Why It's So Important to Let Meat Rest After Cooking

The rule applies to poultry and pork, too.

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Whether you're grilling pork loin or pan-frying a porterhouse steak for an extra-special occasion, there's an art to cooking meat. You've probably heard that it's important to let meat rest after cooking, but do you know why this makes a difference? And do you know how long you should let it rest? "When meat is hot, the juices are more liquid. When you cut into a very hot piece of meat, all of the liquid is going to come out. If you rest it, it allows everything to relax and redistribute the juices, which creates a more tender, juicier cut," explains Angie Mar, co-owner and executive chef of The Beatrice Inn in New York City.

Steak au Poivre recipe
Lennart Weibull

Why You Should Let Meat Rest

Just as it's important to bring a piece of meat to room temperature before cooking it, it's just as important to let it sit after it's finished cooking. Regardless of whether you're using a bone-in or boneless cut, Mar says that you should let the meat rest for half the time that it cooked for: "If it took 20 minutes to cook a rib-eye, it should rest for 10 minutes." This rule doesn't just apply to red meat though; from pork chops to poultry, all meat should rest once it's done cooking. As a good rule of thumb, any thick cut of meat such as pork chops or lamb shoulder should rest for between 10-15 minutes. Let the meat rest in a warm area, such as the top of the stove. Don't cover smaller cuts with aluminum foil, which will trap the heat and accelerate the cooking process.

When it comes to really large cuts of meat, such as our Roast Chicken with Vegetables and Potatoes, Mustard-Roasted Beef Tenderloin, or Perfect Roast Duck, more resting time is needed; let the meat rest for about 15 minutes, covered with foil, before slicing, which will preserve the juices without causing it to become overcooked.

Getting the Temperature Right

Whether you prefer a medium-rare or well-done steak, it's important to take the meat off the heat a few minutes before it has reached the ideal temperature. This is because the meat will retain some heat and continue to cook as it rests. A perfect medium-rare steak should register at 130°F to 135°F, but Mar recommends taking it off the pan or grill around 115°F to ensure that it doesn't overcook. Use an instant-read thermometer such as this one from Taylor ($19.95, surlatable.com) for the most accurate temperature.

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