What happens when meat is cooked
When meat is cooked, the heat causes the muscle fibers to contract and the proteins to denature. This results in the loss of moisture from the meat. If the meat is cut immediately after cooking, more juices will be lost. Letting the meat rest allows the muscle fibers to reabsorb some of the moisture through a process called carryover cooking. The internal temperature of the meat will rise 5-10°F during the rest time. Resting gives the meat time to firm up which makes it easier to slice or carve without shredding it.
Why you should let meat rest before cutting
There are a few key reasons why letting meat rest after cooking and before cutting is recommended:
- Allows moisture to redistribute – When meat is cooked, the juices get pushed to the center. If you cut into meat immediately, the juices will run out quickly. Resting gives time for the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.
- Prevents moisture loss – Cutting into meat too soon will result in more juices being lost. Letting it rest allows the proteins to reabsorb some of the moisture back into the meat fibers.
- Improves texture – Resting relaxes the muscle fibers and makes the meat more tender. Cutting meat before resting can cause it to seem tough.
- Allows carryover cooking – The internal temperature will continue rising about 5-10°F during the rest time. This helps ensure it reaches the proper doneness.
- Makes slicing easier – As the proteins relax during resting, it’s easier to slice or carve the meat without shredding it.
The juiciness and texture of meat can be significantly improved by allowing it to rest before slicing into it. Many chefs and cooking experts recommend letting meat rest after cooking.
How long to let different meats rest
The recommended rest times for different types of meat are:
|Type of Meat||Recommended Rest Time|
|Beef steaks and chops||3 to 5 minutes|
|Roasts||10 to 15 minutes|
|Pork chops||3 to 5 minutes|
|Chicken pieces||5 minutes|
|Whole chicken or turkey||15 to 20 minutes|
|Fish||2 to 4 minutes|
For whole roasts and poultry, the thicker the cut, the longer the recommended rest time. Smaller cuts like steaks and chops need less time than larger roasts. Fish cooks quickly so only needs a short rest.
Tips for resting meat properly
Here are some tips for resting meat correctly after cooking:
– Let it rest on a cutting board or platter, not on the hot pan. This prevents overcooking.
– Lightly tent foil or aluminum foil loosely over the meat to keep it warm. Don’t wrap tightly or you’ll trap steam.
– For whole roasts or poultry, tip them to allow juices to run out of the cavity while resting. This prevents them from spilling when carving.
– Resist cutting into the meat too soon! Be patient and allow the full resting time for best results.
– The thicker the cut of meat, the longer it needs to rest. Plan accordingly for large roasts.
– Don’t worry if the meat seems slightly underdone when first removing it from the heat. The temperature will rise and it will continue cooking during resting.
– Resting time gives you a window to finish making any sauces or side dishes so everything is ready at once.
What happens if you don’t let meat rest?
Cutting into meat too soon after cooking can lead to the following issues:
– More moisture and juice loss – Less resting time means the juices have had less chance to reabsorb back into the meat.
– Uneven cooking – The meat will continue cooking from residual heat while resting. Cutting too soon means the center could be undercooked.
– Less tender texture – The muscle fibers won’t have had time to relax, leading to a tough, chewy consistency.
– Messier serving – Juices are more likely to run off the cutting board and plate.
– Cooling too quickly- Without a rest, the meat’s temperature can drop rapidly before serving.
While meat can technically be eaten immediately after cooking, the quality and experience suffers without a proper rest. The texture is tougher and it will be less succulent.
Should all meats be rested?
Most meats benefit greatly from resting after cooking. The exceptions would be meats that are served cooked directly from a hot skillet or grill top. This includes:
– Stir-frys – Thinly sliced meat cooked quickly over high heat.
– Fajitas – Strips of chicken or steak grilled with vegetables.
– Mongolian beef – Thin slices cooked in a wok or skillet.
With these dishes, the meat is often moved immediately to plates or wraps for serving. The slices are thin and cook fast, so don’t require a rest.
However, for any larger cuts of meat, from steaks to roasts, allowing a rest is vital for ensuring the best texture and moisture. The juices need that time to redistribute through the meat fibers.
Does resting dry out the meat surface?
A common concern is that the rested meat’s surface will dry out during the resting time. However, this should not happen if the meat is rested properly.
Here are some tips to prevent the exterior from drying out:
– Lightly tent foil over the meat while resting. This traps some warmth and steam to keep the surface moist.
– Rest meat on a hot platter or tray to maintain warmth at the exterior.
– Avoid tightly wrapping or covering the meat, as this removes too much air circulation.
– Brush a thin layer of sauce, melted butter, or oil over the meat surface while resting.
– Only let meat rest for the recommended times. Longer than that may result in some drying.
– Keep the resting area warm – don’t let the ambient temperature get too cold.
The carryover cooking and steam from the hot meat itself should prevent any significant drying on the exterior during resting.
Should you make pan sauces while meat rests?
Resting time is perfect for preparing quick pan sauces, gravies, or au jus. Here’s why:
– The fond left behind in the pan can be used to add great flavor. Deglaze the pan with wine or broth while hot.
– You can incorporate drippings from the rested meat into the sauce.
– Allows you to make use of the pan rather than letting it sit dirty.
– Gets your sauce ready at the same time as your rested meat.
To make a pan sauce while meat rests:
– Place hot pan on stovetop over medium-high heat. Add your liquid like wine, stock, or juice and deglaze, scraping any browned bits.
– Allow liquid to reduce until slightly thickened.
– Add aromatics like shallots, garlic, or herbs. Saute briefly.
– Off heat, whisk in butter cubes or cream to finish and adjust seasoning.
– Add any meat juices from the plate or board.
The key is working quickly to prepare the sauce in the short resting window. Having it ready to pour over your sliced meat makes for a delicious presentation.
Letting meat rest after cooking and before slicing is one of the most important keys to ensuring tender, juicy results with improved flavor. Allowing time for the proteins to relax and reabsorb moisture results in meat that is more enjoyable to eat. Be sure to factor the proper resting times into your cooking process and resist the urge to cut too soon. With a bit of patience, your roasts, steaks, chops and poultry will be noticeably more succulent, delicious and picture-perfect.