Is a rare steak safe to eat? (main risks)

In this article, we will discuss whether a rare steak can be eaten safely, what are the risks of eating a rare steak, how to prepare a rare steak safely and who should not eat a rare steak.

Although a rare steak is appreciated in many parts of the world, consumers may prefer a well done or done steak, as they associate the brown colour of the meat to a safe consumption. However, a rare steak is safe to eat, when properly prepared.

Is a rare steak safe to eat?

Yes, a rare steak is safe to eat, when properly cooked, that is when the internal temperature of the meat has been heated sufficiently to achieve the value of 145 °F (62.8 °C) (1). 

According to studies, most of the bacteria are present in the external surface of the meat. By cooking the steak following a searing step, it is possible to heat the meat internally without changing its colour (1).

The internal colour of the meat is directly related to its doneness. As the meat cooks, the tissue turns brown, due to the denaturation of the myoglobin, the pigment present in the meat which gives meat the red colour (2).

This pigment is not heat stable and changes its colour depending on the characteristics of the meat, the cooking method, the rate at which the temperature increases and the exposure to oxygen (1, 2).

Denatured myoglobin can be present in different colours, not only brown. In this way, a pinkish colour does not mean an unsafe steak, but rather a different form of the meat pigment.

What are the risks of eating a rare steak?

The risks of eating a rare steak are associated with foodborne illnesses. Undercooked meat should not be consumed, as it can contain a high number of viable microorganisms, including pathogenic bacteria, viruses and parasites (3).

Cooking meat is essential to improve its safety consumption, in addition to improving its flavour and acceptance. Cooking at recommended temperatures can destroy most of the pathogens (1, 2, 3).  

Eating a rare steak that has not been not properly prepared is a health risk and can lead to infections by bacteria, such as Escherichia coli, Salmonella, Clostridium perfringes and Listeria monocytogenes.

Parasites, such as Trichinella spiralis, Toxoplasma gondii, and Taenia solium and viruses, such as Norovirus and hepatitis can also be transmitted by consuming undercooked meat (3).

How to safely prepare a rare steak?

To safely prepare a rare steak, you should sear the steak on both sides for a few minutes in a frying pan or an air fryer (4) and hold the seared steak for a few minutes before eating it (5). 

In this way, the heat will be transferred to the internal part of the steak and affect the microorganisms that might be present in the meat, reducing their amount (5).

To prepare a rare steak safely, follow the steps (4, 5):

  • Choose a fresh steak of 2 cm thickness with a pleasant odour and colour and salt it
  • In a frying pan, add 100 g of vegetable oil and bring on the stovetop
  • Heat the oil to 180 °C (350 °F)
  • Sear the steak on both sides for 1 to 1.5 minutes
  • Rest the meat for 3 minutes before eating

In this cooking method, the internal temperature of the steak was approximately 60 °C (140 °F), characterising the “rare” doneness, in studies (4, 6).

Although this temperature is slightly lower than the recommended temperature of 145 °F (62.8 °C), the reduction of the initial microbial load of the meat was sufficient and not significantly different from the doneness “medium-rare” (6).

Who should not eat rare steak?

Pregnant women, elderly and immunocompromised individuals should not eat rare steak, as they are more susceptible to having infections, including foodborne infections (7).


In this article, we discussed the risks of eating a rare steak and how to prepare a rare steak safely. It is important that not only the cooking method affects the safety of the meat, but also its quality, storage conditions and storage time.

A safe handling of meat can prevent foodborne diseases.

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Suman SP, Nair MN, Joseph P, Hunt MC. Factors influencing internal color of cooked meats. Meat Science. 2016 Oct 1;120:133-44.


Stoica M, Stoean S, Alexe P. Overview of biological hazards associated with the consumption of the meat products. J. Agroaliment. Process. Technol. 2014 Jun;20:192-7.


Borela VL, de Alencar ER, Mendonça MA, Han H, Raposo A, Ariza-Montes A, Araya-Castillo L, Zandonadi RP. Influence of different cooking methods on fillet steak physicochemical characteristics. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health. 2022 Jan 5;19(1):606.

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Porto-Fett AC, Shoyer BA, Thippareddi H, Luchansky JB. Fate of Escherichia coli O157: H7 in mechanically tenderized beef prime rib following searing, cooking, and holding under commercial conditions. Journal of food protection. 2013 Mar 1;76(3):405-12.


Smith JL. Foodborne infections during pregnancy. Journal of food protection. 1999 Jul 1;62(7):818-29.