epidemiological study are - they love to jump to conclusions. This is why we don't discuss such topics here - we don't feel qualified to do it correctly. – rumtscho May 29 '12 at 18:31
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    @rumstcho: sure, but still I think that saying charred meat is safe because there are no pathogens is a bit reductive... especially because of what you say after – nico May 29 '12 at 19:35

There are several studies linking foods cooked at high temperatures, and especially charred foods, to an increased risk of cancer. So far these studies have only been conducted on animals, so there is no conclusive proof that it has the same effect on humans, but as humans are animals, it would seem at least possible.

The National Cancer Institute has a good summary, here.

On a different note, why?

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