You spend time choosing the best cut of meat, seasoning it and cooking it. It’s a shame not to wait just a few minutes before serving it to be sure that your meat is as good as it can be. Letting meat rest helps retain as much of the juice as possible. It is this juice that gives the meat much of its flavor and palatability.
The Juice is Loose
It’s inevitable that some juice will escape when meat is cooked. Much of it is fat that is solid at room temperature, but becomes a liquid when the meat is heated. According to the Serious Eats Food Lab, it’s also juices in the muscle fibers that get squeezed out of the fibers as they contract under the intense heat of cooking. Together, these juices account for most of the flavor of red meat. Though some of this juice will be pushed out of the meat while cooking it, most of it is still trapped inside the meat. That is, unless you cut it without letting it rest.
Something else also happens while you’re resting your meat that has nothing to do with juices, but which can also impact flavor. Carryover cooking refers to the fact that meat continues to cook even after it’s removed from heat because there is heat stored inside the meat. Carryover cooking is an important way to let meat finish cooking without becoming overcooked. If you keep your meat covered after taking it off the heat, you will encourage carryover cooking. Uncovered meat will cool quickly.
If you’re cooking single cuts of steak, letting your meat rest just five minutes uncovered, will significantly reduce the amount of juice lost when it’s cut. The muscle fibers in the meat will expand again and reabsorb some of the flavorful liquids. After 10 minutes, almost no juice will be lost when cutting into the meat.
If you’re cooking very thick cuts of meat, let your meat rest for about 10 minutes to get about the same benefit you would get from resting a thinner cut for five minutes. Any longer than that and you risk the meat getting too cold. Nevertheless, very large pieces of meat, like briskets, butt roasts or whole turkeys, need to rest from 15 to 30 minutes to retain maximum flavor, according to the Virtual Weber Bulletin. Chicken, however, does not benefit from resting and can be sliced immediately.