Chatelaine Kitchen

Best tips to cooking tender meat: Why resting is essential

It's tempting to cut right into a grilled steak but I encourage you to temper your enthusiasm, and give it a rest, literally. Plus, I've included some of my favourite meat dishes.

We are all guilty of wanting to slice right into a grilled steak or a burnished roast turkey straight out of the oven, but I encourage you to temper your enthusiasm and give it a rest, literally.

Here are my top tips for cooking the most tender piece of meat, every time:

Meat that doesn’t rest, loses its moisture – fast

A simple test to compare moisture loss is to slice into a piece of meat that has been properly rested versus one that has not. A well-rested steak will release a small amount of juice, and a steak fresh-off-the-grill will release enough juice to practically cover your plate. The result: meat with no juice is dry. Whether cooking a large roast or grilling steaks, heat causes meat proteins to coagulate, squeezing moisture out, and driving the rest towards the centre. A cut that has rested will partially reverse that moisture loss, and redistribute the juice throughout the meat (and not on your plate).

Tips for the best rest:

Plan for the rest: Include the resting time in your overall meal planning – this will help ensure you don’t rush to cut into the meat. Use this opportunity to mash potatoes or whisk together a vinaigrette.

The larger the cut, the longer the rest: A large roast or turkey should rest for at least half an hour prior to slicing. Smaller cuts such as steak, pork chops and chicken should rest between 5 and 15 minutes depending on their size.

Allow for residual cooking:
When planning to properly rest your meat, remove it from the heat source when it is a few degrees under your desired doneness. Allow the residual cooking to bring your meat to the proper temperature. Make sure to check the final temperature with a meat thermometre to ensure it is properly cooked.

Cover resting meat loosely with foil: This will prevent the surface of the meat from cooling too quickly. Do not wrap the meat tightly or you risk trapping in too much heat and creating a rubbery result.

Catch the juice: This is especially important for larger roasts. Be sure to rest meat on a rack or in a pan where you can catch all the drippings. Use this for your gravy or jus.

Evenly cooked meat is properly cooked meat
The outside of our meat gets direct exposure to heat, therefore, it’s logical that it will cook faster than the inside. When you rest a cut of meat, the residual cooking allows the extreme heat on the outside of the meat to continue to permeate the centre of your meat. For example, when you don’t rest beef tenderloin, you’ll notice a greyish exterior and a very pink interior. Rested properly, the meat will have an even, rouge interior. The practice of resting is particularly important with large roasts and birds. Note: for larger cuts, you can expect the internal temperature to rise as much as 10 degrees when resting.

Here are some of my favourite meat recipes:
Roast pork loin with bacon-cider gravy
Braised Asian beef
Lemon-herb roast leg of lamb
Bacon-wrapped tenderloin
Flank steak with tomatoes and basil

Originally published March 1st, 2012.