Do You Need to Let Meat Rest After Sous Vide
Letting your food rest after you cook is a critical part of maximizing the flavor and juiciness, but when it comes to sous vide, does it actually matter?
In this article, I'm going to dive into whether you need to let meat rest after sous vide. A lot of people are curious about this because with traditional cooking, you almost always want to let your meat rest.
Two Main Reasons to Rest Meat After Traditional Cooking
Before we dive in and answer these questions for sous vide, I think it's important to know "why do you rest meat?", and "What is the purpose of letting your meat sit after you cook it?" in general.
Evenly Distribute the Carryover Temperature Heat
The first is to distribute more evenly the heat throughout the meat. If you're cooking something on a grill or under the broiler, you have something called "carryover" temperature.
This is where if you want a medium rare steak, you want to pull it out when the internal temperature reaches about 120°F, 125°F. It's going to continue to heat up because the outside of the meat is a lot hotter than the inside because it's been on a very hot grill.
As you let it sit for a little bit it continues to "carryover" the cooking process. At some point it will stop cooking, but you want to make sure you give it plenty of time for that process to happen.
Hold in Those Juices
Another important reason to let your meat rest after all cooking techniques is to help the meat hold in a little more of its juices. If you cut your meat right away, a lot more juice comes out.
I'm sure some food scientists and chefs out there have done side-by-side studies showing exactly what the differences are. I have not. But a lot of smart and experienced people tell me that this is the case.
If you take a beef tenderloin, cook it on a grill, and you cut it right away, you're going to lose more moisture than you would if you let it rest for 5 or 10 minutes.
So that's another really big reason why you let food rest.
Why Rest Sous Vide Meat After Cooking It?
Let's look at these 2 reasons for letting meat rest in the context of sous vide.
Carryover Temperatures and Sous Vide Food
The first reason was to evenly distribute temperatures from carryover cooking. But with normal sous vide, that really doesn't happen.
If you're doing something on the fancier end like Delta-T cooking. You might have a little bit of carryover. But for most sous vide applications, you're cooking at the temperature you want your food to end up at.
If you're cooking at 130°F (54.4°C), you don't need to pull it out and let it rest to evenly distribute the temperature because the entire cut of meat is already at 130°F.
So, from the carryover temperature aspect, you really don't need to let a lot of sous vide meat rest.
Holding in Juices and Sous Vide Food
Let's look at the second point which addressed letting those juices reabsorb into the meat and how it applies to sous vide food.
A lot of time, we're cooking at a low enough temperature that it really doesn't matter. I don't know the specific temperature you need to cook below. However, I know at 130°F (54.4°C) and 140°F (60°C), there are a whole lot more juices that stay in the meat than at higher temperatures.
However, there are higher temperature sous vide applications such as making a sous vide brisket or sous vide pot roast or sous vide shredded beef. All of these can be cooked at higher temperatures in the 150°F (65.6°C), 160°F (71.1°C), even 180°F (82.2°C) ranges.
When you sous vide at those temperatures, letting it rest afterwards to reabsorb some of those juices is not a bad idea. It's something that CREA recommends in their sous vide courses, and other top chefs also recommend doing as well.
If you give the meat a little bit more time to absorb the moisture, and you're going to have a juicier end product.
Keep in mind that with sous vide there are 2 more steps after the basic sous vide cooking: resting and searing.
A lot of the resting, especially for the juiciness, is because you don't want to cut it right away. But with sous vide, you're often going to sear it after you take it out of the bag, so you're not planning on cutting it anyway.
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Bring Down the Core Temperature Before Searing Sous Vide Food
The third reason why you want to let it rest after sous vide, is to bring down the core temperature before searing the already cooked food.
When you can bring down the core temperature a little bit before you sear it, you can give it a longer sear. Your end product is going to be a little more crusty, and a little more golden brown, all without raising the internal temperature of the sous vide meat.
To accomplish this, you can let it rest on the counter for 10 to 15 minutes, or you can cool it in an ice bath for 10 or 15 minutes and really drop the temperature a lot more.
But if you do go that route and chill it in an ice bath so you can give it a lot longer sear, you are running into some of the issues you could encounter in traditional cooking. So you may want to let it rest briefly after the sear just to let the juices reabsorb.
Those are some of the goals that you would actually be trying to accomplish by letting your meat rest and how they apply to many of the types of sous vide cooking.
Personal Application of Resting Sous Vided Meat
For me personally, I almost never let my meat rest unless I'm doing a higher pot roast braise-like temperature. Then I usually let it cool in the bag for a few minutes before I chill it in an ice bath. Once the meat is cool, I put it in the fridge overnight, like I would for a traditional braise or pot roast.
Then I can reheat it and give it a better sear the next day. I feel like it holds a little bit more of both the juiciness and the flavor in the meat. This is commonly referred to as Cook Chill Reheat Method and is heavily associated with sous vide bulk meal prep techniques.
I have to admit that sometimes I'm feeling lazy and have just pulled the meat out of the bag and cut it right away. It's still excellent and to me that's one of the big benefits of sous vide cooking.
What you make with sous vide is going to be juicy, flavorful, tender and amazing. Then you can do a few more things if you want to push it another few notches up that quality ladder. But regardless, it's going to be amazing and great on its own, so you don't have to stress about it too much.
So now you know, the next time you're making a sous vide steak or some sous vide meat, whether or not you need to let it rest and whether or not you can just dive in and enjoy it right away.
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This article is by me, Jason Logsdon. I'm an adventurous home cook and professional blogger who loves to try new things, especially when it comes to cooking. I've explored everything from sous vide and whipping siphons to pressure cookers and blow torches; created foams, gels and spheres; made barrel aged cocktails and brewed beer. I have also written 10 cookbooks on modernist cooking and sous vide and I run the AmazingFoodMadeEasy.com website.
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