How Long to Let Steak Rest & Why

Whether you’re grilling steaks or smoking brisket, you must rest your meat before digging in. This is true for chicken, lamb, pork, game meats, and even some fish. With the concern for time-temperature abuse, you're probably wondering how long your meat can sit out before it becomes an issue. We explain exactly how long meat needs to rest and why it’s so important.

How Long to Let Meat Rest

As a general rule, rest thinner cuts of meat for a minimum of 5-7 minutes. Thick cuts should rest for 10-20 minutes before you cut into them.

How Long to Rest Steak

Cutting Steak after resting

The goal with steak is to cool it to where the center is between 120-130 degrees Fahrenheit and the exterior is between 125-140 degrees Fahrenheit. However, if you use a probe thermometer to check the internal temperature, the juices will be expelled out of the puncture opening and the steak will lose some of its juices. To avoid this, most chefs determine how long they need to rest their meat by following the timing methods listed below:

  • Rest the meat for 5 minutes per inch of thickness.
  • Rest the meat for 10 minutes per lb..
  • Rest the meat for 1 minute per every 100 grams.
  • Rest the meat for half the time it took to cook it if it's thin.
  • Rest the meat for the whole time it took to cook it if it's thick.

How to Rest Steak

Follow the steps below to properly rest a steak, roast, or any type of meat:

  1. Remove the meat from the oven or off the burner.
  2. Transfer the meat to a cutting board, warm plate, or serving platter.
  3. Trap heat by tenting the pan with aluminum foil.
  4. Remove the foil after the appropriate rest time.
  5. Cut and serve.

Why Do You Let Meat Rest?

Internal juices constrict during the cooking process, and resting meat allows its juices to reabsorb and redistribute. Cutting it too soon will cause its juice to pool out and yield a dry cut of meat. We break down what happens to muscle fibers when they're heated so you can understand this phenomenon:

What Happens to Meat When You Cook It?

  • When the steak is heated, the muscle fibers constrict.
  • This constriction pushes the juices in those fibers away from the heat source and towards the center of the meat.
  • Since all of the moisture is concentrated in the center of the meat, it will pour out of the meat as soon as it is cut, making it look unappealing and bloody while taking the moisture and flavor with it.
  • The steak ends up dry and flavorless.

What Happens When You Let Meat Rest?

  • As the meat rests, the constricted muscle fibers begin to relax.
  • The pressure on the juices is slowly released and the juices are able to redistribute towards the edges of the meat.
  • By letting the meat rest, you achieve an evenly moist and flavorful steak.

Resting Meat FAQs

Resting Steak in foil

As chefs start resting their meat, they may have some additional questions about how to achieve the best results. To help you engineer the perfect steak, we answer the most frequently asked questions about resting meat below.

How Long Can Cooked Meat Sit Out?

As a loose guideline, cooked meat must only sit out for two or fewer hours. According to the USDA, food items between 40-140 degrees Fahrenheit are in the Temperature Danger Zone. Bacteria grow in this temperature range. To prevent food poisoning, don't leave food out for extended periods.

What Is Carryover Cooking?

Carryover cooking means your food is still cooking after it's removed from the heating element. Why does carryover cooking occur? During the resting period, the outer layers of your meat cool while the temperature at the center continues to rise. The latent heat traveling through the meat induces carryover cooking. The meat achieves its final resting temperature when its outer and inner temperatures meet.

How Much Does Meat Temperature Rise When Resting?

The density of your meat determines how much its temperature rises when resting. Some factors to consider are hot cooking environments like grills induce more carryover, and small cuts of meat such as steaks are less prone to carryover cooking. With that in mind, we provide guidelines for carryover cooking large and small cuts of meat below:

  • Small Meat Cuts Temperature Rise - Smaller meats like hamburgers, chicken breasts, and steak will continue to rise between 3-6 degrees Fahrenheit when resting.
  • Large Meat Cuts Temperature Rise - Larger roasts such as pork tenderloin and turkey can rise between 10-15 degrees Fahrenheit when resting.

When to Remove Steak from Grill

Factor carryover cooking into your total cooking time and remove your steak from the grill when it’s between 3- 5-degrees Fahrenheit under its ideal doneness temperature. For example, if you want to serve a thick picanha steak medium-rare (130 degrees Fahrenheit), remove it when it reaches 126 degrees Fahrenheit.

Should You Wrap Steak in Foil?

Wrapping steak in aluminum foil after grilling keeps the meat warm during the resting period. When it's 3-5 degrees under its ideal doneness temperature, remove your steak from the grill and tent aluminum foil around it.

Avoid a common grilling mistake and give your steak, ribs, or chicken the time they need to rest before serving. Your guests and customers will be impressed by the flavorful results!

Posted in: Kitchen & Cooking Tips | By Janine Jones
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