"Let The Meat Rest": What It Means + Why You Should Do It

Even your food needs a break.

IMAGE Dorling Kinderseley

Imagine this: You decide to prepare some steaks for dinner to celebrate a special occasion. Excited, you quickly slice off a piece of freshly grilled steak and discover that your lovingly cooked steak has become tough, dry, and hard to chew. This could happen, not just to your steaks, but any meat you sliced immediately after cooking it.

What did you do wrong?

The Easy Solution: Resting Your Meat

It's a battle of wills when it comes to steak, but hold your horses and set aside your knives. When meat is cooked, it contracts and draws its juices away from its surface. If you immediately slice into it, the juices will instead seep out onto your plate as it cools-and that means you lose out on a lot of flavor and juiciness.

Keep in mind, that even after you take the meat off the heat, residual heat is still cooking it. You have to let the meat finish cooking by simply keeping your hands off the meat! If you're a little worried about it getting cold, you can place it in a warm oven, or make a tent foil over your meat for the first five minutes it comes off the heat.

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The perfectly cooked steak has an outer layer of cooked meat and a pink center that's even all around, like this ribeye.
Photo by courtesy of Sage Bespoke Grill

What happens to meat while it rests?

By letting the meat rest after cooking, you allow the residual heat and the internal temperature of the meat to even out, allowing the juices inside to redistribute and be gradually reabsorbed throughout the meat, making it tastier.

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If you have a thermometer on hand, a small piece of medium-rare steak should have an internal temperature of about 120 degrees F (around 48 degrees C). The amount of resting time for a particular cut of meat or cooking technique will vary. A resting period of 8 to 10 minutes on a warm plate will do the trick.

How long should you let your meat rest?

You don't want to eat your meal cold, after all! First off, after resting, your meat shouldn't have gotten too cold, anyway. It is smaller cuts of meats, with more surface exposed to air, that cools fast. Second, most chefs allot one minute of rest time per 100 grams of meat. That's about 5-10 minutes for your average serving, and 10-20 minutes for big roasts.

So, the next time an over-excited, famished friend or family member demands a slice pronto, be sure to tell them that good things come to those who wait. Then, reward them for their patience with a fantastic steak that stays tender and juicy, even after slicing.

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Article was published in the March 2013 issue of Yummy magazine. Edits were made by Yummy.ph editors.

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