I’ve read Meat (by Pat LaFrieda) and watched Thomas Keller (e.g. Masterclass episode) address this topic from two different, conflicting perspectives.

Pat says no, barring frozen meat, tempering meat to somewhere around room temp is both unnecessary and unsanitary.

However, Keller describes doing so as imperative.

Both of these individuals are very accomplished (one perhaps more-so than the other), so I’m unsure what to think here: is tempering meat good or bad?

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    ‘How long’ is a different question than if it’s a good practice or not. And advice has changed in the 10+ years since that other question was asked
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 13:49
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    Slight frame challenge: by far the easiest way to get consistently great results that don't smoke your kitchen and cover it in searing grease is to sous vide it and finish it in the broiler on a pre heated cast iron or even an air fryer. Sure they still run a hundred bucks or so but they are both by far the best investments for an amateur home cook. Also they make holiday cooking so much easier, particularly of the kitchen is small.
    – eps
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 23:47

1 Answer 1


Decades ago, the advice was always to let it come up to room temperature, but more recent advice is typically to not worry about that step.

It’s easier to achieve medium rare on a piece of beef while still developing a good crust on the meat if the center is cold when you start cooking it.

For stuff that needs to be cooked through, like poultry, it’s going to cook more quickly if it’s not cold in the center, but the total time (sitting on the counter, plus time on the stove or oven) is longer and there’s a higher risk of cross contamination. (Meat juices dripping on the counter, etc). You can cook at a slightly lower heat for more time, and achieve the same results, but this might not be acceptable in a restaurant where a relatively small delay might adversely affect the whole night when you compound the effects of a 2 minute delay for every time it’s cooked through the night if they’re at capacity.

Giving the meat a chance to warm slightly also gives you a chance to season it before you cook it. Again, some people are for and against this aspect, too. (Salting too early can draw out moisture, and flavors don’t really penetrate meat as quickly as we thought it does, so it’s still going to be right at the surface)

Changing from one method to the other does require adjusting your cooking time and temperature slightly, so it might require a little bit of adjustment by a cook to get fully dialed in to the alternate method, so I can understand a reluctance to change how they do things, especially if it would risk serving their patrons food that might get sent back because it wasn’t to their desired fineness.

When you get a cookbook, it’s basically documenting how they cook something. It will tell you how they find it’s best to cook something, but that doesn’t mean that they’ve exhaustively tried everything possible. And they might have different considerations in evaluating their ideal technique than your situation.

It’s also worth noting that although your chef who recommended only worrying about it when it’s frozen might be wrong on that for steaks. America’s Test Kitchen tested cooking from frozen, and although they said it wasn’t as good as a never frozen steak, they preferred it to a frozen then thawed steak. But they were also aiming for medium rare, so it’s possible that well done might be trickier from frozen.

If you have the opportunity, I’d recommend doing a test yourself, and see what works well for you, in your kitchen, with your pans and stove. (And it might be seasonal, as my kitchen is a different temperature in the summer vs the winter)

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    When it comes to salting it should be done right before cooking OR. a significant amount of time (say 45 min to an hour) before cooking. Some tests show that the latter, waiting long enough for the juices come out and be reabsorbed, gives the best result. Salting with a short rest is the worst option, as that's when you draw out moisture but leave it unabsorbed.
    – eps
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 23:39
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    @eps: an excellent point. And it doesn’t even really need to reabsorb, you just want it dry if you’re attempting to develop a crust. Sometimes reducing the amount of moisture can intensify the other flavors of the meat (but you need the salt in or on the meat, not washed or wiped off because of the loss of moisture)
    – Joe
    Commented Dec 2, 2021 at 23:48

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