Skip to Content

How long should steak rest before cutting?

Why Should You Let Steak Rest Before Cutting?

The most important reason to let steak rest before cutting into it is to allow the juices inside the meat to redistribute themselves. As the steak cooks, the heat causes the juices inside to push away from the heat source towards the center. This leaves the outer portions of the steak drier than the middle. If you cut into the steak immediately after cooking, those juices will spill out onto the cutting board, resulting in a drier piece of meat. By allowing the steak to rest, the juices redistribute evenly throughout the steak again, so when you cut into it, the meat retains more natural moisture and flavor.

How Does Letting Steak Rest Work?

When the steak is exposed to heat while cooking, the muscle fibers on the outer edges of the meat begin to contract and squeeze the juices toward the center. The layer of meat just under the surface can become depleted of moisture and overcooked.

As the steak rests off the heat source, the muscle fibers start to relax and the juices that were forced toward the center start to redistribute back outward. Given enough time to rest, the juices will spread evenly throughout the meat again.

If the steak is cut open too soon, the juice has no time to redistribute and ends up spilling out onto the cutting board instead of staying inside the steak where it belongs. Letting it rest gives the juice time to absorb back into the muscle fibers throughout the meat.

How Long Should You Let Steak Rest?

The amount of time a steak should rest depends on the thickness of the cut, as thicker steaks require more resting time. Here are some general guidelines:

Steak Thickness Minimum Resting Time
1/2 inch 3 minutes
1 inch 5 minutes
2 inches 10 minutes

For example, a 1-inch thick steak like a New York strip or ribeye should rest at least 5 minutes before slicing into it. A huge 2-inch porterhouse or T-bone may need up to 10 minutes of resting time for the juices to fully redistribute.

The thicker the steak, the longer it takes for the juices to circulate back inward as the muscle fibers relax. A thin minute steak may only need 2-3 minutes before it’s ready. Letting any steak rest too long can actually cause it to cool down too much, so aim for the minimum recommended times.

What If My Steak Cuts Easily Without Resting?

Some cooks claim that if a steak cuts cleanly without letting it rest, then it doesn’t need to rest. However, cutting into an under-rested steak will still result in losing a significant amount of the natural juices. Even if the texture seems right, resting ensures the steak retains maximum moisture. Don’t skip this step.

Should You Cover the Steak While Resting?

Covering the steak lightly with foil while it rests can help retain more heat and allow for more even redistribution of juices within the meat. However, don’t wrap the foil too tightly or you’ll end up steaming the steak surface.

Leave the foil slightly open to allow some airflow and prevent the meat from becoming soggy on the outside. You can also simply keep the steak uncovered as long as you let it rest for the full amount of time recommended for its thickness.

Where Should You Let Steak Rest?

Let the steak rest on the same plate or cutting board you’ll eventually serve it on. You want to leave it in a warm spot out of direct heat; The stovetop or toaster oven heat is too hot. Leaving it in the oven risks overcooking.

Try to maintain the temperature as much as possible while the steak rests. The juices will redistribute more efficiently in a warm environment than if the meat cools too dramatically.

Should You Salt Steak Before or After Resting?

For the best results, you’ll want to salt your steak at least 40 minutes before cooking. Salting early gives the salt time to penetrate deep into the meat, enhancing flavor and tenderness. Salting it immediately before cooking will result in a steak that’s seasoned only on the surface.

Once the cooked steak has rested, you can add a final sprinkling of finishing salt, like flaky sea salt, right before slicing if you want an extra burst of saltiness. Include any other seasonings like pepper or herbs after resting too.

Does Resting Apply to Other Meats?

Yes, allowing time for the muscle fibers to relax and reabsorb juices is an important step for most meats, not just steak. Here are some guidelines for various proteins:

Protein Minimum Resting Time
Chicken Breasts 5 minutes
Pork Chops 3 minutes
Lamb Chops 5 minutes
Roasts 10-15 minutes
Fish Fillets 2-3 minutes

The rest times may be less than steak, but allowing the cooked proteins to sit before cutting will still make them juicier. For whole poultry or roasts, tent loosely with foil without wrapping tightly.

Can You Rest Steaks Too Long?

It is possible for a steak to rest too long. While you want to make sure it achieves the minimum resting time for proper moisture redistribution, resting longer causes the meat to keep cooling down. If the steak drops too far below 125°F internally, it will start becoming too cool and the texture can turn mealy or dry.

As a good rule of thumb, do not let a steak rest for more than double the recommended time for its thickness. The steak can start losing its appealing warmth and juiciness if left to linger on the counter too long after cooking.

Tips for the Best Results Resting Steak

Follow these tips for optimal steak doneness when you go to cut into it after resting:

  • Use an instant-read thermometer to check for doneness when you take it off the heat.
  • Transfer the steak to a clean plate to rest right away.
  • Loosely tent with foil if you want to retain more warmth.
  • Aim for the middle of the recommended resting time for thickness.
  • Position the steak so the cut side will be facing up when serving.
  • Rest on the counter, not in a hot oven or on a stovetop.
  • Don’t cut into the steak sooner than the minimum rest time.

When you’ve allowed the steak to rest sufficiently, the center should be a perfect medium-rare with juicy, tender meat throughout when you slice into it. Not letting it rest means you lose all that wonderful flavorful juice onto the cutting board instead of keeping it inside the steak.

Does Resting Require Any Special Equipment?

No special tools or equipment are necessary to let your steak rest properly. All you need is:

  • A clean plate or cutting board to hold the steak.
  • Optional aluminum foil to loosely tent the meat.
  • A kitchen timer to track resting times.
  • A sharp chef’s knife to slice the rested steak.
  • A instant-read meat thermometer to check doneness.

With just these basic kitchen tools on hand, you can achieve perfect steak doneness with moisture locked in every time. No fancy gear required.

Common Resting Mistakes

It can be tempting to dig right in as soon as the steak comes off the grill or pan, but patience pays off when it comes to steak resting. Avoid these common mistakes:

  • Cutting into steak too soon – It takes time for juices to redistribute.
  • Letting steak rest too long – It can overcool and lose warmth.
  • Leaving steak near direct heat – This continues to cook it.
  • Wrapping steak too tightly – Traps steam and makes surface soggy.
  • Forgetting to rest other proteins – Most meats benefit from resting.
  • Neglecting to salt early – Salt before cooking for best flavor.
  • Forgetting a warmup before serving – Steak should not be ice cold.

Be patient, keep it warm but not hot, and avoid excess moisture for best results. The short amount of waiting time is worth it for the superior flavor and tenderness of a properly rested steak.

Signs You Have Rested Your Steak Correctly

When you slice into a well-rested steak, you should notice:

  • Clear, red juices pooling on the plate instead of a puddle on the cutting board.
  • An evenly pink interior without gray, dry outer portions.
  • Tender, moist meat that is warm but not scalding hot.
  • Great aroma and full beefy flavors.
  • No need to chew excessively thanks to retained moisture.

Achieving this ideal doneness proves you allowed your steak to rest long enough. If you cut too soon, the meat will be drier and less succulent.

Frequently Asked Questions

What happens if you don’t rest your steak?

Skipping the resting time will cause the steak to lose a significant amount of its natural juices when cut. The meat will be drier, with muted flavors. The juice will spill out onto the cutting board instead of staying inside the meat as it should.

Can steak be too rare after resting?

Yes, if the steak is very undercooked to start with, it will be too rare even after resting. Use a meat thermometer to ensure the steak reaches proper doneness during cooking. 120-125°F is ideal for rare steak prior to resting.

Is resting time included in the cooking time?

No, resting happens after the cook time ends and the steak is removed from the heat source. The resting time falls after the steak reaches the ideal internal temperature.

Should steak be covered when resting?

Lightly tenting foil over the steak can help retain heat as it rests but do not wrap tightly or the surface will become soggy. Leaving the steak uncovered works too as long as you rest in a warm spot.

Can I make pan sauces while steak rests?

Yes, the resting time for steak is the perfect window for preparing quick pan sauces, butter basting, or other final seasoning. Just don’t cut into the steak too soon while making your sauces.


Letting your steak rest after cooking is an essential step to ensuring tender, juicy results every time. Allowing the cooked meat time to relax and redistribute its natural moisture prevents it from losing those flavorful juices when sliced. For most steaks, a minimum resting time of 5-10 minutes depending on thickness is ideal. Resist the urge to cut in right away and your patience will be rewarded with the best texture and taste.