It’s a classic rookie mistake -- one that we’ve certainly made, so you’ll find no judgement from us.
In any case, picture this:
We’ve got this great ribeye just finishing up on the grill. We’ve been eyeballing it since we picked it up from the butcher that morning, and now it’s time to eat.
Pulling the steak off the grill, we toss it on our cutting board and immediately get to the slice-n-dice. We cut that first slice, and see the perfect hot red center. But then -- it happens. Juices and red myoglobin spill everywhere, and our cutting board looks more like the slaughterhouse than we had ever wanted or intended. It’s an unstoppable tidal wave of delicious flavor that is leaking out of our steak, leaving our ribeye to be a pale imitation of what could have been.
The issue here, of course, is that we didn’t give the meat time to properly rest. Ask any top steakhouse chef or any dedicated pitmaster -- letting your proteins rest for a generous amount of time is a crucial part of the cooking process.
In fact, we’d even suggest that proper resting is just as important as proper cooking. Today, we’re gonna look through a scientific lens to understand why resting is so important, and what happens during this process.
The Water Balloon Analogy:
A good metaphor for the cooking process is to think of a water balloon. If you squeeze one end of the balloon, the other gets larger as the water is forced into it. You can think of the heat from a grill like your hand in this analogy, and the steak as the water balloon. There’s a lot of moisture in a piece of meat. When this moisture is exposed to heat, it’s forced to other parts of the steak. Because the heat is coming from the outside-in, the moisture rushes to the center of the meat.
If you pull your steak off at this point, the cells are still packed full of all that water.
Imagine squeezing a water balloon as tight as possible, and then cutting into it with a knife. Water would explode everywhere. The same is true for a steak at this point. Fresh off the grill, the proverbial water balloon in your steak is still stretched to its limit. Luckily, this is a temporary state.
As the meat is removed from the heat, this moisture begins to redistribute itself. The juices move back out towards the edges, creating a more even steak. Meanwhile, the fibers and cells towards the center of the steak will relax back into their natural state. This all allows your steak to be cut without spilling flavor all over your plate!
One other thing to keep in mind: resting your steak allows for the process of carryover cooking to take place. Because your steak is still hot from the grill, it will actually continue to cook as it rests. Don’t believe us? Leave your probe thermometer in while your steak rests, and depending on the conditions and ambient temperature, you could see a 10-15 degrees increase in temperature!
So all in all, here it is: pull your steaks off at about 10 degrees under your desired temperature, and let them rest for 5-7 minutes.
The larger the piece of meat you’re cooking, the more time it may need. The result will be a perfectly cooked steak, as juicy as you could ever want it to be!