We’ve all been taught ‘let the meat rest after cooking’ but do you know the reasons why? I’ll explain why it’s so important and what happens when you don’t on today’s Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer!
So almost every recipe/cooking show/cook book/neighbor/co worker will tell you “let the meat rest after it’s done cooking before you cut it” but do you know why? And you’ve probably heard it’s because the juices will flow out and you’ll get a tough piece of meat. For many that’s good enough reason to listen (and a smart reason) but for some; i.e., the nerds like me, I need to ask ‘but why??? Why does that happen?’ I can’t help it, it’s the engineer in me. I over analyze things to death. Trust me, ask Mr. Fantabulous or any of my past boyfriends. That’s honestly my biggest flaw. The way my mind works, I’ve been told, is scary. It’s complicated. I will solve a problem in often some of the most difficult ways. I’m the girl who will take the long way because I will analyze the best outcome of both scenarios, the pros and cons and then make an intelligent, informed decision.
HOWEVER that can be daunting so I don’t do it on everything. Please if that were the case I’d never get dressed, would fret over my hair and probably starve. LOL No I tend to only do it when I want to know ‘Why something works that way/doesn’t work?’ But to be honest, to me I see it as a positive thing as it’s made me aware of things and has always driven my thirst for knowledge. Anyway, back to resting meat.
So you’ve found the perfect steak of all steaks. We’re talking a Fred Flintstone® type of steak. You tenderize it, season it and give it the love it needs. You cook it in the most perfect way (i.e., my most requested Steak Recipe) but you fail to read the last line of the rest and let it rest for a few minutes before cutting. You immediately slice into and and on your plate is a pool of beef juice. That gorgeous steak has gone from super juicy to dry and tough in a single slice
Now before I continue I know there are a million sites out there that will say to not let it rest; that the amount of juice lost is about a tablespoon or so or you’ll get cold meat. Some true, some not true sorta. So first, yes the amount of liquid isn’t like gushing (well unless it’s still mooing when you cut it and in that case, EW!). But why lose any of it if you really don’t have to? Me personally I’ve found that even that single tablespoon loss can make a difference in the steak tenderness and taste. Next the whole ‘but it gets cold’. So I’m gonna break it down to you guys. When you go out to eat and order a steak, are you literally sitting in the kitchen when it’s cooked and you slice into it as soon as it comes off the grill? Yeah, I didn’t so. It’s put on the plate for a few minutes to rest (and yes, wait for the waitstaff to pick it up at the pass and deliver it to you).
Unless your steak sat there for like an hour, it’s not cold and it’s not dried out from being under the heat lamp. Almost all of the time you get that steak from the kitchen it’s juicy, tender and HOT. Why wouldn’t you apply that same logic at home?
Okay so what happens when we let it rest? Well meat is a protein which is composed of tightly woven strands of proteins (fibers) and such. When we cook meat those fibers start to break down and lose their ‘toughness’. Those fibers are connected by collagen. Collagen, when cold, is solid but as it heats up it starts to melt and thus give you a juicy piece of meat. As the proteins and fibers break down the collagen sort of takes it’s place. By not letting your steak rest for a few after cooking you’re losing that liquid and as the remaining fibers or proteins cool down, they start to harden and become tough and stiff. Had you let it rest, those fibers would have enveloped the collagen into itself.
Additionally when you cook meat the collagen, as it melts, tends to collect towards the center of the meat. It tends to become overly saturated. The edges may start to shrink and the middle almost bulge. This doesn’t happen on all meats but I have had that happen on pretty crappy cuts – ever made an egg-shaped burger or have a steak shrink to almost nothing and it’s almost oval? That’s kind of why. So imagine if you cut into that piece of meat straight off the grill. It would just spew that liquid gold all of the plate and as the steak started to ‘cool down’ any piece that didn’t have that liquid to suck back up would be dry and tough. But if you let that meat rest just for a few, the center where most of the liquids are gathering would then relax and push the juices back to the edges redistributing it throughout the whole piece. And I don’t know about you but I’m totally fine waiting a few minutes to have a juicy, tender piece of steak than shoe leather!