In this brief guide, we will answer the question, “Can you eat medium-rare lamb?”. We will also elaborate on some ways to properly cook lamb and some reasons to avoid eating lamb.
Can you eat medium-rare lamb?
Yes, you can eat medium-rare lamb, until or unless it is a shank (a braised form of a medium-rare lamb). Lamb is safe to have medium-rare and rare. Lamb is mostly cooked rare.
The chances of getting infected are low as bacteria are mostly found on the surface instead of the interior, and the process of cooking assures that these microorganisms are killed before consumption. Lamb is also considered safe when it is cooked at 140℉.
However, studies show that consuming undercooked lamb has the potential to result in toxoplasmosis (1).
Lamb or beef chunks of meat can be eaten when they give a pink color from the inside or “rare” when they are cooked from the outside. This pink color from the inside is due to being slightly cooked. Bacteria are mostly on the outside of meat which is cooked and mostly this happens in steaks.
Does lamb still give pink color when it is cooked?
The cooking process for fresh, uncured meat denatures myoglobin resulting in a dull-brown appearance in the interior of the product. Nonetheless, the interior color can vary based on the degree of doneness achieved. Because consumers associate the change in color of meat from red (raw) to brown (cooked) as a function of thermal treatment, they frequently use the internal cooked color of meat products as an indicator of doneness and safety at the point-of-consumption. However, the internal color of the meat is influenced by a multitude of endogenous (i.e., pH,muscle source, species, redox state) and exogenous (i.e., packaging, ingredients, storage) factors and does not always indicate the doneness of the meat (2).
Lamb which is pink from the inside or middle is considered safe to eat just like the beef which also gives pink color from the middle even when it is cooked. You should cook the lamb in the same way which you like to eat. The chunks of lamb stay tender if these are not overcooked.
Can you eat undercooked lamb?
The chunk of lamb which is rare, pink, or slightly cooked from inside but cooked finely from the outside is not considered safe to eat because the bacteria which are present outside are killed by heat which is then termed not good to consume for humans.
The rare or undercooked burger consists of harmful bacterial agents inside that can lead to food poisoning. This food poisoning can be in different ways such as vomiting, diarrhea, and stomach aches.
Consuming undercooked lamb has the potential to result in toxoplasmosis, an infectious disease caused by the protozoan parasite, Toxoplasma gondii. The most common presentation of toxoplasmosis is eye infection and inflammation, which is based in the retina and termed ‘ocular toxoplasmosis. Cat species act as primary hosts for T.gondii. Humans are secondary hosts of the parasite, and become infected by two main routes: ingestion of material – often water – contaminated with cat feces containing sporozoites in oocysts; and consumption of raw or undercooked meat harboring bradyzoites in tissue cysts (1).
Is it fine to eat a medium-rare burger?
Ground beef should be cooked well so that no pink color inside the beef chunk is visible. That is the right way to eat a medium-rare burger.
What is the best temperature for lamb?
The safe internal temperature for cooking the lamb is 145℉ (3). Rare-cooked temperature is 115 to 120℉, the medium-rare is 120 to 125 degrees Fahrenheit, the medium temperature is 130 to 135℉, medium-well is termed as 140 to 145℉, and the well-cooked temperature is 150 to 155℉.
What temperature is medium-rare for a rack of lamb?
The method of cooking the rack of lamb is firstly roast it for 15 minutes, then use a foil to cover the lamb loosely and continue to roast the lamb until the thermometer which after insertion into the center of meat in a diagonal manner provides 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
At 120℉ temperature from inside, cook it for more than 5 to 10 minutes and let the temperature exceed 120℉ up to 125 degrees to 130℉ for medium-rare. Each rack of lamb could be cut into four double chops.
The United States Dept. of Agriculture (USDA) recommends consumers use a food thermometer to ensure the internal temperature of steaks, roasts (including lamb), and fish reaches 62.8°C, pork and ground beef attains 71.1°C, and chicken breasts and whole chicken reaches 76.7°C and 82°C, respectively (3).
What about pink lamb?
It all depends upon the factor of how the meat of lamb or mutton is cooked or prepared.
A rare or pink lamb chop that has been cooked from outside ensures that it is well cooked from outside, all bacteria are killed by heat.
But it is recommended not to serve the mutton or diced lamb in pink. It should be cooked thoroughly so that it turns brown.
Bacterial contamination of whole pieces of red meat such as steaks or chops is restricted to the external surfaces, and so long as these are heat seared, the internal tissue can be eaten “rare” with safety. Raw minced meat products, or whole cuts of meat that have been injected or rolled, may have surface organisms spread throughout the product. Internal tissues of livers have also been shown to be contaminated with pathogenic bacteria (3).
The same goes for burger cooking. Any bacteria on the outer side of meat can spread through the burger inside the body that can lead to food poisoning and stomach issues.
Some safe practices for lamb meat
The USDA provides information for safe preparation, storage and cooking of lamb meat.
Avoid storing lamb meat on the kitchen top: Store lamb meat as quickly as you can in the fridge, at 40°F or below. This will prevent bacteria from reproducing really quick and spreading all around on the meat which doubles the risk of getting infected. Use ground lamb or stew meat within 1 to 2 days; lamb chops, roasts, and steaks within 3 to 5 days or freeze at 0 °F or below. If kept frozen continuously, it will be safe indefinitely.
Avoid storing lamb meat at the topmost rack in the fridge: Juice may drip out from the meat bowl and contaminate other things in the fridge. When storing lamb meat, use a sealed box and put it on the bottom rack.
Avoid cross-contamination: Thoroughly clean any cutlery that has come in contact with raw lamb meat to limit cross-contamination.
Do not allow the lamb meat to sit on the kitchen top for over two hours: Bacteria can multiply quickly at room temperature and within this period and make the meat risky to consume.
Do not thaw on the kitchen top: Do not thaw lamb meat on the kitchen top for the aforementioned reason. There are three safe ways to thaw lamb: in the refrigerator, in cold water, and in the microwave. It’s best to plan ahead for slow, safe thawing in the refrigerator. Ground lamb, stew meat, and steaks may defrost within a day. Bone-in parts and whole roasts may take 2 days or longer.
Meats that should not be served rare or undercooked
- Offal, including liver
- Rolled joints of meat
Other FAQs about Lamb that you may be interested in.
In this brief guide, we have provided an answer to the question, “Can you eat medium-rare lamb?”. We have also elaborated on various ways to properly cook lamb as well as some reasons to avoid eating lamb.
- Dawson, Abby C., et al. Lamb as a potential source of Toxoplasma gondii infection for Australians. Austral New Zeal J Public Health, 2020, 44, 49-52.
- Suman, Surendranath P., et al. Factors influencing internal color of cooked meats. Meat Sci, 2016, 120, 133-144.
- King, Nicola J., and Rosemary Whyte. Does it look cooked? A review of factors that influence cooked meat color. J food sci, 2006, 71, R31-R40.