Is Roast Beef Safe When Pregnant? Sandwiches & More

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Written by Gina Wagg BA, Dip.

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Roast Beef is tasty, high in protein and eaten in many different forms. If you want to know how to make roast beef safe when you’re pregnant, you might find this guide helpful.

Is Roast Beef Safe When Pregnant? Like many other types of meat that can be eaten hot or cold, roast beef is only safe for pregnant women if it’s thoroughly cooked (not pink or rare) and served steaming hot, especially from a deli or in sandwiches.

Right now you’re probably wondering if particular types of roast beef are OK, and what should you do if you’re cooking it yourself at home. This is a complete guide to eating roast beef in pregnancy – home-cooking it, ordering it in a deli, or eating it in sandwiches – so you can still enjoy it, with a small number of adaptations.

A Guide to Cooking Hot Roast Beef When You’re Pregnant

I’m British, so it’s part of my own culinary tradition to eat a Sunday roast, which is usually roast beef. During my time in the US, I enjoyed some prime roast beef rib, too. But what kind of cooked roast beef is safe in pregnancy?

Unfortunately, pink, rare or even medium roast beef is unsafe in pregnancy, due to the risk of listeria or toxoplasmosis. If, like me, you enjoy beef cooked this way, you’ll have to make some temporary adaptations until your baby is born, and eat it well-done instead.

Toxoplasmosis is very rare, but pregnant women are advised to avoid any undercooked or rare roast beef, to remove any risk of contracting it (sources: FDA, NHS).

medium rare cooked roast beef

How Can I Tell Roast Beef is Cooked to a Pregnancy-Safe Temperature?

The FDA says that pregnant women should ensure that a joint of meat (like roast beef) reaches a safe internal temperature of 145F / 63C (source: FDA). Food standards agencies in the UK, Canada, Australia, and other countries all advise the same safe temperature range, which is classed as ‘well-done’.

That temperature might sound quite low, but we’re talking about the internal temperature here – which can be surprisingly low, even when the outside of the beef joint looks thoroughly cooked. It means that no pink meat should be visible.

The ONLY reliable way to tell if the inside of a roast beef joint is cooked enough is to use a meat thermometer. I tested a few and you can find out which culinary thermometer is best here. You can use these for other joints, too. They continue to be mega-handy in the kitchen, even after baby is born.

The other option is cutting the joint open periodically and checking for pink, which isn’t a great idea as it loses those delicious cooking juices (and makes it start to look messy if you do it more than once).

Since most roast beef joints aren’t eaten all in one sitting, there are usually leftovers, too. This brings us onto the next stage of eating roast beef when you’re pregnant – what to do with roast beef when it’s cooked and cooled.

roast beef meal in gravy with vegetables

Can Pregnant Women Eat Cold Cuts / Leftover Roast Beef?

Once a roast beef joint has been carved (or left whole), it should be left to cool before wrapping it and storing it in the fridge. Once refrigerated, it should be eaten within 2-3 days.

Cold cuts of roast beef are safe for pregnant women if the beef was cooked to a well-done temperature in the first place, as described above. If you’ve cooked the meat yourself, you can eat the cold, cooked roast beef slices without having to heat them up again.

Again, make sure you eat them within a couple of days of cooking, and store it properly in the fridge.

Note that this isn’t the case if you buy cold carved roast beef from a deli or store, which is covered next.

Can You Eat Roast Beef From a Deli When You’re Pregnant?

Depending on the culinary norms of the country you’re in, roast beef from a deli can be cooked anything from rare (common in the USA) to well done (more common in the UK).

Medium and rare deli roast beef will show some pink in the middle. Unfortunately, this type of rare or medium-rare roast beef deli meat is not safe in pregnancy, and you’ll have to either avoid it altogether or cook it thoroughly until no pink is left when you take it home.

You can do this easily in a microwave – a couple of minutes on high should ensure it’s cooked through, and steaming hot, with no pink. It’s then safe to eat.

Well-done meat will be a uniform brownish grey color, with no pink. If it’s already this color, you’ll still have to heat it until steaming hot before eating, as you would do with any deli meat. This is due to the potential contamination with listeria. I wrote a guide to deli meat in pregnancy, if you think you’ll be eating it regularly.

Besides deli counters, you might come across roast beef that is already sliced or carved, sold in plastic packages (also known as sandwich meat).

In the UK, sliced, well-done beef in packaging is considered safe to eat cold.

In the USA, the current advice is to heat it until steaming hot before eating it. This is the same in Australia, where cold cooked meat is also considered unsafe (source: Australian Food Standards).

Again, this is due to the risk of listeria contamination, covered below.

Why Roast Beef Can Have Listeria (and what to do about it)

Roast Beef cannot be eaten undercooked (rare to medium) in pregnancy, mainly due to the risk of toxoplasmosis, a rare but serious pathogen that can be present in undercooked meat.

Roast beef can also have listeria on its surface, if it’s been improperly stored, or if you’ve bought it from somewhere else, rather than having cooked it yourself. The reason for this is that deli meat is often displayed in an open refrigerator, along with other meats, cheese, salads and so on.

This leaves it susceptible to cross-contamination, including with listeria. Ready-carved or sliced roast beef also has an increased surface area, meaning more bacteria can be present on the surface.

Before you freak out and never buy deli meat again, remember that contamination with listeria (on a level to make you sick) is quite rare.

However, heating roast beef from a deli until it’s steaming hot will kill any surface bacteria present (including listeria) and make it safe to eat in pregnancy. For more on listeria, deli meats and how to cook them, check out my guide to deli meat.

roast beef sandwich with tomato and lettuce

Can Pregnant Women Eat Roast Beef Sandwiches?

If you’re stuck with having to eat roast beef that is only cooked well-done, there’s one savior of the hungry pregnant woman, and that’s a hot roast beef sandwich. Pregnant women can safely eat a roast beef sandwich if the beef is well-done and served steaming hot.

You can add all sorts of other things to your sandwich to make well-done meat more palatable and juicy, if you’re used to eating it rare or medium. Here’s a guide to common sandwiches and their safety in pregnancy:

Deli roast beef sandwiches – if you’re asking a deli to put together a roast beef sandwich for you, make sure the beef is well done, with no pink, and heated until steaming hot. There are other considerations, such as whether the mayo is pasteurized (check out my guide to mayonnaise in pregnancy).

Arby’s Roast Beef Sandwiches – Arby’s are famous for their roast beef sandwiches. Their regular roast beef is processed and formed beef, rather than an actual carved joint, so Arby’s roast beef is safe to eat when pregnant if it’s served fresh, and hot.

Arby’s stipulate that their beef must reach over 140c, which is a safe internal temperature for pregnant women to eat roast beef. Any special orders such as their Angus roast beef (which is from a joint), is only cooked medium-rare, so it isn’t suitable for you if you’re pregnant.

Stick to the ‘regular’ menu roast beef sandwiches at Arby’s and you should be fine.

French Dip Sandwiches – French Dip Sandwiches can still be enjoyed safely by pregnant women if the beef is cooked well-done. French Dips are usually served hot, so make sure this is the case.

The cheese (if you’re using it) should be either hard cheese, or made from pasteurized milk (see my ultimate cheese guide to see if your chosen cheese is listed). Onions are OK in pregnancy, too. Finally, make sure the beef broth dip is also served hot.

Paninis – since these are pressed, hot sandwiches, so long as you make sure they are indeed hot (steaming hot) inside, and that the beef is well done, you can safely eat a roast beef panini if you’re pregnant.

Steak Sandwiches – are essentially hot roast beef sandwiches, or made of hot slices of steak. Again, the same rules apply – make sure the beef is served hot and is cooked well done rather than rare or medium, and it should be safe for you to eat if you’re pregnant.

If you’re having a Philly cheesesteak, check that the cheese is pregnancy safe (I made a list here).

Is Roast Beef Good For Pregnant Women To Eat?

Roast Beef is an excellent source of protein and iron, both of which are essential in pregnancy. It’s also a good source of Vitamin B6 and magnesium. However, it can also be high in saturated fat, sodium and cholesterol, depending on the cut (source: NutritionData).

Therefore, it’s better to choose lean cuts of roast beef when you’re pregnant, and avoid any fattier cuts like brisket. Trim any visible fat, and serve it with veggies and salads, rather than heavier dishes like potatoes, fries or fattier sides.

Well-done roast beef can be quite dry, so experiment with lower-fat sauces (such as vegetable-based ones) to make it more palatable if you’re eating it in pregnancy.

If you’re reading this article because you’re curious about roast beef when it comes from a deli, you’ll probably also be interested in my complete guide to deli meats in pregnancy, which covers lots more similar options.

If you’re interested in other pregnancy-safe sandwich fillings besides roast beef, I also made a huge list of pregnancy-safe sandwich fillings too.