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I understand that when a steak rests after cooking, the muscle fibers relax, allowing the juices to reenter the meat as described here. I've heard that while the meat relaxes and the juices flow in, they can draw melted butter in as well. Is this true? I've tried the technique and find it tastes great, but I'm not sure if its because the butter really penetrated or because the surface is just coated with it.

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2 Answers 2

It probably depends on the cut of meat. A hangar steak or something cut on the bias with big stringy bits of meat would definitely let butter into the in-between parts.

I read a quote from Nathan Mirvold, former Microsoft CTO. He is writing a massive cookbook right now (!) and made an interesting claim in the NY Times article about it -- he said that chemically external fats can't penetrate meat as the molecules are too big; as a practical example, he said you might as well braise meat in water and store in oil rather than confiting -- it does nothing to the interior chemically.

Them's fighting words to chefs, but I haven't read any rebuttals.

All that to say, I wouldn't bet anybody that you'll find butter actually inside the steak.

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Good point about the cut of meat. I've tried this technique on both a Rib Eye and Porterhouse. –  Kilhoffer Jul 20 '10 at 20:02
    
I've always tended to do this with rib-eye. "Porterhouse" is not sold in the UK, as far as I can tell (there was health concerns about beef sold on the bone a while back, although I thought restrictions had been relaxed) –  Rowland Shaw Jul 20 '10 at 20:05
    
@peter v. Are you talking about this book? : amazon.com/Modernist-Cuisine-Art-Science-Cooking/dp/0982761007/… –  MandoMando Mar 3 '13 at 16:30

I'm not sure the butter penetrates, but it tastes pretty good on the surface. ;)

I think it's pretty obvious that marbling plays a huge role in juiciness, so it stands to reason that if you bard or lard the meat it would also make a difference in juiciness (and indeed, the standard filet mignon with the bacon barding would seem to bear this out).

In the end though, it's always been my experience that once you cook the juice out of something, it's gone for good. I've always considered the idea of "resting" meat to be more about letting it cool to the point where the temperature isn't going to force out juice that would otherwise linger.

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Resting is actually about allowing the excited juices inside the meat calm down a bit. When they do so, they stay inside when cut. Do it for yourself at home: cook two identical steaks. Slice one up as soon as it's cut and see how much liquid leaks onto your cutting board. Wait ten minutes and cut the other. –  daniel Jul 21 '10 at 6:18

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