I read over at Serious eats that when seasoning a steak, you either need to cook it immediately after salting, or after 40 minutes and more.

(To sum up the article, this is due to a process of osmosis that starts after salting, drawing out the liquids, and it takes at least 40 minutes for enough of them to be reabsorbed)

Anyway, they say that after the 40 minute mark, the longer I leave the meat to rest, the better it will come out at the end.

My question is: How long is too long? I imagine that at some point the meat will dehydrate (less likely) or go bad. At which conditions should I leave it and when is the point of no return?

  • This is not quite what I asked... I am coming from the asummption that the longer the steak is left to rest after seasoning, the better it will get. My question is where to draw the limit and how to keep it from going bad this time.
    – hizki
    Apr 6, 2011 at 23:10
  • If you're asking how long it is safe to leave a raw steak out then that is answered by What Do I Need To Know About Temperature And Food Safety?. The seasoning makes no difference, and it will go bad long before it dries out.
    – Aaronut
    Apr 6, 2011 at 23:21
  • This is more in the lines of what I was trying to ask, but it's a bit complicated and generic answer to my question. You're probably right about dehydration not being a concern, and that the seasoning makes no difference. I would still appreciate if I'd get an answer as to how and where I should leave the meat to rest, and how long to leave at there...
    – hizki
    Apr 6, 2011 at 23:37
  • This is the reabsorption I was talking about in the recent question regarding getting a juicy burger! Apr 7, 2011 at 7:06

7 Answers 7


The one problem I see with the article is that they cook the steak "as is" after letting it rest. They even mention that because so much liquid had been pulled out it caused problems with cooking. The missing step is to pat the steak dry. It needs to be dry when going in to the pan. I think the results are slightly skewed because of this - it was dry at the 0 minute mark and at the 40 minute mark but not at the in between marks. Keep in mind that you can wipe off seasonings when patting dry so this is still something to keep in mind.

As for your question - how long to leave it out? As Aaronaught said it doesn't really matter if it's salted or not. How long a steak can sit on the counter and not go bad will depend on the conditions and is more of a food-safety question unrelated to seasoning. You can, as the article mentions, place it in the fridge if you want to let it rest for a long time. Just remember to let it come back to room temperature before cooking for best results.

I'm not sure I really buy in to the importance of water reabsorption in how it relates to taste. The entire process of dry aging is designed to pull moisture out of the meat to give it a more concentrated beef flavor. Again, the article mentions that letting it rest this way for up to a day only results in an ~5% loss by weight, which pales in comparison to the 20%+ loss from cooking.

Now if you want to let it "rest" for a LONG time, like days or weeks you're talking more about a process like dry aging, in which case you'll want to start with a large piece of meat as the outside will need to be cut off as it will get rather dried out and not very appealing to eat. This involves more than just putting meat in the fridge though, so you probably don't want to go too far past 24 hours in the fridge.


Thomas Keller, in Ad Hoc At Home, says twenty minutes from seasoning to pan. I see no reason to dispute this.

  • 7
    @Daniel, I usually admire your answers. However, this time I don't agree. Good chefs have been known to fall for kitchen myths. When Kenji from Serious eats gathers his data in his usual methodical way and presents them clearly, I see this as reason enough to dispute any "This is how we professional chefs do it" statements. When he takes the time to compare a steak salted for 20 minutes and a steak salted for 40 minutes and got clear results that 40 minutes is better, I believe him.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 12, 2011 at 21:47
  • I guess you haven't read Ad Hoc At Home. Keller delves into a lot of why they do what they do, and it's all backed up by extensive research in the kitchens at the Luandry, Per Se, and Ad Hoc.
    – daniel
    Apr 12, 2011 at 23:41
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    No, haven't read it. Does he mention that he did experiments specifically with seasoning time? Because I have seen how renowned professors do their research, they focus on the questions for which they have time and interest, and for everything else rely on an authority (which is their case is peer-reviewed publications, in Keller's probably not). This is not a bad thing, and I would rely on somebody like Keller - until somebody publishes conflicting empirical data, like in this case.
    – rumtscho
    Apr 13, 2011 at 10:08

Once the steak has reached room temperature, about 20-30 minutes, it should be cooked. You can put the rub on the steak and refrigerate it for several hours, or overnight, but it should be rest 20-30 minutes before cooking. No longer than that.

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    The question specifies that they intend to let it rest for a minimum of 40 minutes, so anything shorter than that is unlikely to be useful. Aug 15, 2013 at 20:20

Tough question to answer without jumping off the subject. It's kinda dangerous too. I think it would depend on the individual. Chef Gordon Ramsay says 10-15 minutes. Me? After I pat a six ounce steak dry, I apply salt and other seasonings. I usually end up leaving it on the counter for 15 minutes to 3 hours with room temperature at 65 degrees sometimes as high as 85 degrees, and then season again before searing it. My main goal is a picture perfect steak. Next week, when I start my exercise routine, I'm going to experiment to see if my way of searing produces any cognitive decline or loss of physical strength.


If you add salt to the steak, you need to cook it as soon as possible, because the salt will make the juices of the steak leak, and it will loose a lot of taste.

  • Could you comment your downvote, please? Apr 28, 2011 at 14:23
  • 1
    I believe he downvoted you because you simply stated what I had already presented in my question: "you either need to cook it immediately after salting, or after 40 minutes and more."
    – hizki
    May 1, 2011 at 19:46

Nice article, I think it's for more than 2 hours. After that, it's contaminated by bacteria.

  • Are you assuming the salted steak is left out at room temperature?
    – SAJ14SAJ
    Mar 21, 2013 at 2:21
  • Really bad/wrong answers are still answers in my mind, so I've declined to delete this. (It's possible another mod will think differently.)
    – Cascabel
    Mar 21, 2013 at 15:12

I like to leave a steak out at room temperature for three to four days, marinated in wine, coke, garlic and spices of my choice. When I fry it melts like butter in my mouth. When I worked at the cold storage commission we were told that you should leave steaks out at room temp a few days before cooking. As long as it is properly covered and sealed and marinated. It tenderizes naturally by standing out at room temperature.

  • 3
    That is dangerous advice. I removed the all-caps from your message and downvoted. I also flagged it for removal, which may or may not actually result in the message being removed. Perhaps "room temperature" has a different meaning for you than for most of us? A steak, regardless of marinade or covering, cannot be safely left at room temperature for "days". If you mean a temperature lower than 60-70F (15-21C), please edit with the temperature you do mean.
    – Jolenealaska
    May 31, 2014 at 22:41
  • 1
    Danger, Will Robinson, Danger!
    – Preston
    Jun 1, 2014 at 21:02

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