How To Keep Steak Warm Before Serving, And Other Tips

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Grilled steak with flames

A perfectly grilled steak is a thing of beauty. When you’ve worked hard to achieve just the right serving temperature, you want to be able to enjoy it to the fullest.

But what if your side dishes aren’t quite ready yet? How do you preserve the integrity of the meat? Here, we’ll talk about how to keep steak warm before you serve it.

How To Keep Steak Warm

To keep steak warm after you’ve pulled it off the heat, try warming the plate in a low oven or the microwave. Since the process only takes about 5 minutes in the oven, it’s best to take this step before you start grilling the meat. Tenting the meat with foil will also help it retain its heat, but be careful not to wrap it too tightly, or it will overcook.

Grilled steak and vegetables

Recommended Serving Temperatures For Grilled Steak

Unlike pork chops, which should be cooked to 145 degrees Fahrenheit for best results, or chicken breasts, which reach the optimum serving temperature at 165, grilled steak has a broader window when it comes to the correct degree of doneness.

The recommended temperature guidelines for grilled steak are as follows:

  • Rare: 120 degrees; cool red center, very tender and soft
  • Medium-Rare: 130 degrees; warm red center, melt-in-your-mouth texture
  • Medium: 140 degrees; hot pink center; slightly firm
  • Medium-Well: 150 degrees; mostly brown center with a hint of pink; firm
  • Well Done: 160+ degrees; brown-gray center, very dry and firm

In our opinion, medium-rare is the ideal temperature for most steaks. The only exception would be tenderloin, which is so lean that it can be enjoyed when cooked very rare.

If you want a grilled steak that strikes the perfect balance between a lightly charred exterior and tender, juicy meat, try to aim for an internal temperature of 130 degrees.

Remember that the temperature will rise a bit as the steak rests, especially if you’re attempting to keep it warm using one of the methods described below. With that in mind, feel free to pull the steak off the grill when the temperature registers 125.

Understanding The Cooking Process

You probably already know that it’s important not to cut right into a steak—or any meat—as soon as you pull it off the grill. Here’s why you should never skip the resting stage.

Steak cooks from the outside in. As it heats up, the meat releases juices that move toward the cooler center.

When the steak is resting, these juices are redistributed, so the entire steak will be juicy throughout. If you were to cut into the steak immediately, all that moisture would spill out onto the work surface, leaving you with tough, dry meat.

How Long To Rest Steak After Cooking

During the resting period, your goal is to let the steak cool just enough to allow the juices to return to the outer edges of the cooked meat. This process should take 5 to 7 minutes. If you rest it any longer, the steak may be too cool when it’s time to serve it.

The best way to rest steak is on a cutting board or a plate. A wire rack is another good option. You can tent the meat loosely with foil if desired, but be aware that this will soften the crisp exterior.

The main thing to remember is never to wrap the steak up in the foil as it rests. If you do this, it will steam inside the foil and increase the temperature past the point you’re going for.

Tips On How To Keep Steak Warm

Grilled strip loin steak in foil

Should you need to rest the meat for longer than 7 minutes, you have a few options. We’ll start with our favorites.

Heat The Plate

If you start with a heated plate, the steak will stay warm without overcooking. Oven-safe dinner plates are a great investment, and come in very handy here. As an alternative, you can heat the plate in the microwave.

For the oven, use the lowest possible temperature setting and set the plates inside for about 5 minutes. Since it doesn’t take long to prepare a medium-rare steak on the grill, you might want to take this step before you start cooking.

The microwave method is even faster. Place a microwave-safe plate in the unit and set the timer for 1 minute. This should warm the plate enough to keep the steaks from cooling off once they’re cooked.

These techniques work even better when you cover the plate with foil, especially if it’s chilly or windy outside. Just remember not to wrap the foil too tightly.

Also note that you can use the warmed-plate method to keep any grilled meats warm, from pork chops to hamburgers to chicken breasts.

Use A Plate Cover

If your plate or serving platter has a lid, place it over the steaks immediately after taking them off the grill. For optimum results, warm the plate beforehand.

Depending on the shape of the resting platter, you might also be able to use a second plate as a makeshift lid. This is a good way to trap heat inside without actually cooking the meat.

Set The Oven To Low

As a last resort, set the oven to its lowest setting and place the steaks inside until serving time. Since you’ll need a heatproof dish in order to use this method, it’s better to just heat that up beforehand, but if you aren’t able to do that, this is an acceptable way to keep the steaks warm.

The reason we consider this a last resort is that the steak will continue to cook in the oven. To compensate for this, try to cook the steaks to a temperature slightly lower than your preferred serving temp if you’re planning to pop them in the oven.

Tips On Reheating Steak

Should all else fail and you need to reheat the steak, know that there are right and wrong ways to go about it.

First of all, try to avoid the microwave whenever possible. While some people try to get around the inferiority of this method by draping the meat in damp paper towels, we think it ruins the texture of good steak.

Note that the following methods work best if the steaks were cooked recently. To reheat leftover steak, place it in a 250 degree oven until the internal temperature reaches 110 degrees, about 25 minutes.

Give Them A Final Sear

Make sure the grill is still hot enough to create a crisp crust on the exterior of the steaks. If you’re using a charcoal grill and it’s cooled down too much, throw on a few more coals.

Just before you’re ready to serve the steaks, sear them over high heat for about 30 seconds per side. This will firm up the crusts and heat the insides just enough without drying out the meat.

Drizzle Them With Juices

Take the steak juices that collected on the resting platter and transfer them to a skillet. Heat the pan over high heat, taking care not to cook them too long, or they’ll reduce to the point where they disappear. Drizzle the juices over the steaks right before you serve them.

Use A Sauce

Steaks cooked over an open flame aren’t usually served with gravy, as there are no pan drippings to work with. However, grilled steaks are great with béarnaise or hollandaise sauce.

If you’re using one of these sauces to enrich the meat, make sure it’s piping hot when you pour it over the steaks. The residual heat will warm the steaks without raising their serving temperature.

The Bottom Line

There’s no substitute for serving the steaks as soon as they’ve rested for the appropriate amount of time. That said, it can be difficult to time everything perfectly, especially if you’re grilling multiple items.

Warm the resting platter beforehand, and cover the steaks with foil as soon as you take them off the heat. This is the best way to keep the meat from getting too cool before it’s time to serve it.

Best of luck, and happy grilling!

Darren Wayland Avatar


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