Can You Eat Medium Steak While Pregnant? [Safety Tips]

It’s not unheard of for women to experience cravings for steak while pregnant. The iron-rich meat provides plenty of nutrients for a growing baby and a hungry mama. However, like most meats consumed during pregnancy, steak needs cooking correctly to protect the mother and child from food-borne illness.

Juicy, tender steak is a delicious delicacy to enjoy for dinner. Because of its high iron content and protein, many pregnant women frequently eat steak during their pregnancy. However, not all preparations of steak are safe for women while pregnant. 

In general, pregnant women should avoid eating medium steak. The medium rare (raw) steak pose a risk for listeria, which is a risk to a pregnant woman and her unborn child’s health. Therefore, the safest kind of steak for pregnant women to eat is well-done, or 165 degrees Fahrenheit, which is less likely to allow harmful bacteria to grow in the meat. 

DISCLAIMER: While this information was prepared by a certified dietitian, it is NOT a medical advice. Please consult your own medical professional before altering your diet. The information is strictly for educational purposes.

Understanding Steak Doneness Levels and Temperatures

Beef steak at minimum needs cooking to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit (medium doneness) per the USDA, while lamb requires a minimum temperature of 160 degrees Fahrenheit to achieve a safe, medium doneness.

When pregnant, it’s essential to understand what different levels of steak doneness mean for internal temperature. The USDA recommends that pregnant women only consume meat cooked to at least 145 degrees Fahrenheit (the higher end of medium doneness), though warmer is always better. 

Doneness Level 

 

(Beef Steak)

Center ColorInternal Temperature
Blue RareCompletely Dark Red115-120 degrees Fahrenheit
Rare75% Red125-130 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium Rare50% Red130-140 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium25% Pink140-150 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium Well-Done10% Pink150-156 degrees Fahrenheit
Well-Done0% Pink160-210 degrees Fahrenheit

Note that Lamb Steak has a different doneness scale. According to the USDA, if you plan to eat lamb steak while pregnant, you’ll want to order it at least medium done, or 145 degrees Fahrenheit. 

Doneness Level 

 

(Lamb Steak)

Center ColorInternal Temperature
RareCompletely Red130 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium Rare50% Red145 degrees Fahrenheit
Medium25% Pink160 degrees Fahrenheit
Well-Done0% Pink170 degrees Fahrenheit
 

4 Steak Alternatives For Medium Steak During Pregnancy

1.Well Done Steak

If you really want to eat steak, you can. Just order it well-done at 165 degrees Fahrenheit to avoid any food poisoning.

2.Well Done Pork Chops

Well-done pork chops are an excellent substitute for steak. You can season them the same and both grill or sautee well. Their texture is similar, too. Just note that pork needs cooking to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to be safe to eat during pregnancy.

Medium Rare

3.Turkey Burger (Instead of Steak Burger)

If you find yourself craving steakburgers, give ground turkey a try instead. It’s lower in fat, cheaper, and tastes about the same. It’s best to cook it until it reaches an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for food poisoning prevention.

4.Duck or Goose

Duck and goose are excellent sources of protein. Their breast meat works great as a steak substitute. You’ll have to cook it to 165 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming it.

SubstituteTextureFlavor
Well-Done SteakFirmer than medium-steak, but can be buttery when well-marbled (like ribeye or prime rib cuts.)About the same as medium steak, but usually with a slightly more charbroiled flavor.
Well-Done Pork ChopsTender, juicy at center. Firm at the edges.Milder than steak, but still rich and carries a nice, charbroiled or pan-fried flavor.
Turkey BurgerA little dryer than red meat, but still rich and smooth with a juicy center and crisp crust.Very similar to red meat burgers, but generally a milder flavor.
Duck or GooseTender, slightly fatty.Stronger than chicken, similar to red meat.

Health Risks of Undercooked Steak

When pregnant women consume beef steak cooked under 145 degrees Fahrenheit (which includes blue rare, rare, medium-rare, medium levels of doneness) they expose themselves to dangerous bacteria and parasites that can harm themselves and their babies. Risks include:

Listeriosis 

Pregnant women get warned from the moment they have a positive pregnancy test about listeriosis. Known formally as Listeria monocytogenes, the harmful bacteria can cause serious illness and, in the worst scenarios, death, in mothers and babies. 

Signs of Listeriosis In the Mother

Listeriosis can present with no symptoms in pregnant mothers, which is part of why prevention of listeriosis is key to keeping babies and mothers safe during pregnancy. However, symptoms often occur and include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Muscle Aches
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Confusion
  • Dehydration
  • Death

Effects of Listeriosis On Babies

In extreme cases, listeriosis can cause a miscarriage of the child in earlier trimesters. Other effects include premature labor, low birth rates, and infant death.

Toxoplasma gondii

One lesser-known risk to pregnant women and their babies that can come from undercooked steak is toxoplasma gondii. Toxoplasma is a parasite known to infect fetuses and mothers, but the symptoms vary greatly between the two.

Signs of Toxoplasma gondii In the Mother

Mothers have a 20% chance in the first trimester of passing on toxoplasma parasites to their children. By the third trimester, that increases to a 60% chance of passing on toxoplasma gondii to their unborn children. 

  • Diarrhea
  • Nausea
  • Chills
  • Muscle Aches
  • Fever
  • Headaches

Effects of Toxoplasma gondii On Babies

Toxoplasma parasites are extremely dangerous for newborns and fetuses. The effects range from vision deficiencies to brain damage. Some well-known results of Toxoplasma gondii infection in babies include:

  • Miscarriage
  • Vision troubles
  • Hearing problems
  • Motor skill deficiency
  • Jaundice
  • Anemia
  • Stillbirth
  • Seizures
  • Brain Damage

Food Poisoning

Normal food poisoning often occurs in expectant mothers exposed to e.coli or salmonella bacteria. Typical symptoms include:

  • Dehydration
  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Muscle Aches
  • Mild Fever

When mothers experience food poisoning, they put their unborn children at risk for nutritional deficiency. In extreme cases, food poisoning can cause miscarriage.

Rules For Safe Steak Consumption

To keep yourself and your unborn child safe from foodborne illnesses caused by undercooked steak, follow these rules:

The “No Pink Rule”

OBGYNs and the USDA have mixed feelings about medium-done steaks and pregnancy. In general, the best rule for pregnant women to follow is to consume meat only when it has no visible pink in the center.

The “Steaming Hot” Rule

If you don’t have a meat thermometer on your person, verify that your steak is steaming hot and no portion of it feels cool or lukewarm. If it does, pop it in the microwave for a minute until the center visibly steams.

Internal Temperature Guidelines

Always follow USDA guidelines regarding steak doneness and meat temperatures. Never consume steak cooked to a temperature below 145 degrees Fahrenheit. For extra safety, it’s best to consume steak cooked to 165 degrees Fahrenheit or well-done.

Doneness Rules Apply to Steak Burgers, Too

If you enjoy a good Angus steak burger, you need to abide by the same doness rules the FDA recommends for steak during pregnancy. However, ground steak burger needs cooking to at least 160 degrees Fahrenheit for safety. Any burgers cooked to a temperature less than that are dangerous for mothers to consume.

How To Request Your Steak More Done At A Restaurant

If you just received your steak at the restaurant and it looks a little less done than you requested, don’t eat it to be polite. You have the right to ask that the steak get cooked to a higher temperature for your and your child’s safety. If you’re uncomfortable asking, here’s how to do it:

  1. Let them know you are pregnant. Usually, that gets the staff moving fast to accommodate your needs.
  2. Politely let them know that for safety concerns, you’d like your steak cooked more. 
  3. When the server returns the steak, cut open the steak at its center and verify that there is little to no pink. If it’s still too pink, send it back again.
  4. Always remember that your safety and that of your children are paramount to the feelings of a chef. 

A Note On Eating Steak At Restaurants

Always approach consuming steaks at a restaurant while pregnant with caution. You have no control over cross-contamination, storage, or exposure to ill cooks when you eat out. When in doubt, always ask for your steak to come out piping hot or send it back for reheating. Hot steak is less likely to harbor harmful parasites and bacteria.

Eating Steak At Restaurants while Pregnant

Safety Tips for Cooking Steak At Home While Pregnant

While preparing steak at home, it’s essential you do so with sanitary measures in place to keep yourself and your unborn child safe.

1.Clean Hands

The first step of preventing foodborne illness is cleaning your hands. Wash them thoroughly in hot water with soap for at least twenty seconds.

2.Clean Counters

A lot of foodborne illness comes from bacteria living on kitchen counters. Wipe them down with an antibacterial spray and let the counters dry completely before cooking.

3.Prevent Cross-Contamination

Always keep different types of meat, vegetables, and other foods separate during preparations. Do not cut steak next to vegetables or use the same cutting board for different foods to prevent cross-contamination with bacteria or pathogens.

4.Keep Meat Cold Until Cooking

Always keep raw, uncooked meat in the fridge until you are ready to cook it. Bacteria is less likely to grow in refrigerated meat.

5.No Taste-Testing

Never taste-test cooking steak or raw meat. Don’t even risk tasting a sauce with ground meat. Bacteria might be present until the meat and sauce reach 165 degrees Fahrenheit.

6. Keep Cooked Steak In Temperature Controlled Storage Space

If you cook steak ahead of dinner or intend to save it for leftovers, store it properly. The steak that you plan to eat in the next hour should stay warm; you can use a crockpot or the oven to achieve that. Otherwise, you need to pop the steak in the microwave before eating it. 

If you plan to have the steak for leftovers in a day or so, you need to store it in the fridge. Never leave steak out at room temperature for more than two hours, when it becomes the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and pathogens.

7.Temperature Check Before Eating

Verify that your steak has an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees or medium doneness, but preferably 165 degrees Fahrenheit before consuming it. You’ll see some pink or none at all at the center when it has reached this temperature.

Safety Tips for Reheating Steak At Home

If you have some delicious leftover steak awaiting you, ensure that you reheat it correctly to protect your unborn child. Remember “CCR,” or cover, rotate, and reach internal temperatures.

1.Cover

You’ll want to cover your steak when you place it in the microwave, air fryer, or oven to prevent juices from spraying out and keep the steak moist. Tinfoil is a great solution for the oven or air fryer. Otherwise, use a paper towel or microwave cover in the microwave.

2.Rotate

As you reheat your steak, rotate and flip the meat at least once during cooking for even reheating.

3.Reach A Safe Internal Temperature

After reheating, your steak should come out steaming hot with no pink at its center. The USDA recommends all leftovers reach an internal temperature of 165 degrees Fahrenheit for safe consumption.

Final Reminders 

If you find yourself craving a steak while pregnant. Feel free to indulge. Just make sure to consume steak that is at least medium done, and remember that it is safer to consume well-done steak over medium done.

If you are ever worried about your steak’s doneness level, don’t be afraid to reheat it or ask that the kitchen cook it more; you and your baby’s health is more important!

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