Have you ever cut into a steak and had juices fill your plate? If your answer is yes, you’ve experienced first-hand why it’s important to rest steak.
Letting meat rest is one of the biggest secrets to having a juicy steak. It doesn’t matter if you’re grilling an inexpensive cut or premium steak, for the best results you need to have a few minutes of patience before eating.
Why does steak need to rest?
Meat is a muscle and it has two main parts – protein and water.
When meat is raw, it’s about 70-75% water. If you’ve ever cut into raw meat before, you know that you barely lose any liquid.
When steak is cooked, the muscle fibers contract because of the increased temperature. Then, the water is squeezed out of the fibers and the liquid moves towards the center of the steak.
If you cut meat before it rests, the juice goes directly on your plate because it hasn’t had a chance to be reabsorbed by the meat yet.
However, if you give the steak a chance to rest a little after moving it from the heat, the fibers relax and widen. This makes it possible for the moisture to be reabsorbed and redistributed throughout the meat.
Since many people judge a steak’s tenderness by its juiciness (moisture), you need to let your steak rest if you want to impress those gathered around to eat.
As a side note, the process of fibers widening and then relaxing also explains why you can judge if a steak is done by touching it with your finger or with tongs — the firmer the meat, the more done it is.
How long should steak rest?
There are lots of guidelines and studies about how long should steak rest.
We know how to raise good beef, but we’re not chefs or food scientists, so we listen to the experts.
As a very basic guideline, you should always let thicker and larger meat rest longer than thinner cuts.
Here are three of the most common guidelines we found from chefs on how long should steak rest:
- Let the meat rest for five minutes for every inch of thickness
- Let the meat rest for as long as you cooked the meat
- Let the meat rest for 10 minutes for each pound of meat
We decided to test this in our own kitchen so we grilled two strip steaks that were as identical as possible. We put them on the grill at the exact same time and cooked them for the exact same length of time. The only thing we did differently was cut into them at different times.
The chefs were right. When we let the steak rest, we had a much juicer steak because the juices didn’t escape to our plate.
The pictures below tell the story the best.
How to let steak rest – but not too much?
Resting steak is important, but don’t go overboard. You don’t want your steak to get cold. Steak juice on a plate is a million times better than a cold steak, so don’t let your steak rest too long.
At our house, we usually rest our steaks by placing them on a cutting board after taking them off the grill. Then, we tent the meat loosely with foil to keep it warm. Don’t cover the steaks tightly or they will keep cooking, which could lead to a dry steak.
Does meat stop cooking as soon as I take it off the grill?
No. Meat will continue to cook for a few minutes after you take it off the grill or stove. This process is called carryover cooking, and it applies to all cooked foods, not just meat.
A large piece of meat will absorb more heat and have a longer carryover cooking time than a small piece of meat. This means it’s a good idea to remove your meat slightly before your desired internal temperature. The only way to know the exact temperature of your steak is with a good digital meat thermometer.
More tips & tricks for cooking beef:
Here are some other posts you may like:
- Dry rub or marinade for steak? Know what’s best
- Perfect Dry Rub for Roast
- 6 Essential Kitchen Tools for Cooking Beef
- An Essential Guide to Beef ebook