Who hasn't pulled a roast or other cut of meat off the heat, marveled at how perfect and beautiful it looks, and—especially if dinner is running late—been tempted to slice it right then and there?
Don’t do it. If you allow the meat to rest just 10 minutes, it could mean a 60 percent decrease in juices lost to the cutting board.
Here’s how we know:
We roasted five boneless pork loins until their internal temperatures reached 140 degrees. We cut one roast into slices as soon as it came out of the oven, and tented the other four with foil and let them rest 10, 20, 30, and 40 minutes, respectively, before slicing. We collected any juices that accumulated during the resting period and separated them from juices that were lost during slicing. We repeated the experiment two more times and averaged the results.
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What We Found
The roasts that we sliced immediately after cooking shed an average of 10 tablespoons of liquid. In contrast, the roasts that we allowed to rest for 10 minutes before carving shed an average of just 4 tablespoons of liquid. That’s a 60 percent decrease in moisture loss by waiting 10 minutes to slice.
The numbers continued to improve with extended resting time; the roasts that rested for 20, 30, and 40 minutes lost 2½ tablespoons, 1 tablespoon, and 2 teaspoons of juice, respectively. (That said, while a longer resting time means less moisture loss, the difference might not be significant enough to warrant the added time. Our recommendations for resting times take this into account.)
Why Resting Helps Meat Hold on to Moisture
When red meat and poultry are heated, their muscle fibers contract, squeezing out some of the liquid within the fibers. That liquid then moves into the spaces between the fibers. When meat is piping hot, those juices have a thin consistency, and gush readily out where the muscle is cut. Allowing cooked meat to rest lets the juices cool, so that the dissolved gelatin, and any fat they contain, firms up a little, making the juice more viscous, so more of it stays within the muscle. As a result, rested meat will taste less dry and more tender and flavorful.
What Types of Meat Should Be Rested?
The principle is the same across thousands of recipes: Meat and poultry should rest after cooking and before slicing or carving. That applies to any steak, chop, roast, bird that has been roasted, broiled, grilled, or sauteed.
So the next time you cook a piece of meat, take a pause when it comes off the heat and let the resting period do its thing. Your family and guests will thank you.