This article may seem like a fairly simple one but as someone who has been cooking for years, working in restaurants (aka watching chefs) and also being part of many online food groups, I have come to realise that not everyone understands the importance of resting meat. When we talk about resting meat, believe me all meat is best when rested, not just red meat. I too was someone who didn’t rest pork up until a few years ago and only then did I realise what I had been missing out on for so long.
Often when cooking or maybe just when you watch others cook you see them poking or prodding meat to see if it’s cooked. This is because they are checking to see the ‘doneness’ of the meat. When we cook meat the protein in the meat sets and so generally the softer it feels, the less cooked it is. Making the determination of when your meat is cooked to your liking / intension is a skill that comes with time and sadly a few overcooked dinners too. Nowadays most people get all scientific and tend to use thermometers when cooking or even a sous vide machine. In fact the new Weber genesis series comes with a built in thermometer – handy!! While using a thermometer is very accurate and takes the guess work out of it, personally I feel there is something satisfying about being able to cook a steak or piece of lamb to the correct temperature through a bit of old school touchy feely!!
It’s also important to know when cooking and eating meat that if we cut straight into a piece of meat after removing it from a pan, the juices won’t have had time to redistribute and will just flow away leaving you with a brown overcooked piece of meat. No bueno! This is the step we call resting. Another HUGELY important thing to realise is once removed from a pan meat will continue to cook so if your desired temperature is say 55c/130f then it is best to remove the meat a few degrees south of this and it will come up to the desired temperature during the resting period.
Here are my tips on how to cook meat successfully
1. Before you even start cooking meat, allow it to come up to room temperature. This means taking it out of the fridge about 15-20 minutes before you plan on cooking. The reason for this is that putting your cold steak on the grill straight away means the outside of the steak will be overcooked by the time the inside gets up to the temperature you are looking for. A room temperature piece of meat will theoretically cook more evenly and the fat has a higher chance of being broken down – or melting.
2. Season well, don’t be afraid to get a good layer of salt/pepper on the meat. Rub a little oil on your steak and sprinkle salt & pepper over it. When adding salt & pepper always sprinkle from a height, no need to climb a ladder although that would certainly give Salt Bae a run for his money!! The reason why we sprinkle from a height is so we have an even coating on the meat.
3. Hot pan or grill!! This may seem obvious BUT it isn’t always. I’ll give an example of my wife cooking some mushrooms recently for our daughter. She put oil into the frying pan and then the mushrooms straight in on top. She texted me later wondering why they were all mushy & greasy….. If you put meat into a cold, oiled pan you won’t get that lovely sear or crust you are looking for and the meat will just end up swimming in the oil and what you will be left with is a fairly nasty brown looking steak. There are however (like always) exceptions to the rule and this comes in the form of duck but lets park that one until later!
4. Once the steak has hit the pan or grill, DON”T TOUCH IT. So often we worry about it sticking or just feel like we should be doing something like tossing or turning the piece of meat but this is where you will FAIL. Leave the meat alone to create a seal or crust before flipping/turning. Typically I will wait about 2-3 minutes before turning but this also depends upon the type of meat I am cooking and the thickness of the meat too.
5. Once turned repeat step 4. DON’T TOUCH IT. At this point I would put my piece of meat into the oven if it is a larger piece of meat and requires more cooking. If it is a smaller piece of meat then a great way to add flavour and moisture is through basting. What’s basting you say?
6. Baste – throw a knob of butter into your pan, a crushed clove of garlic and some rosemary or thyme. Tilt the pan towards you and with the meat at the top of the pan spoon that buttery goodness over the meat – click here for my video on this.
7. Once your piece of meat is about 2-3c / 10f under the desired temperature remove the meat from the pan.
8. REST it- place it on a chopping board or plate and cover loosely with foil. The reason we cover it loosely is because we want to try trap some of that heat. If we wrap the meat tightly it will sweat and what happens when we sweat?? We lose moisture, which is not a good luck for our lovingly prepared protein at this stage in the game.
9. Typically I rest meat like pork chops, chicken breasts, steaks for anywhere from 3 – 5 minutes. If it’s a larger piece of meat like a roast then somewhere from 10-20 minutes is needed.
10. Now all that’s left to do is enjoy!
Here are my guidelines of internal temperatures for cooked meat
So to recap
1. Allow meat to come to room temperature.
3. Hot pan.
4. Don’t play with your meat!!
6. Baste – not necessary but adds moisture and flavour.
7. Remove a few degrees south of desired temperature.
Now get cooking and don’t forget to let me know how you get on & post some of your delicious results!