One of the most difficult steps when grilling or smoking meat is letting it rest. It's hard because the delicious aromas leave mouths watering and everyone is ready to tear into that delicious, smoky, perfectly-cooked steak. Letting your steak rest is about more than just letting it cool enough to eat. There is actually some science to it and your steak will end up even better if you take the time to let it rest.
The Secret to a Juicy Steak Is Letting It Rest
It's true. You can cook the most delicious and perfect steak of your life, but if you don't let that steak rest, it won't be as juicy, tender, or delicious as it would be if you did. Resting steak isn't a complicated process, but there is a right way to do it to get the best results. Once you know the science behind resting your piece of meat, it's a step you won't skip in the future.
What It Does and Why It's So Important
When you pull your steak from the grill or smoker, it's at the perfect internal temperature to ensure it's perfectly cooked. How do you know? Because you used your Bearded Butcher instant read thermometer that tells you the precise internal temperature to ensure food safety. As tempting as it is to slap that steak on a plate and attack it with a knife, you want to let it rest for a bit. Let's get into the science behind resting meat so you'll understand the benefits.
When a steak is on the grill, the intense heat forces liquid in the meat away from the cooking surface. The result is that the center of the steak becomes supersaturated with liquid. That perfectly cooked steak you pulled off the grill seconds ago is like a spongy water balloon right now. If you cut the steak at this point, juice will run everywhere. That's because the meat can't hold all the juiciness in the steak when the majority of it is concentrated in the center of the meat.
Resting a Steak Is About Cooling the Steak
Resting the steak after it comes off the grill allows the external sides of the meat to cool slightly. The cooling process draws moisture from the center of the steak to the outsides. Once a steak has rested and you cut into it, you get a totally different experience than when you don't rest your steak. Instead of juices running everywhere, the liquid has been forced to the outside, allowing the meat plenty of space to hold onto it. When you bite into that perfectly grilled and rested steak, the juices run in your mouth instead of on your plate.
A Rested Steak Tastes Better
All that juice that runs all over the cutting board when you don't rest a steak is the flavor of your beef escaping. There is no way to get juiciness back into a steak that has already been cut, so you're left with a dry and less flavorful piece of meat. When you rest a steak, the flavor is trapped inside, so it's delicious and juicy, just like you intend when you fire up the grill in the first place. No one is out there trying to grill dry, tasteless steak. But forgetting that meat needs to rest before slicing is an all-to-common mistake people make. You can even save a steak that accidentally gets a little overcooked by just letting it rest.
Guidelines for Resting Steaks
Now that you know why it's important to rest your steak, you may be wondering if there is a right way and a wrong way to rest a steak. Done right, your steak will be better tasting when you rest it, so let's discuss how to rest different types of meat to get perfectly juicy and delicious results.
Many professionals rest a steak according to its weight and size. This is the correct way to do things, since there is no magic amount of time to perfectly rest all cuts of meat. You can rest your steaks one minute for every 100 grams. So for a 14 to 16 ounce steak, you should rest it about 5 minutes and you can let it rest as long as 10 minutes (as long as you keep it in a warm place). The meat will continue to cook once it comes off the heat for several minutes.
You can put the steaks on the kitchen counter, on the stove top, or even in your oven with the temperature set as low as possible. You don't want the steak to continue cooking, but you don't want it getting cold either. It's best not to cover the steaks though. If there are lots of flies or other pests, use a kitchen towel lightly covering the steaks to keep bugs off, but still allowing for heat to escape.
Larger pieces of meat will need to rest longer. For a roast or a massive steak, you'll want to rest it for about 20 minutes or longer. When we smoke a large roast, we often take a few extra steps to rest it. When our roast has a perfect medium rare internal temp, we pull it from the smoker and wrap it in aluminum foil. Then, we wrap it in a kitchen towel and put it in an empty ice chest. You can rest a large roast this way for at least 45 minutes to really enhance how juicy the final product is. We also usually sear our roast after letting it rest in this manner to lock in juices and get a perfect, crispy bark.
Resting Other Pieces of Meat
Resting doesn't just work for beef. You should rest all types of protein that comes off your grill. When you grill chicken breasts, you will want to let them rest for 5-10 minutes before cutting and serving. A whole chicken will need to rest for a longer period of time, often around 20 minutes according to the weight of the bird. Just like beef, the resting time is determined by the size of the cut.
Do You Rest Meat from the Fryer or the Oven?
Just like resting beef or chicken off the grill, you'll learn that resting other meals will improve flavor and juiciness. Fried chicken should rest for about 10 minutes to lock in juiciness. This often happens anyway because fried chicken is usually way to hot to eat right out of the fryer anyway. The same thing holds true for a roast in the oven. After hours of cooking, it's too hot to eat. So don't slice it yet! Let it rest for 20 minutes or longer to lock in the flavor before carving it up.
Don't Cut Too Early
The most important thing to remember about resting meat is that you don't want to cut it until it has sufficiently rested. Cutting it too soon defeats the purpose of resting your meat and lets the juices escape. So the next time you pull a glorious two inch thick ribeye from the grill with a perfect internal temp at medium rare, put it on the cutting board and set it in a warm place for a little while. You might feel the need to stare at it, drooling in anticipation, but giving your steak a few minutes to rest after grilling will enhance your experience. It's the right way to grill tender, juicy, tasty meat every time.