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Letting Steak Rest – What It Does and Why It’s So Important

So you’ve seared the perfect medium rare beef steak and popped open a bottle of red wine to go with it.  Your plate is ready to go, and your stomach is ready to partake in the gloriousness that just came off of your grill.

But did you know that there’s one extra step you should take before serving your steak?

A steak needs to rest at room temperature after it’s cooked in order to maximize it’s full potential.  Letting steak rest serves a number of practical purposes, and ensures that you get the most out of your cut of beef and hard work.

In this article, we’ll go over everything you need to know about letting steak rest, why it’s so important, and how long you should let steak rest.  By the end you’ll have a little bit of insight into how this little step can elevate your home cooked steaks.

What Happens During the Cooking Process?

To understand fully why letting steak rest is necessary, it’s important to take a step back and understand what’s actually going on inside of your beef while it cooks.  Letting steak “rest” almost makes you think that the steak is tired, or something.  But that’s not the science behind why letting steak rest is important.

As meat cooks, all of the muscle fibers firm up and contract, which in turn pushes all of the moisture and juices towards the middle of the steak.

You might notice that if you cut into a steak shortly after cooking, juices will spill out all over your plate.  While the juices themselves can be tasty, the problem is that they are no longer in your steak.

Why Let a Steak Rest?

There are two main reasons why you should let a steak rest each time you cook one.

First, letting steak rest allows for juices and moisture to redistribute throughout your beef.  The muscle fibers that firm up during cooking relax.  This makes all of the moisture which contracts to the center of your meat while it cooks will flow back, moisturizing the fibers and cells all throughout your steak.  When you cut into a rested steak, there won’t be an overflow of juices spilling out on your plate – the moisture will be in the beef.

The second reason why letting steak rest is important is because meats actually continue to cook a little bit after they are taken away from heat.  So if you pull off your steak once it reaches an internal temperature of 128°F measured by your probe thermometer, it will actually finish up at around 131-132°F after a few minutes of resting at room temperature.

A few degrees might not sound like a big deal, but it can make a difference in how your steak eats.  I’m always in pursuit of grilling the perfect steak, so I like to calculate exactly what temperature my beef is going to serve at.

How Long to Let a Steak Rest?

As a general rule of thumb, you should let your steak rest for about 8 to 10 minutes per pound of beef.  For most of the steaks that I grill at home, this often turns out to be a rest time of 5 to 7 minutes.  If you’re cooking something larger like a prime rib roast, you can plan on allowing your meat to rest for 20 or maybe even 30 minutes before slicing and serving.

Tips for Letting Your Steak Rest

If you want to help keep your meat warm and cook a little bit extra while it rests, you can place a sheet of aluminum foil over the top.  This will help save a little bit of extra moisture and help keep the temperature of your meat up slightly.

Letting your steak rest becomes really easy if you plan ahead too!  Waiting on your steak to rest can feel like it takes forever if you just stare at your beef.  Use up that 5 to 10 minutes to whip up a side sauce, or sauté some veggies to go on the side with your main meal.

What About Other Meats?

The “let it rest” principle doesn’t apply only to steak, or beef for that matter.  The science behind muscle fibers and cells transferring moisture to the center of the meat during cooking applies to just about every type of meat.

Basically, any time you cook meat with a high heat method (grilling, baking, roasting, or braising), you should plan on letting your beef, poultry, pork, lamb, and game meats rest.

When to Not Let It Rest

The lower the cooking temperature, the less resting time required for your food.  So if you’re smoking or low and slow baking, your meat will come out of the cooker more or less ready to serve.  Of course, you should still allow them to cool to a safe eating temperature so that nobody’s mouth gets burned!

Final Thoughts

I hope this guide has helped shed some light on the importance of letting steak rest after you cook it!  This subtle step can make a world of a difference, and take your steak from good to great or great to world class.

Have any questions for us about the resting process?  Get in touch with us in the comments section below.