Why You Should Let Steak Rest After Cooking
Think back to the best steak you’ve ever had. Aside from the way it was cooked, how it was seasoned, or the piece of meat you chose, there’s one thing that all great steaks have in common: resting time after the meat is cooked.
It’s critical to let your meat rest for a few minutes after cooking and before diving in with a fork and knife to keep the moisture and heat inside.
But why does this trick always result in a perfectly juicy cut when you slice it? There’s science behind the tactic, but not everyone understands how it works.
Below, we’re diving into the benefits of letting your steak rest after cooking and how long your steak needs to rest to create the perfect bite every time.
Why Let Steak Rest?
When you’re cooking steak at a high temperature, you’re heating the muscle fibers and proteins in the meat. Heat moves from the outside of the meat into the center, which is why internal temperature is so important. You want to make sure the inside of your steak reaches a safe temperature to kill off any natural bacteria or microbes that might be in the meat. Cooking also transforms the texture of the meat. The longer the meat is cooked, the more set the proteins become.
This is why we usually poke a piece of meat with our tongs or fingers to gauge how cooked it is. As the fibers set, they will push the meat’s juices toward the center of the cut.
If you were to slice the piece of meat immediately after cooking it, all of the moisture in the center would pour out, and you’d lose a lot of flavor. This is one way to create tough meat, and it also looks pretty unappetizing.
However, when you let it rest after cooking, the temperature will slowly come down, and the juices will have time to redistribute into the meat and become reabsorbed by the fibers.
Here’s how it happens:
- The constricted muscle proteins begin to relax as the temperature cools.
- There is less pressure in the center of the steak, allowing the moisture to redistribute through the piece and become re-absorbed by everything, from the center to the outer edges.
- When it’s time to slice into the meat, you’ll reveal a flavorful and moist steak that will melt in your mouth.
Does Steak Cook While Resting?
You might have heard that a steak continues to cook even after you take it off of the heat. It’s true, thanks to the laws of thermodynamics. It gets a little complicated, and the amount of carryover cooking that happens depends on the size and shape of your steak, as well as how long you cook it. The temperature can rise as much as 13 degrees after you take it off the grill.
That’s why you don’t have to worry about your steak reaching an unsafe food temperature while it rests. As long as you stick to the USDA guidelines for safe cooking temperature, carryover cooking means that the internal temperature won’t go into the danger zone before you can start eating.
How to Rest Steak
To give your steak the proper rest it needs, you’ll need a little bit of equipment and a little bit of patience. For equipment, you just need a clean surface for the steak to sit on.
A lot of cooks prefer to use a warm plate or serving platter. You can also use a cutting board, which is convenient if you plan on slicing the steak before serving. An oven rack also makes a handy resting spot for your meat, since it helps you keep the crusty, seasoned exterior intact.
Here are the steps to follow:
- Take the meat off of the heat burner, out of the oven, or off the grill once done cooking.
- Transfer your meat to a warm plate or cutting board.
- Create a tent with aluminum foil to retain a bit of the heat.
- Let it sit for the appropriate amount of time (see below).
- Remove the foil and slice.
- Promptly serve and enjoy!
How Long Should Steak Rest?
Resting your steak aims to reduce the amount of juices that you lose when cutting into the meat. If you can rest it long enough, your meat will retain these juices, and you'll bite into the tender, tasty, and incredibly juicy steak.
How long you let the meat sit will depend on the size and thickness of your cut of meat. As a general guide, the bigger the steak is, the longer you should wait for it to rest and come to the appropriate internal temperature.
If you're not sure how big your meat is compared to others, a rule of thumb is to let your steak rest for at least five minutes (and absolutely no less than three). However, if you've just cooked a whole steak roast, you should let it sit for at least 10 minutes - 20 minutes, maybe longer.
These guidelines may help:
- Five to seven minutes should be the minimum if you’re in a rush.
- If you know your cut is thick, give it at least 10 minutes.
- You could rest it for 5 minutes for every inch of thickness.
- You could rest it for 10 minutes for every pound.
- You could rest the meat for half as long as it took to cook. If the meat is thicker, you may rest it for the whole time it took to cook.
Do You Cover Steak While Resting?
In general, there’s no need to cover your steak while it’s resting. It’s best to rest your meat in a warm area, but the short time that your meat spends off the heat before you cut into it isn’t long enough to make your steak cold.
In fact, covering steaks right after you take them from the grill or broiler can trap heat a little too well, resulting in overcooked meat. A tent of aluminum foil will retain warmth for a longer resting period, but it’s best to keep it loose.
How Long Can Cooked Meat Sit Out?
Cooking kills the bacteria that occur naturally in food, but bacteria are everywhere, all around us. To keep your food safe, the FDA recommends that all cooked meat be either eaten or refrigerated within 2 hours after coming off the heat.
If your steak is rested, but you’re not ready to eat it yet, you can keep it warm in a low oven for about 15 to 20 minutes without overcooking it. Any longer than that, and you should consider putting it away in the fridge.
Resting Other Meats
Steak isn’t the only meat that benefits from a rest before you cut into it. All meat, from poultry to fish, pork to veal, can benefit from a rest after you cook it. As with steak, the length of time you should rest other meats depends on the size and shape of the cut. The type of meat doesn’t have any impact on how long it should rest.
Chicken also benefits from resting after you take it off the heat, no matter the cooking method. Waiting a few extra minutes is worth it to lock in the moisture and flavor – give it a try with any cut of our pastured chicken.
Cooking the perfect steak is an art that requires a little bit of know-how and technique. If you want to impress your friends, your partner, or even yourself with a great steak sometime soon, be sure to allow for the proper time for the meat to rest before serving.
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