The #1 Secret to Cooking a Juicy Steak

QUICK! What’s the number one secret to cooking a juicy steak? Is it:

A). Sear the outside so the juices can’t escape.

B). Baste it while it cooks.

C). Don’t overcook it.

D). Don’t eat it right away.

While there’s some truth to answers A through C, the answer is actually D, also known as “let the meat rest”. The mistake most cooks make is in serving meat right off the grill, out of the frying pan or the oven, without letting it lie in state for a few minutes. If you cut into a piece of meat, even a hamburger, right off the heat, you’ll find that your first bite is juicy, but every bite afterward will be dry, chewy, possibly even tough.

The reason it’s best to allow meat to rest for a few minutes before cutting into it is two-fold: one, it will continue to cook from residual heat for a couple of minutes; and two, heat contracts the protein strands, forcing the juices into small pockets that gush out when you cut into them. If you let the meat cool for a few minutes, those protein strands relax a little, allowing the juices to redistribute throughout the meat.

The advantage to the cook of this brief “nap time” before serving is that it gives you a chance to get any other last-minute dishes together—you can dress the salad, open the wine, boil the corn, and so on. The reward for your guests is juicy, delicious meat. It won’t be super hot, but food is actually more flavorful at room temperature, and it will still be warmer than that.

Some recipes call for tenting meat with foil while it rests to keep it warm; in my humble opinion, this only serves to steam it and destroy any nice curst you might have seared onto the outside. If you have a severe fly problem, by all means cover it up, but otherwise let it breathe.

When does meat not need to rest? When it’s braised in liquid; slow-cooked (like ribs); or cut small like kebab meat. Whole roasts, roast chickens and turkeys, and other large pieces of meat all benefit from the same golden-brown rule: when it’s finished cooking, give it a rest.

Check out our condiments page for amazing grill marinades, sauces, rubs and salts.

1 Comment

adminJune 20th, 2011 at 10:17 AM

Hi! We are in Woodstock, Vermont. Thanks for responding.