Thought Leadership

How would you like it done?

By Colin Walls

I like food and enjoy cooking. In fact, I often describe myself as “Cordon Bleu trained”. I actually did about 12 evening classes in Cordon Bleu cookery about 30 years ago, but hey… I appreciate that cooking, like my other hobby, photography, is predominantly an art, but it also has a scientific side. As I always like to understand how things work and why procedures are performed in a particular way, I do approach cookery from that perspective.

That is OK until I find people in restaurants, who do not view matters in the same fashion …

When you order food in the US, it is never simple. You can decide what you want, tell the waitress and brace yourself for a barrage of questions. Do you want soup or salad? What kind of bread do you want (from a list of about 10 options)? What sauces? It just seems to go on for ever and out-guessing the server is a losing game.

However, there’s one situation when a question is appropriate: when you order a steak. I like mine medium rare (just in case you want to treat me to dinner sometime), but all of the options are right for someone. They are also all perfectly good and healthy ways to cook meat, so long as it is in good condition.

However, there is a very annoying trend: you get asked the same question when you order a burger. That is just plain WRONG. If you are asked this, you should reply “cooked please”. To explain why I feel so strongly, I need to talk a little about the science of cooking meat.

Most people think that we cook meat to make it taste nice. However, that is a side effect. The main reason to cook meat is to make it safe to eat. A properly handled piece of meat is going to be quite free of harmful bugs. At least, the inside of the meat is reasonably sterile. The outside can easily become contaminated with bugs from the environment. So, such a piece of meat can be rendered quite safe by just heating the outside to kill the bugs. Hence a rare steak is not raw, it is just cooked (enough) on the outside.

But a burger is not a steak. To make one, you take a chunk of meat and grind it up into small pieces, before reforming it into the patty shape. In the process, the outside (contaminated) surface is mixed up with the (sterile) interior parts. Hence, to render a burger safe to eat, it must be cooked through properly – no pink bits and no blood. Burn the outside if you want, but make sure it’s cooked through.

So, there you have it. If you are asked this dumb question when you order a burger, please refer the server to my blog.

BTW, please do not ask about steak tartare …

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This article first appeared on the Siemens Digital Industries Software blog at