Have you ever cut into what you think is a perfectly cooked steak, only to have all the delicious juices spill out onto your plate? Even if they cooked it correctly, not many people realize the importance of resting a steak.
Whether you’re grilling or pan-frying your steak, you must rest your meat before slicing and serving it. The question that stumps many steak enthusiasts is how long to let the steak rest.
This post delves deeper into this question and gives you handy tips on how to rest your steak safely and correctly to get the most flavorful results.
Why Do We Rest Meat?
When you cook any meat, be it beef, chicken, lamb, fish, or pork, the protein fibers constrict and harden as a reaction to the heat, which squeezes the juices toward the cooler center of the meat.
If you were to cut into the meat immediately after cooking, the liquids would pool and flow away from the meat and onto your cutting board or platter. These juices take away all the flavor with them and render your meat dry and tasteless.
Resting allows the meat to cool down and redistribute its juices from the center to throughout the meat cut. The constricted muscle fibers have time to relax, which reduces the pressure on the meat juices, enabling them to move towards the edges.
Another important reason we rest meat is to allow the residual heat to continue cooking the meat to your desired final temperature and doneness. Removing your meat a few degrees before reaching temperature will enable it to finish cooking while resting, giving you perfect results.
Provided that you have cooked your steak correctly, the muscle fibers’ setting and the pooling of the meat’s juices at the steak’s center should only be temporary. After a few minutes of resting, the protein fibers should go back to their former shape, and the meat juices will redistribute from the center of the steak to throughout it.
However, should you overcook a steak, the protein fibers will not revert to their original shape, as the heat will have permanently changed their chemical and physical structure. They won’t regain their original form and thus won’t reabsorb the meat juices as they move through the meat.
Also, to make matters worse, much of the meat juices will have evaporated in an overcooked steak, leaving you with a dry and chewy piece of meat.
How to Rest Steak
It may seem unsafe to let steak rest, especially if you’re worried about unsafe food temperatures. However, during the resting period, the residual heat continues to cook the steak, ensuring that it will still be safe to eat.
To safely and adequately rest steak, the following steps are essential:
- Remove the steak from your pan, grill, or smoker
- Transfer your steak to a wooden cutting board or warm serving platter
- Tent the steak loosely with aluminum foil, leaving a layer of air around it, which will retain some of the heat
- Ensure that you don’t cover the steaks too tightly, or they’ll keep cooking at full temperature, leading to a dry steak
- Remove the aluminum foil after the appointed rest time and discard
- Slice the steak and serve immediately
How Long to Let Steak Rest
Now that we have learned why and how we rest steak, we come to the crux of the matter—how long to let it rest.
The guideline for how long to rest steak is to cool it enough such that the center of the steak reaches safe eating temperatures of 120-130°F and the exterior reaches 125-140°F.
We do not recommend using a meat thermometer to check the steak’s internal temperature as the meat juices will pool and run out of the opening, releasing some of the steak’s flavor and taste. That’s why most chefs and steak enthusiasts only use timing when determining how long to rest steak.
Can Steak Rest Too Long?
Resting steak is essential for retaining flavor and juiciness but be careful not to rest your steak too long. Resting your steak for longer than the recommended times can make it go cold.
Cold steak is not only unpleasant to eat, but it can also be unsafe. So, keep an eye on the resting times to ensure the best results.