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World-Class Steak: The Importance of Resting a Steak

This post is part of our 50 Campfires series, 9 Rules for Flame-Cooking a World-Class Steak, giving you a complete guide to one of the best camping meals imaginable. The importance of resting a steak cannot be overstated. This is one of the easiest steps in the cooking process but campers and grillers continually make the fatal mistake of cutting into and eating the steak right off the grill!

Browse the list below to skip to a particular step:

Selecting a Steak
Preparing Steak
Fire, Fuel and Cooking Surface
Cooking Process
Cooking to Temp
Cutting and Slicing
Saucing and Sides

Critical Step

Never, never, never pull a steak off the fire, plop it on a plate, and immediately serve it. This step is the easiest of all the steps but grillers consistently mess it up. Pull your steak off the grill or cast iron pan and let it sit. Do nothing. Don’t touch it. Don’t poke it. Don’t cut into it. Don’t even look at it. Just let it rest.

Why Should You Rest Your Steak?

Cooking forces the juices in the steak to the center, cooler area of the piece of meat. Allowing the temperature of the surface and the center to equalize allows the juice to redistribute evenly through the cut. If you cut the steak when the juices are concentrated in the center, they “spill out” more readily. The research is kind of amazing. A steak that’s cut immediately after its removed from the heat can experience as much as a 25 percent weight loss from lost juices. A steak that’s rested 10 minutes before it’s cut may only experience half that weight loss or less.

To Tent or Not

Part of the reason for resting is to allow for carryover, or the continued internal temperature rise, the theory is that loosely placing a tent of aluminum foil over the steak will reduce external heat loss. This may be true, however, the tent also retains steam and causes condensation to fall back onto the meat. Particularly if you’ve worked hard to get a nice seared crust on the steak, with or without a rub, that reflected moisture will soften the crust and make it soggy. So, the choice to tent or not is based on your definition of “perfect.”

How Long Should Your Steak Rest?

Typically a safe guideline to follow is to rest a steak for approximately as long as you cooked it. Another is to let it rest for at least five minutes for every inch of thickness. Basically, rest your steak for a minimum of five minutes and as long as 12 minutes before slicing it.

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