Why You Shouldn't Skip Resting Meat (Your Roast Won't Get Cold, Either)

If you let a roasted chicken rest for 15 to 20 minutes after it comes out of the oven, will it be too cold to serve?

It’s helpful to think of resting as part of the cooking process. Once a roast is removed from the oven, it continues to cook because of the heat trapped inside. This “carryover cooking” continues in proportion to the density and size of the meat and the temperature at which you were cooking it. So, for example, a whole chicken roasted at 400 degrees will carryover cook for longer than either a whole chicken roasted at 350 degrees or chicken parts roasted at 400 degrees. As the meat rests, the juices inside redistribute as well. During cooking, the muscle fibers contract and squeeze liquid out of their cells. Resting gives the fibers a chance to relax and draw moisture back inside. Slicing into a roast before it has sufficiently rested will result in that liquid escaping onto your cutting board rather than being reabsorbed into the meat.

The resting time recommended in a recipe takes these factors into consideration. And since heat moves from the hotter exterior to the cooler interior of the meat, we often suggest lightly tenting the roast with foil to keep the exterior warm without trapping too much moisture inside the tent. Since even light tenting can cause crisp skin to become soggy, we don’t usually recommend tenting for chicken and turkey.

But won’t the roast cool down too much to serve warm? To find out, we roasted a chicken according to one of our favorite recipes and checked the temperature when we removed it from the oven: 160 degrees in the breast and 175 degrees in the thigh. Then we took the temperature after 20 minutes of (untented) rest on a carving board. The chicken was still over 140 degrees—and almost too hot to carve. Since most meat tastes best when it’s above 100 degrees, the chicken was still comfortably within the serving zone.

We recommend resting all large cuts of meat, though resting times vary. However, thinner cuts like steaks, pork chops, and chicken parts cool more quickly. In these cases, we usually recommend only about 5 minutes’ resting time to ensure that the proteins are still ideal for serving.

THE BOTTOM LINE: Large cuts of meat hold on to heat far longer than you would expect, so don’t rush the rest.


Temperature: 175 degrees (thigh)

Rest time: 20 minutes

Tent? No


Temperature: 175 degrees (thigh)

Rest time: 30 to 40 minutes

Tent? No


Temperature: 125 degrees (center)

Rest time: 30 minutes

Tent? Loosely


Temperature: 140 degrees (center)

Rest time: 10 to 20 minutes

Tent? Loosely if unglazed

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