Defrost frozen steak quickly and safely with our easy guide to defrosting meat. From the water bowl technique to avoiding freezer burn, find out how to defrost steaks today.
We’ve all forgotten to defrost steaks before a big meal. Whether you’re planning a barbecue or a simple weeknight dinner, not taking the meat out of the freezer can complicate things.
The good news is that you don’t have to worry – as long as you know how to defrost steaks quickly and safely, you’ll have dinner on the grill in no time.
The best way to defrost steaks
Ideally, thaw your steaks in the refrigerator for at least 24 to 36 hours. This way they stay at a safe, consistently cold temperature when thawed, reducing the risk of harmful bacteria growing.
Thawed red meat will keep in the fridge for 3-5 days before cooking, and can actually be refrozen if left uncooked(although you may notice a reduction in quality).
Defrost in cold water
Cold water thawing is a much faster method of safely thawing meat and is USDA approved. However, it requires more attention than just leaving them in the fridge.
To thaw in cold water, meat must be in a leak-proof container or plastic bag; If the bag or container is leaky, bacteria could get into the food from the air or the environment, and the meat could absorb water and affect the texture as it cooks.
- Place your steak in a sealable food safe bag. Suck out as much air as possible and cover with plastic wrap as an extra layer of protection against leaks.
- Put the bag in cold water. Fill a mixing bowl or sink with cold water and submerge the wrapped steak. Thawing occurs as cold water is slowly reached, at which point the water is drained and the container refilled with cold tap water.
- Check the meat. You need to replace the water every 30 minutes. Don’t be tempted to use lukewarm water to speed up the process; warm or hot water pushes the steak into an “unsafe” temperature zone and could lead to the growth of unwanted bacteria.
- Fry your steak. You can tell your steak is thawed when it feels soft and meaty when you pinch it between your fingers. If you find cold or hard spots, it needs more time to thaw. The center of your steak is the part that will take the longest to defrost, so use that as a reference point.
Avoid the microwave
When time is of the essence in the kitchen, we often reach for our trusty friend, the microwave. While the microwave IS great for many things, it should be avoided when defrosting any type of meat.
Defrosting steaks in the microwave(yes, even if you have a special defrost setting) can cause them to become dehydrated and lose their delicious juices, resulting in a tough, chewy cut of meat.
Microwaving can also cause hot spots to develop and some areas to start cooking while others are still frozen, meaning not only will you have an overcooked and tough steak, you’re at a much higher risk of it being cooked through Will have bacteria like some points. Have reached the danger zone temperature while others are still in the safe area or even frozen.
Can you cook steak from frozen?
If you’re so pressed for time that you have no choice but to cook your steak straight from the freezer, that’s fine and possible. You only need to allow about 50% longer to cook since the meat needs to thaw during cooking.
The easiest way to tell if it’s fully cooked is to check the internal temperature with a meat thermometer. The USDA requires beef steak to reach an internal temperature of at least 140°F before standing and serving.
Frozen cooking isn’t bad either?
There are many foods, both meat and vegetables, that we prepare frozen(stores wouldn’t sell us frozen foods if they couldn’t make them!). But the reason it is often warned about, especially with meat, is that it can affect texture if not properly prepared for freezing.
Supermarket frozen foods are generally frozen. In quick freezing, food is frozen so quickly that the water molecules in the cells don’t have a chance to expand, settle and endanger the food.
You will see that this damage is most common in frozen vegetables. Vegetables contain a lot of water; When they begin to freeze, this water expands and ruptures the cell walls. When it thaws again, no cell wall holds that water in place, so it spreads around and we end up with mushy, often tasteless veggies.
The same process can also occur with meat. If ice crystals are allowed to form, the expanded water molecules burst and break up the fibrous structures. As meat thaws, it loses a lot more moisture and liquid from damaged cells, which means it can dry out and have a little less flavor when cooked.
Cooking frozen food isn’t a bad thing; Problems only arise when food has not been properly frozen.
Most of us don’t have access to a blast chiller at home, but if you need to get a meat through and relatively unscathed, you can do it by following a few steps.
How to Freeze Steak
Steak cooks well and keeps well in the freezer as long as it’s properly prepared and packaged.
How to wrap steaks for freezing
Wrapping your steak(or any meat) before freezing is the immediate step to ensure it will hold up well.
- Wrap the fillet well in at least two layers; We recommend a first layer of plastic wrap and then a second layer of foil or parchment paper.
- Place your wrapped steak in a plastic freezer bag and remove as much air as possible before sealing the top.
- Label the bag with the contents and date so you can keep track of what needs to be used first.
- Place your steaks in the coldest part of the freezer, usually the bottom, and store them as flat as possible. Making sure they’re frozen will make it easier to thaw them later.
Avoid freezer burn
There’s nothing worse than taking something out to thaw or cooking and realizing you have freezer burn. While freezer burn makes something unsafe for consumption, it can affect the flavor and texture of cooked food, so it’s best to avoid it if possible.
What is freezer burn?
Freezer burn is when ice crystals “migrate” to the surface of food that has been in the freezer for a period of time.
The ice is formed from the moisture in the food. When it migrates to the surface of the food, it can evaporate(it’s actually a process called sublimation, but for simplicity it’s very similar to the evaporation process). This evaporation causes dehydration, resulting in the white “burn marks” that freezer burn leaves behind and can dry out food and affect flavor.
How to stop freezer burn
To avoid freezer burn, make sure the meat is well wrapped and stored in a sealable plastic bag with as much airflow as possible before freezing. The less air that can get to the food, the less chance there is for moisture to evaporate(sublimate) and cause freezer burn.
Consider a vacuum sealer
If you have a lot of meat to freeze and you want to make sure it stays as fresh as possible and free of freezer burn, it may be worth getting a vacuum sealer.
They’re easy to use, too: place raw meat in a vacuum-tight bag, place the open top in the machine, and mechanically remove all air from a bag before using heating element to create an airtight seal.
Frequently Asked Questions
How long can steak be kept in the freezer?
Ideally, YOU should aim to use it within six months of freezing, but it can last up to a year in the freezer if properly packaged and stored.