You Actually Should Rest Precision Cooked Meat

Most precision cooked meat recipes follow a pretty standard format: Put your meat in a plastic bag, place the bag in a water bath set to your desired temperature, cook the meat for about an hour, then finish the meat on the grill or super hot pan. This is a fine, seemingly unflawed sequence of events, but a little rest in between bath and sear will help ensure you don’t overcook your steak (or chop).

You have probably been told you don’t need to “rest” a precision cooked meat, as the lack of temperature gradient inside a precision cooked steak or chop means you don’t have to worry about juices spilling out if you slice too soon.

This is all true, but putting a hot steak in an even hotter pan is just going to raise its temperature further, meaning — in the case of thinner cuts especially — that piece of meat you just slowly cooked for an hour or so is now more “done” than you wanted it to be. (The reverse sear method takes this into account — you intentionally slow cook your meat to a temperature that is 15-20 degrees below your target temperature, as the act of searing will bring it up to the target temp.)

If you usually finish your precision cooked meat on the grill, you probably haven’t noticed this: by the time you take the meat out of the bag, pat it dry, walk it over to the grill and futz around with the grill a bit (grillers are prone to futzing), it’s probably dropped in temperature. But if you’re the type to pre-heat your cast iron before your steak even comes out of the bag, you might be overcooking it in your quest to get that perfect crust.

But don’t take my word(s) for it, let’s look at some numbers. The other night I cooked two pork chops, with a precision cooker, for an hour and a half at 60 degrees Celsius. One chop was seared immediately upon removal from the bath, and the other was seared after a 10-minute rest on the cutting board.

In just a few minutes, after searing both sides (and the fatty edges) to a nice, deep, just-past-golden brown, the unrested chop had reached an internal temperature of 65 degrees Celsius, which is quite a bit hotter than I wanted it to be. (And yes, I flipped frequently to help the heat dissipate.) The rested chop, however, had dropped down to 52 degrees during its nap, and after searing, climbed back up 58, only a few degrees over the bath temperature.

Luckily, none of this is a very big deal, and overcooking your precious precision cooked steak or chop is easily avoided. Just let the meat rest for 10 minutes or so while you heat your cast iron pan and dress a salad or whatever. Sear it, unhurried, for a few minutes, letting that beautiful crust develop, unworried about crossing the dreaded line from medium-rare to medium.


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