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How to Cook Meat Like a Chef – Tempering and Resting; the 2 Secrets to Success!

Updated on August 29, 2010

Want to cook better steaks, chops and roasts every time without spending a dime more at the butcher shop? Here are 2 very easy techniques that require no skill at all to execute and which will make you a better cook, guaranteed.

  1. Tempering Meat (Letting meat come to room temperature before cooking)
  2. Resting Meat

Tempering – A Head Start to a Great Steak

By starting the cooking process with meat that is at room temperature you make things a lot easier on yourself.

You want the meat cooked through to your liking, but you don’t want to overcook the exterior of the meat while waiting for the interior to come up to an appropriate temperature. This is one of the biggest challenges facing the cooker of meats!

Say you want a nice medium rare steak with an interior cooked through to 130 degrees. To get the interior to this temperature you’re going to apply heat to the exterior. This heat, which is coming off a grill or from a hot pan, is going to be much hotter than 130 – likely at 500 - 600 or even 700 degrees!

Now high heat is good, as it allows us to caramelize the exterior surface of the meat and gets us that appetizing deep brown – but high heat for too long can also result in thick exterior section of a steak that is grossly overcooked before the deep interior comes up to desired temperature.

  • Now – if you start cooking a steak that is right out of the fridge, the interior has to go from about 40 degrees to 130 degrees – a 90 degree heat increase.
  • If, however, you let your steaks sit out of the refrigerator for a while before cooking and allow them to come up to room temperature, they would start out about 70 degrees inside and need only to increase by 60 degrees to a finished medium rare.

By letting the steaks come to room temperature before cooking (called tempering) you decrease by about a third the temperature increase and the total cooking time. This means that the exterior gets less overcooked by the time the interior has come to temperature – and this means more evenly cooked – rosy throughout – meats, rather than a dark a tough exterior and a narrow band of medium rare in the center.

Although restaurants have code trouble with tempering as an institutional practice, this is quite safe to do as a home cook. Just make sure you start with fresh meat and don’t let the meat sit on the counter for longer than is needed to come to room temperature and you’ll be fine.

Resting Meat – Don’t Let the Juices Out

The second crucial step to a great piece of meat is letting it rest after cooking.

Any meat that finishes hotter on the outside than it is on the inside (virtually all roasts, chops, steaks etc. – everything but very slow cooked braises etc.) benefits greatly from a few minutes of resting before your make that first cut into the meat.

Cutting into the meat too soon results in a loss of meat juices and a resultant dry and flavorless piece of meat.

During cooking, the meat juices run to the hotter exterior. At the end of cooking, much of the liquid in the meat is at this exterior surface and if you cut into the meat right away, it will spill onto the plate.

By letting the meat rest for 10 or 20 minutes before serving and carving, the exterior of the meat cools down a bit and the juices in the meat then start to redistribute back to the center – getting reabsorbed evenly throughout. After this resting period, cutting into the meat does not result in a dramatic juice loss – and you get a tasty juicy steak or roast or what-have-you.

Patience Is Key

So there you go – 2 very easy techniques to cooking better – all you need is a little patience!


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    • profile image 

      4 years ago

      20 minutes on a rest? I've always heard 5 minutes or so…maybe longer for a big roast or something….

    • John D Lee profile imageAUTHOR

      John D Lee 

      8 years ago

      Thanks Pamela - I hope it helps you!

    • Pamela99 profile image

      Pamela Oglesby 

      8 years ago from Sunny Florida

      I am bookmarking this hub for future reference. I didn't realize that about the temperatures.


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