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Draft guidance for consultation: Less than thoroughly cooked beef burgers

Sear and shave method

What the sear and shave cooking method is and how it can be used for less than thoroughly cooked burgers.

Last updated: 27 January 2022

This method is based on the same principle as cooking whole pieces of steak - searing the outside of the meat to kill bacteria. Whole muscle cuts of meat must be used because any harmful bacteria will be on the outer surfaces of the meat and will be reduced to safe levels.

The method has two steps:

  • step one is searing - cooking the outside surface of the meat by briefly heating it to a high temperature to destroy surface bacteria, while the deeper tissues remain raw
  • step two is shaving the piece of meat to remove the seared surface, leaving the uncooked meat which can be minced and formed into burgers which can be lightly cooked

The searing stage can be achieved by frying the piece of meat but blanching, boiling, deep frying or other types of cooking can also be used to heat the outside of the meat to a high temperature.

It is important that the surface of the cut of meat is not pierced, for example by using utensils to tenderise the meat. This could cause contamination to be pushed into the cut of meat, which could make the sear stage ineffective.

The combination of time and temperature applied at the searing stage must be sufficient to thoroughly cook the surface of the meat as this will reduce harmful bacteria to safe levels. A temperature of 70°C for two minutes or equivalent is generally considered to reduce the risk of food poisoning to an acceptable level. The surface of the meat must be smooth to ensure searing is even.

The slicing/shaving must be carried out hygienically to prevent any potential for cross-contamination. 

Once the outside of the meat has been seared, the meat can be minced, formed into burgers and lightly cooked.

Potential for further cross-contamination must be prevented when mincing, forming into burgers, storing and cooking. Mincers are considered to be complex equipment so a mincer which is used for raw meat to be LTTC must not also be used for other meats, unless it can be fully dismantled and disinfected between uses. This is because contamination can occur throughout the internal components of the equipment that cannot be adequately disinfected without a full dismantle. Detailed guidance on cross contamination can be found in the E. coli cross-contamination guidance.

It must be remembered that any ingredients added to the minced meat to make the burger, such as raw onions or spices, will need to be suitable as they will not be thoroughly cooked.

It is best practice to use separate, designated equipment for meat which has been seared to reduce the risk of cross contamination.

It is possible to sear the outside of a whole cut of meat, and then mince the whole piece of meat without the 'shave' step to remove the cooked outer layer of meat. As with 'sear and shave', businesses must ensure that the handling, preparation and storage of the meat after the searing process is safe and hygienic.

If the process is carried out hygienically a six-log reduction in bacteria can be achieved.

Best practice
It is best practice to provide a consumer message to explain that the business has used specific controls to produce burgers that are less than thoroughly cooked. This is to help consumers understand that cooking pink burgers at home is not recommended.

 


We are consulting on this draft guidance. Take part in our burgers guidance consultation.