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What happens if you don’t rest meat?

Resting meat after cooking is an important step that many home cooks overlook. Allowing meat to rest, covered loosely with foil, for 5-15 minutes before slicing and serving allows juices to redistribute evenly throughout the meat. Skipping this step can lead to a less flavorful and pleasurable eating experience. Here’s an overview of what happens when you don’t let meat rest before serving.

Why Should You Rest Meat After Cooking?

There are a few key reasons why letting meat rest after cooking is important:

  • Allows juices to redistribute – During cooking, the high heat causes juices inside the meat to move away from the heat source. This leaves the exterior dried out. Resting gives the juices time to redistribute back throughout the meat.
  • Improves moisture – Resting keeps meat moist and juicy. Slicing into meat too soon after cooking causes the juices to spill out onto the cutting board.
  • Enhances flavor – Resting allows the natural juices and flavors in the meat to soak back into all areas. Meat that hasn’t rested often tastes drier and less flavorful.
  • Makes slicing easier – Meat firms up a bit as it rests, which makes clean slicing much simpler. Slicing meat too soon can cause it to fall apart.

Simply put, resting results in a more tender, flavorful and enjoyable slab of meat. Letting the meat rest allows the work you put into cooking it to fully deliver the delicious experience you expected.

What Happens When You Don’t Rest Meat?

Failing to let meat rest has a number of consequences:

Dry, Tough Meat

When meat doesn’t have time to rest, the juices don’t have time to redistribute back into the meat. This leaves parts of the meat drier than others. Without those juices, the meat will be tougher in texture and chewier or stringy when you bite into it. The flavor also suffers when natural juices are lost.

Pool of Juices on the Cutting Board

Slicing into meat too soon causes all those natural juices to run right out onto your cutting board or plate. Not only are you losing great flavor, but you end up with a messy pile of juices you need to mop up. All that moisture should have stayed inside the meat to keep it tender.

Less Appealing Presentation

Meat that is sliced immediately after cooking often ends up with ragged, uneven slices. This makes for a less attractive presentation. Resting allows meat to firm up for cleaner, neater slices. Those even slices stacked on a plate look much more appetizing.

Overcooked, Rubbery Meat

The high internal temperature of meat right after cooking will continue to cook the meat during the resting time. If meat is not allowed to rest at all, the interior will be slightly overcooked. This can result in unpleasant chewy or rubbery meat.

Safety Issues

Steaks or chops sliced into immediately after grilling run the risk of the underside surfaces being undercooked. Bacteria exist on the exterior surfaces of raw meat. When you cut in before juices redistribute and heat equalizes, you spread bacteria to the interior of the meat. Always allow a rest for food safety.

How Long Should You Rest Meat?

Resting times vary based on the size and type of meat cooked. Here are some general guidelines:

  • Steaks – 5 to 10 minutes
  • Chops – 5 to 10 minutes
  • Roasts – 10 to 15 minutes
  • Whole poultry – 15 to 20 minutes
  • Bone-in poultry parts – 10 minutes
  • Boneless poultry – 5 minutes
  • Large meatloaves or casseroles – 10 minutes
  • Sausage or burgers – 5 minutes

The most important factor is the thickness of the meat. A large roast needs more resting time than a thin steak or chop. Bone-in meats should rest longer since the bones act as insulators, allowing the inside to continue cooking after removed from the heat.

How to Rest Meat

Resting meat properly ensures you achieve the ideal results. Follow these steps:

  1. Transfer the cooked meat from the grill, pan or oven to a clean platter or sheet pan.
  2. Lightly cover the meat with aluminum foil, unless you want additional browning or crisping of the exterior.
  3. Let it sit undisturbed for the recommended time based on type and size.
  4. The meat can rest on the counter at room temperature or in a warm oven set to 200 to 225 F.
  5. For whole birds or roasts, tip any accumulated juices back over the meat after resting.
  6. After resting, carve the meat into slices and serve immediately.

The meat will continue cooking gently during the rest, so be sure not to overcook it initially. Remove it from the heat source when it’s 5 to 10°F below your target finished temperature.

Tips for Resting Meat

  • The meat should rest undisturbed during the resting time. Don’t poke or slice it.
  • Resting on a wooden cutting board or platter will wick away some moisture. Use a sheet pan or plate.
  • Loosely tent with foil, don’t wrap tightly, to allow steam to escape.
  • Resist the urge to cut in right away. Be patient for best results.
  • For whole birds, wait until juices run clear when pierced at the thigh. If still pink, continue resting.
  • The thinner the meat, the less resting time needed. Thick roasts need more time.

Frequently Asked Questions

Should you rest meat after brining?

Yes, it’s important to rest meat after brining just as you would after roasting or grilling. Allowing the meat to rest gives time for the brine to evenly distribute through the meat. Resting helps ensure thoroughly seasoned and moist meat.

Should steak be rested before searing?

It’s not necessary to rest meat before searing or cooking. Resting is most effective after the cooking process when juices need time to redistribute. However, letting thicker cuts like roasts come to room temperature before cooking can help them cook more evenly.

Should meat be covered when resting?

Covering meat lightly with aluminum foil while resting helps retain moisture and heat. However, don’t wrap tightly, as this will trap steam and moisture, leading to a soggy exterior. Loosely tenting with foil is ideal.

Can you rest meat in the oven?

Yes, keeping meat in a low oven (200-225 F) during the resting time helps keep it warm and allows carryover cooking to continue gently. This retains moisture and makes slicing easier. Just ensure the oven isn’t too hot or it will overcook the meat.

Should pork be rested before pulling?

Yes, resting pork shoulder or other large cuts of pork prior to pulling or shredding is important. Not resting roasted pork can result in dry, stringy pulled pork. Let it rest 15-20 minutes after cooking before pulling.


Resting meat properly after roasting, grilling, braising or other cooking methods is a key step to ensure juicy, tender and flavorful results. Allowing the meat to sit undisturbed for 5-20 minutes depending on size gives juices time to redistribute evenly. Skipping this step results in drier meat and a loss of natural moisture and flavor. For the best texture and most flavorful, appetizing meat, be sure to allow an adequate rest before slicing and serving. Following proper resting technique will reward you with juicy, tender meat that looks and tastes its absolute best.