To Rest or Not Rest Meat; That Is The Question
This age-old debate continues to be a contentious topic amongst home cooks, grill masters, and professional chefs everywhere. On the one hand, you have those who profess that resting meat is a necessary step, while others claim that resting is needless and can lead to a tasteless, cold, inferior piece of meat. What individuals deem juicy, tender, and flavorful is unique to each person, so even with science-backed evidence, both sides face scrutiny. Let’s examine whether you should rest your meat.
Why You Should Rest Meat Before Cutting
You may find a recipe calls for letting cooked meat, such as a steak, rest before cutting into it. The argument is that when grilling a piece of meat, the heat forces the juices into the center away from the meat’s surface, requiring a resting phase to allow the meat’s juice to redistribute or reabsorb, creating an overall juicy steak. However, finding the right amount of resting time can be tricky.
After removing a piece of meat from the heat source such as a grill or oven, meat continues to cook (called carry-over cooking), so letting a small cut like a steak sit out for any length can lead to overcooked meat. Other issues that may arise from resting too long include cold meat and tough, waxy fat that has resolidified.
How long should I let meat rest?
Any quick search of the internet and you’ll notice a slew of recommended resting times. Instead of adding to the already confusing numbers, we want to share the suggested times from the USDA. The U.S. Department of Agriculture recommends a quick three-minute rest for a steak grilled to 145°F, while hamburgers don’t require resting at all. What about other cuts of beef, or pork, and chicken? The USDA advises that same three-minute rest as this period destroys harmful bacteria. Although the resting times for larger cuts like chuck roast and rib roast are also three minutes long, resting for another minute or two could stiffen these cuts to make carving easier.
Resting tough cuts of meat
Tough cuts of meat like brisket, ribs, and pork butt require cooking at around 200°F, much higher than a steak or chicken. Such high temps cook the meat well past done. For this reason, restaurants wrap these cuts in foil or plastic wrap then place them in a warming oven to reduce the temperature of the meat to 170 to 180°F and help retain its juiciness. Grilling professionals tend to cover these cuts with foil followed by a towel and keep the meat in an insulated container such as a cambro or cooler for a few hours, not mere minutes; thus, this technique is also referred to as holding.
The answer is…
It depends. If you’re the type of eater that finishes filling up your plate before you cut into your steak, your steak most likely has had ample time to rest. If, however, you can’t resist cutting into said steak immediately after removing it from the heat, enjoy. The choice is ultimately yours. If you find the cut of meat juicy and flavorful, that’s all that matters. To help the meat retain its juices, be sure to cook it to the proper temperature of 145°F (for most cuts) and season it well with salt or Craig’s all-purpose seasoning