Question about cooking hamburger

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Head Chef
Jan 16, 2016
Puget Sound, WA
I haven't had any problem with this so far, but I became curious.

I'm not sure how you all cook your ground hamburger. When I want to get it all cooked for something like, say, taco meat or Hamburger Helper, I usually stick a pound in a pan and use a wooden whatsit to break it apart and turn it as it cooks. Now I don't leave the wooden utensil (looks like a wooden, unbent pancake turner) in with the hamburger to cook. Maybe I should. But instead I usually have it in a spoon holder or just tear off some paper towel to rest it on in between chopping the hamburger apart.

In doing so, there always seems to be a very very small amount of hamburger that sticks to the spoon, the spoon rest, or the paper towel. I always try to make sure all the bits get back in the pot, but I was wondering, what if I miss some? It takes a minuscule amount of ground hamburger to make a person sick if there is e. coli in it. What if I began to cook the hamburger, dropped a raw bit on to the spoon rest, and at the end, that bit was caught up on the spoon without me knowing and found its way back into the pot and wasn't cooked as I was done cooking the hamburger?

Is this something that worries anyone but me? And I may be making hamburger incorrectly too. I was never really taught how to cook. I just sort of winged it on my own.

dr morbius

Senior Cook
May 18, 2023
The Island of Misfit Toys
I don't use a wooden spoon. I have a very old, sturdy plastic spoon with a flat edge that I cannot find a replacement for but won't give up, and I use it to make ground beef, sausage, rice, and a number of other things. But I don't think you should worry about the spoon. I think that if you're worried about contamination, you might want to de-emphasize "getting the small bits back into the pot." I also think it's perfectly fine to leave the spoon's edge against the cooking surface for a moment or two, habitually, before setting the spoon aside. That way, any "bits" will be cooked bits.

Do you not whack the spoon against the side of the pan before setting it aside?

Anyway, I've been browning beef for more than half a century. I've never made anyone sick. I think you perhaps are worrying too much.


Chef Extraordinaire
Moderator Emeritus
Sep 13, 2010
near Montreal, Quebec
I have never worried about that. And, to the best of my knowledge, I have never made anyone ill. I too have been cooking ground beef for well over half a century.


Site Team
Staff member
Feb 16, 2013
Waterdown, Ontario
The small bits that could possibly make it back into the dish would be cooked by the residual heat anyhow. If it was a big enough piece to cause harm you would certainly see it. IMHO

Andy M.

Certified Pretend Chef
Sep 1, 2004
Browning ground beef is usually the first step in a recipe. Subsequently, it's mixed with other ingredients and cooked further. If you stir the cooking mixture with the spatula, there should be no issue. As for the spoon holder, don't use it.
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