Conventional wisdom holds that frozen steaks should be thawed before cooking, but our testing proved otherwise.
We've all forgotten to defrost meat ahead of time—but when you're cooking steak, that's not necessarily a bad thing. We conducted an experiment to determine the best way to cook frozen steaks.
We cut a strip loin into eight steaks, cut each steak in half crosswise, put the pieces in vacuum-sealed bags, and froze them. We then thawed each steak half in the refrigerator overnight and kept the other half frozen. We seared both sets of steaks in a hot skillet for 90 seconds per side and then transferred them to a 275-degree oven until they reached 125 degrees, or medium-rare, on an instant-read thermometer. To track moisture loss, we weighed each steak before and after cooking.
Not surprisingly, the frozen steaks took longer to finish cooking through in the oven (18 to 22 minutes versus 10 to 15 minutes for the thawed steaks). What was surprising was that the frozen steaks actually browned in the skillet just as well as, and in the same amount of time as, the thawed steaks. Furthermore, they had thinner bands of gray, overcooked meat directly under the crust than the thawed steaks had. We also found that these steaks lost on average 9 percent less moisture during cooking than the thawed steaks did. Sampling the steaks side by side, tasters unanimously preferred the cooked-from-frozen steaks to their thawed counterparts.
Because a frozen steak is so cold, its surface can reach the very high temperatures necessary for browning reactions before the interior overcooks. As for the difference in moisture loss, we know that when meat is cooked to temperatures higher than 140 degrees, its muscle fibers begin to squeeze out a significant amount of moisture. As its slightly thicker gray band indicated, the steak that had been thawed had more overcooking around the edge, so it made sense that it also had greater moisture loss.
The Takeaway: While we prefer to start with steak that’s never been frozen for the best texture, if we do have frozen steaks on hand, from now on we’ll cook them straight from the freezer.
Place steaks on rimmed baking sheet and press gently to make them uniformly flat.
Freeze steaks, uncovered, overnight (this dries them out to prevent excess splattering during cooking).
Once frozen, wrap individual steaks tightly in plastic wrap (or vacuum seal them).
Place steaks in a zipper-lock bag and return to freezer.
Pour vegetable oil into 12-inch skillet until it measures 1/8 inch deep. Heat oil until shimmering.
Carefully add frozen steaks to skillet. Cook steak on both sides until brown, 90 seconds per side.
Transfer skillet to 275-degree oven and cook until steaks register 125 degrees for medium-rare, 18 to 22 minutes. Let steaks rest for 10 minutes before serving,
Learn About How to Make Grilled Frozen Steaks:
Recipe Development: Spur-of-the-Moment Grilled Steak
Recipe: Grilled Frozen Steaks