Why You Should Always Let Your Red Meat Come to Room Temperature Before Cooking

For a tender cut of steak, this step is absolutely essential.

There’s nothing like cutting into a juicy, flavorful steak or biting into a delicious burger, especially one that you’ve prepared at home. Plenty of seasonings and herbs, a simple marinade, or several pats of butter are all ways to build flavor in each and every bite. But before you even place your steak or burger on the grill, there’s one essential step that you’re probably not doing.

While you may be familiar with the benefit of letting a steak rest after it has finished cooking (it keeps the juices locked in), there’s also a perk to taking the meat out of the refrigerator to rest before cooking. By letting the meat begin to come to room temperature for at least 15 minutes, the muscle fibers will begin to relax, resulting in a much more tender product. Otherwise, placing a very cold piece of meat directly on a hot grill or skillet will cause the muscles to toughen up and result in a tougher bite.

There’s another benefit to taking your meat out of the refrigerator in advance, adds Chef Chris Scott from the Institute of Culinary Education. “If you are going to cook your meat to medium or medium rare, it is important to let your meat come to room temperature so it won’t be cold on the inside,” he says.

Although this technique is a great way to cook a delicious cut of red meat, avoid doing it with poultry or seafood. “Seafood should definitely not be left out. It is thin enough that when it cooks coming out of the fridge, it won’t be cold on the inside. Poultry is also a definite no. With pork, you’ll need to be careful; if it is [a piece of] pork that was decently sourced, then you should be OK [to let it rest at room temperature],” explains Chef Chris.

To avoid the growth of bacteria, Chef Chris doesn’t recommend leaving meat out for more than one and a half hours. If the meat has been resting at room temperature, but then you decide against cooking it right away, you may want to reconsider putting it directly back in the refrigerator. “You can collect a lot of bacteria by putting it back and forth in the fridge. It is better to cook it off and use it in a cold salad later,” he adds.

This easy, professional chef-approved tip is something you can implement night after night.

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