A great many meats have sat on my cutting board over the years. And every time they have, there I was, in a state of hysterical paralysis, barely able to contain myself. Every nerve in my body, every flashing neuron, all the cholesterol-choked blood oozing manfully through my veins, urged me to eat. “It’s been long enough!” they said. “It’s rested! It’ll be fine!”
But, I knew, it wouldn’t be fine. The process of resting meat has been one of the fundamental laws of my meat universe. Cook a steak, and put it on your cutting board, and cut it up. Here’s what you’ll get: a big cutting board full of blood and greast. Well, not actually blood. It just looks like blood. What it really is is a substance called myoglobin, and it constitutes everything that we call “juiciness” in meat. And that’s where you want it: in the meat. As a steak, or a roast, or a chicken sits there, calming down while you get increasingly more worked up, the myoglobin retreats back into the muscle tissue, only to be released when you bite it.
Now, this is what I always believed. But my formidable rival in the meat-advice business, Meathead Goldwyn, disagrees. He considers resting a canard. What’s more, he summoned a scientist to his aid, Dr. Greg Bonder, who put some meats through a series of experiments, which generally involved his cutting up a meat right out of the oven on paper towels and weighing them, and cutting up the same meat, rested, and weighing those towels. There is a bunch of other very plausible, thoughtful, well-reasoned, carefully citationed, and very wrong arguments on behalf of this preposterous theory. I told Meathead that he was wrong; but he insists on going on at obsessive length against the practice of resting. “So resting cools the meat, softens the crust, overcooks the center, and reduces moisture of steaks and chops, and its impact on the perception of juiciness is probably nil,” he says in one of his more measured statements.
I know Meathead is wrong because when I see the steak sitting there, and I slice it with my razor-like Bob Kramer carbon knife, it barely spills any juices at all. It’s as simple as that. Meathead has the fair-mindedness to discuss experiments by British superchef Heston Blumenthal, Food Lab savant Kenji Lopez-Alt, and the entire Cooks Illustrated kitchen testing team, all of whom testify to the exact opposite of everything he says. But take it from me. It’s worth the wait.
Meanwhile, I’m going to keep reading Meathead’s site, if only for the recondite meat reveries of Dr. Bonder. “I’m about to write up my conclusions on bark formation,” he tells me excitedly in a private email. Bark formation, of course, is what happens on the outside of a pork butt. But to Dr. Bonder, it’s “a wonderful dance between fat exudation and oxidation, carmelization, and pellicle formation. The pellicle is particularly interesting.” Tell it, Dr. Bonder! As long as you don’t want me to make me roasts and chops hemmeorahge over the cutting board, I’m all ears.