You will never find me ordering a rib-eye steak at a restaurant. Although I love rib-eyes and I’m an unabashed carnivore, the cost is too great, given that I can prepare the same steak just as deliciously at home.
But now more than ever, buying (and eating) meat has become increasingly costly.
To save money, I look for deals and buy my steaks in bulk from the grocery store or wholesale clubs such as Restaurant Depot or Costco. Then I freeze the steaks until I’m ready to cook them.
Though I worry that freezing could degrade the quality of the meat. Because what’s the point in saving money now if you end up with subpar steak a few months later?
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So, Can You Freeze Steak?
Yes, you can freeze steak. But it requires some know-how.
You might be tempted to freeze your steak in the butcher paper or other packaging it came in (like I have). Unfortunately, any moisture that remains on the surface of that steak will turn to ice crystals in the freezer. Ice crystals can damage the muscle fibers in meat, impacting their ability to hold onto moisture once thawed.
Vacuum sealing food before freezing it is one way to ensure freshness after thawing, but it requires a piece of equipment you might not have. (I know I haven’t made that investment yet.)
Fortunately, there’s another sure-fire way to freeze steaks without compromising their quality. Thanks to my colleagues at Cook’s Illustrated, I now know a better way to freeze steak.
Read on for the process our team came up with after running some test kitchen experiments.
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The Best Way to Freeze Steak Without a Vacuum Sealer
Here’s our four-step process to ensure that the meat retains as much of its original quality as possible.
- Pat steaks with paper towels. Blotting away surface moisture will help minimize frost.
- Freeze steaks uncovered on a parchment-lined baking sheet. This step allows the meat to freeze as rapidly as possible, which minimizes the growth of ice crystals. (A faster freeze means lots of smaller, less damaging crystals; a slower freeze gives crystals time to grow.) It also helps to further dry out the meat’s surface while freezing the steaks flat. A flat steak will brown more evenly if you cook it frozen.
- Wrap them in plastic wrap. Once the steaks are frozen solid, we wrap each tightly with clingy plastic wrap to help prevent air from drawing moisture (and flavor) from the meat.
- Seal in a zipper-lock freezer bag. The last step provides another barrier against air contacting the steaks. Make sure to press out air before sealing the bag.
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But wait, there’s more! If you freeze a lot of meat (or other foods), an investment in a separate, dedicated old-fashioned freezer with a manual defrost may also be a good idea.
More modern freezers automatically self-defrost to keep ice from forming along their sides, but because they continually raise and lower the temperature, they can accelerate ice crystal formation.
Alternatively, watch Cook’s Illustrated’s Dan Souza demonstrate how to cook steaks straight from the freezer.