technique: Resting Your Meat
This blog post is sponsored by Ace Hardware.
The first of May marked the official beginning of “BBQ Month” and while I personally like to BBQ year-round (yes, I’m that guy outside in my puffy jacket on sub-zero nights, in the dark, grilling up the perfect dinner), I think that most Americans really do fire up their grills in time for those long summer nights. Because truly, what is better than a group of friends or family, sitting around outside, enjoying a cold beverage and some delicious food? It’s what my wife and I do constantly in the summertime, and I’m lucky enough to be a school teacher with a long summer break, so my summer grilling activities are not just limited to weekends.
The great thing about grilling, though, is that it can be low and slow or hot and fast, and either way, you end up with a meal that is worth sharing with friends and family. So don’t let the idea of a long BBQ cook make you think you cannot grill on a work night. With a little planning (like defrosting and marinating your meat) and the right tools (a wood pellet smoker is my preferred grill of choice), you can have an amazing dinner in the same amount of time it takes to fire up your oven and dirty your kitchen.
And when I need the supplies to make my grilling dinner happen, I head to my local Ace Hardware store, Cherry Creek to stock up on pellets, lump charcoal, coolers and grills and accessories. They’re all over America, and likely in your neighborhood, which makes the friendly, helpful service, all the more approachable.
In my recent Instagram post, I shared how resting your meat after a cook can keep a delicious grilled item tender and juicy. My preferred method of resting is to do so in a YETI Cooler, which I picked up at my local Mountain Ace Hardware here in Denver. While most might think that a YETI Cooler is best for cold drinks and ice, it’s also the perfectly-designed vessel for maintaining temperature of cooked foods, in preparation for serving.
Why should you rest your meat? There are a number of reasons, and the primary one is that it helps the food you’ve cooked reabsorb the juices that have developed during the cook, meaning that every bite and slice will be moist and tender when you’re ready to serve. So what’s the science behind this process? I am a STEM teacher, so I can’t help but get a little nerdy. Here you go…
As you cook a piece of meat (be it beef, pork, chicken, lamb or something more exotic like bison or elk), the heat in your cooking method makes the proteins in the meat become more firm. As the meat firms up (thus why meat feels different when raw versus cooked), the natural juices and collagen/marbling in the meat move towards the center of the meat (where the cooking hasn’t yet reached or set the proteins as firm). The heat melts the collagen/marbling, which mixes with the natural juices and all of that moisture heads to the center of your roast. If you were to grab a pork tenderloin off the grill and immediately slice it, you’d end up with a puddle of moisture and some not-very-juicy slices of pork on your cutting board. Alternately, if you have a little patience and a good heat-retaining vessel like a YETI cooler, you can serve a fantastic cut of meat that is tender and juicy edge-to-edge.
By resting a cooked piece of protein for at least 10 minutes, away from heat, you are giving the meat time to redistribute the juices that are at the center of the meat to be throughout the meat, and ultimately be reabsorbed. As a result of this short rest, the meat will lose less juice when you cut it, and be more juicy and tender when it hits your plate. The meat naturally relaxes a bit when it’s finally taken off the heat, and that relaxing in the muscle fibers provides room and opportunity for the juices to redistribute.
The website Serious Eats goes into great depth about resting meat, but this picture below shows the dramatic difference in moisture escaping coming from pieces of meat that were identical in size, shape and thickness, and cooked exactly the same. Only difference? They were cut in 2.5 minute increments.
Source: Serious Eats
In the post made on my Instagram account, you see me moving a fully-cooked leg of lamb and a bone-in pork shoulder to my trusty YETI cooler, directly from the hot grill. If you wanted to further retain heat (or have a cooler that isn’t as insulated), you can throw a clean towel over the pans and close the lid. For roasts that size (3.5# for the lamb, 5# for the pork), you want to rest your meat at least 30 minutes. Smaller steaks and chops could rest for 10-15 minutes. If you’re cooking a full-packer brisket, an hour or more is ideal.
The great thing about using my YETI cooler from Ace Hardware is that the heat retention is amazing. Even after 30 minutes being away from a heat source, the pork and lamb were both extremely hot to the touch, and required me wearing cotton gloves under my standard prep gloves. My guests enjoyed hot, delicious and juicy meat, and there wasn’t a bunch of tasty liquid pooled on the cutting board when the food was served.
Do yourself a favor and tack on 15 minutes or more to your cook time when you’re preparing a meal on the grill this summer. Your guests (and you) will thank me! Happy (official) grilling season!