Why You Can’t Get a Medium-Rare Burger in North Carolina

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No raw meat for you! That’s the current rule for restaurant patrons in North Carolina. In an effort to make sure everyone knows the proper way to kill all possible bacteria, the state has regulated for over a decade now that restaurants can’t serve beef rare or medium rare. But is Big Brother going to stop watching every grill in town?

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Red meat currently stays plenty brown in North Carolina. The actual regulation dictates all ground beef gets cooked to an internal temperature of 155 degrees Fahrenheit. That means rare, medium rare and possibly even medium are off limits.

While some eaters find flavor in the char on a well-done burger, others crave their meat with the moo still in tact. For those juicy burger lovers, North Carolina has had a food-safety message for you. The state’s Division of Environmental Health watches over the cooking of ground beef—steaks are exempt from the rule—as the threat of contamination from e. coli and other bacteria stay around if the beef doesn’t hit 155 degrees internally.

But patrons and restaurants have been against the watchdog-like stance of the state (of course, home cooking hasn’t been regulated yet). As with all things regulated, the rule even sparked a black market for rare burgers and secret codes for some restaurants willing to skirt the issue—as long as you aren’t a food inspector.

As the state considers dropping the rule next year, instead requiring disclaimers on menus about the potential dangers of raw meat, maybe North Carolinians won’t have to cross state lines just to get a burger cooked the way they want it.

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