Can beef fajitas be pink? (How to know if beef is properly cooked )

In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “can beef fajitas be pink,” and discuss whether the pink color of beef fajitas indicates undercooking, and how to cook beef fajitas so it is not pink.

Can beef fajitas be pink?

Yes, beef fajitas can be pink. Beef fajitas make use of muscles such as the inside or outside skirt steak, or the flank steak, which are then combined with marinades or seasonings. (1)

While the surface of the meat can potentially harbor harmful bacteria like Salmonella and pathogenic E. coli during slaughtering and handling, the interior of a whole beef steak generally remains bacteria-free.

Applying high heat to sear the steak’s exterior effectively eradicates the bacteria present, ensuring it’s safe for consumption. Additionally, marination further enhances safety by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, particularly harmful pathogens. Therefore, beef fajitas can be safely enjoyed with a pink, medium-rare center. (2, 3)

Does the pink color of beef fajitas indicate undercooking?

Yes, The pink hue in beef signifies that it has reached a medium level of doneness. As the beef’s internal temperature increases, its muscle gradually transitions from being translucent to opaque, resulting in a shift from a red color to pink and eventually to brown. Concurrently, the color of the beef’s juices evolves from pink to a pale amber shade.

These changes in the color of protein pigments, namely hemoglobin and myoglobin, serve as prominent indicators of the beef’s doneness level. Consumers use these observed color shifts to assess the degree of doneness in beef, which spans from ‘very rare’ to ‘well-done.’

This Color Guide includes specific temperatures: ’55°C – very rare,’ ’60°C – rare,’ ’63°C – medium rare,’ ’71°C – medium,’ ’77°C – well done,’ and ’82°C – very well done. (4)

How do you know when beef fajita is properly cooked?

It is possible to know when beef fajita is properly cooked by monitoring temperature. The native red myoglobin undergoes denaturation within a temperature range of 65±80°C, with approximately 70% of it remaining intact at 73°C.

Interestingly, the red color in cooked meat tends to diminish at lower temperatures because the myoglobin is obscured by the aggregation or co-precipitation of other proteins found in muscle tissue. Conversely, as the meat’s internal temperature increases, the brown color becomes more pronounced.

The process of protein denaturation appears to be mostly completed when samples are heated to 80°C. It’s important to note that noticeable changes in visible color occur between 55°C and 65°C, between 65°C and 75°C, and between 75°C and 80°C. Significant color shifts in beef steaks are primarily observed at temperatures exceeding 75°C, corresponding to the denaturation of proteins. (5)

What are the benefits of marinating beef?

Marinating raw meat primarily serves to enhance flavor profiles, improve the tenderness of cooked meat, and can also influence color and overall acceptability, either positively or negatively. Tenderization is a crucial aspect of marination, especially for cuts of meat rich in connective tissue.

Additionally, marinating contributes to safety by inhibiting the growth of bacteria, especially harmful pathogens. The practice of using marinade solutions to enhance the sensory appeal of meat products is a well-established technique in various regions and it is commonly used in beef fajitas. (3)

Can marinades get contaminated?

While it’s true that marinades can become contaminated, certain marinades are known for their antibacterial properties, often because of their low pH levels or the inclusion of herbs and spices. However, ensuring the safety of marinated products remains a top priority.

Several factors contribute to this concern, including the risk of contamination from raw meat or other ingredients, the meat’s ability to neutralize acidic marinades due to its buffering capacity, and the potential for cross-contamination during processing and storage. (6)

What are the potential risks of eating undercooked beef?

The primary issue related to the consumption of undercooked beef is the potential for foodborne illness. Numerous bacteria commonly found in the gastrointestinal tracts of farm animals, including Salmonella, Campylobacter, and Escherichia coli O157:H7, are well-known for this risk.

Consuming raw or undercooked meat, whether intentionally or unknowingly, can have serious health consequences. Historical cases have recorded outbreaks of salmonellosis in humans connected to the ingestion of raw or undercooked beef. (7)

Furthermore, eating meat that is not fully cooked increases the risk of encountering antimicrobial-resistant (AMR) microorganisms. Even if these AMR microorganisms do not lead to immediate symptoms, they possess the capacity to transfer their antimicrobial resistance genes to other bacteria within the human body. This transfer could potentially undermine the effectiveness of antibiotics when they are required in the future. (2)

What are the symptoms of eating contaminated beef?

Consuming beef tainted with contaminants can lead to illness, characterized by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, and diarrhea. These reactions arise from the consumption of food that has been compromised, either by chemical substances or by microorganisms and the toxins they generate. (8)


In this brief guide, we have addressed the question, “Can beef fajitas be pink,” and discussed other questions related to the subject, such as does the pink color of beef fajitas indicates undercooking, and how to cook beef fajitas so is not pink.

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OSORNIO, MM López et al. Beef’s optimum internal cooking temperature as seen by consumers from different countries using survival analysis statistics. Food Quality and Preference, v. 19, n. 1, p. 12-20, 2008.


BREWER, M. Susan; NOVAKOFSKI, Jan. Cooking rate, pH and final endpoint temperature effects on color and cook loss of a lean ground beef model system. Meat science, v. 52, n. 4, p. 443-451, 1999.


Hennekinne, J.-A., Herbin, S., Firmesse, O., & Auvray, F. European Food Poisoning Outbreaks Involving Meat and Meat-based Products. Procedia Food Science, 5, 93–96. 2015.