How Long to Leave Steak Out Before Cooking?

Many people say that cooking the steak straight from the fridge on a hot pan or grill is a big mistake. A popular tip is to leave it at room temperature for 15 to 60 minutes before cooking. This is supposed to help the steak cook more evenly. But is that true? I decided to find out.

I cooked a 1.75-inch-thick strip steak in a cast iron skillet for the first four tests, ensuring each reached the same internal temperature under identical conditions. A key detail: I flipped the steak just once while cooking. Then, I removed it from the pan at an internal temperature of 110°F (or 115°F if it was straight from the fridge) and let it rest until it reached around 135°F due to carryover cooking.

Here’s a rundown of the tests I ran and what I found out. The results are surprising, so make sure to read the full article.

Test 1: Steak Cooked Without Letting It Sit Out Before Cooking

I started by cooking a steak straight from the fridge, and I’ll use this as a reference for my other tests. I cooked it to medium-rare, but when I sliced it open, it was clear that it hadn’t cooked evenly. The middle was much less done than the edges. Also, there was a noticeable thick gray band around the steak.

1.75-inch thick strip steak, cooked to a perfect medium-rare (134°F), straight from the fridge

Test 2: Steak Cooked After Resting at Room Temperature for 15 Minutes

The steak was cooked just like last time, under the same conditions and to the same level of doneness. However, it was left to rest at room temperature for 15 minutes before cooking. After slicing, you can see the improvement. It’s much more evenly cooked compared to when it’s cooked straight from the fridge. The gray band around the edge is much less noticeable, and the center looks just like the rest of the steak.

1.75-inch thick strip cooked to medium-rare (137°F) after resting 15 min at room temperature

Test 3: Steak Cooked After Resting at Room Temperature for 30 Minutes

In test three, the steak was rested for 30 minutes at room temperature before being cooked under the same conditions as the previous tests. After cutting into it, the results were obvious: the steak was much more evenly cooked, with a noticeably smaller gray band and a more consistent center throughout.

1.75-inch thick strip cooked to medium-rare (135°F) after resting 30 min at room temperature

Test 4: Steak Cooked After Resting at Room Temperature for 60 Minutes

1.75-inch thick strip, cooked to rare (129°F), after resting for 60 minutes at room temperature.

Initial Summary of The First Four Tests:

From the first four tests, it’s clear that cooking a steak right out of the fridge isn’t the best idea. It’s much better to let it sit out for at least 15 minutes or even half an hour if you have the time. After letting it rest for 30 minutes, the steak cooks up nicer than one straight from the fridge.

However, I want to point out a small but very important detail. In the first four tests, I flipped each steak only once, halfway through cooking, since that’s what many recommend. But based on my experience, steaks turn out better when you flip them more often. They cook more evenly and faster, and it’s easier to see how done they are by watching the crust change. So, I tried a different approach in another test, which you can check out below.

One More Test, But With a Little Twist

This time, I tried cooking one steak straight from the fridge and another after letting it rest for 30 minutes. But I flipped them every 30 seconds to cook them more evenly. The results? Both steaks had a thin gray band, which was good, but you could still see some differences in the centers. The steak I cooked straight from the fridge ended up more unevenly cooked than the one that had rested at room temperature before cooking.

Strip steak, cooked to a perfect medium-rare (135°F), flipped every 30 seconds, straight from the fridge.
Strip steak cooked to a medium-rare (135°F), rested for 30 minutes at room temperature, flipped every 30 seconds.

Here’s another interesting example: the eye of round steak, cooked in a skillet to perfect medium-rare (134°F) with flipping every 30 seconds. The 1-inch-thick steak rested for about 30 minutes before cooking. Look how minimal the gray band is and how evenly the steak was cooked in the center.

Overall Summary and Conclusion

The main takeaway from my tests is that steak cooked straight from the fridge always ends up more unevenly cooked than a steak that rested for 15-30 minutes before cooking, no matter how often it’s flipped. 

So, for the best results, let the steak rest at room temperature for about 30 minutes before you cook it. Yes, even 15 minutes can make a difference, especially for cuts around 1 inch thick. But for thicker steaks, about 1.5 to 2 inches, sticking to 30 minutes is ideal. Letting it rest any longer than 30 minutes doesn’t do much extra for the steak.

As for flipping, flipping a steak every 30 seconds instead of once really makes a difference. I noticed a clear difference when I compared two steaks that rested for 30 minutes—one flipped frequently and the other just once. The steak flipped more often had a smaller, more even gray band and a more evenly cooked center.

For the best flavor, season the steak with salt and let it rest for at least 45-60 minutes, or even better, overnight in the fridge. Before you cook it, let the steak come to room temperature for about 30 minutes. Salt brings moisture to the steak’s surface, especially in the first 30 minutes after it’s applied. That’s why it’s best to wait at least 45 minutes before cooking. During that time, the water on the steak’s surface will start to be slowly reabsorbed by the meat. Meanwhile, the steak can stay in the fridge.

Note: This article’s conclusions don’t apply to sous vide or reverse searing methods for cooking steak. These techniques cook the steak slowly at low temperatures, which usually means there’s little temperature increase from carryover cooking. This article focuses on quicker, high-temperature methods, such as grilling or pan searing for cooking steaks between 1 and 2 inches thick.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over five years and knows a lot about them, including the different types of steak cuts, how long to cook them, and the best ways to cook any steak.

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