Tom Petty said waiting is the hardest part. Maybe he was talking about letting meat rest after it’s done cooking?
Anyone who’s seared a beautiful rib-eye steak or removed a crispy-skinned roast chicken from the oven knows the excruciating anticipation that accompanies the resting period. Unfortunately, waiting while meat rests is necessary if you want to serve the juiciest, most delicious meat possible. But with a basic scientific understanding of why resting meat is important, cooks can maximize meat’s deliciousness while not waiting a second too long to serve it.
Resting is all about controlling meat’s juices. According to America’s Test Kitchen’s science editor, Paul Adams, those juices are proteins dissolved in water, and at higher temperatures, they flow more freely than they would at lower temperatures. As a piece of meat begins to cool once it’s removed from heat, the juices’ proteins (notably gelatin) and melted fat firm up slightly and become more viscous. This is especially true at the surface of a piece of meat, where the temperature is coolest.
“So cooler meat has thicker juice that's less inclined to flow all over the plate when you slice into it,” Adams says.
That means more delicious proteins and fat end up in your mouth instead of pooled at the bottom of a plate.