Frozen steaks can be the best tasting steak to ever come out of your kitchen. Not only is it juicier and more evenly cooked, but the slower cook time also provides a greater margin for error.
I grew up with a completely underwhelming idea of a steak. You know the ones, about as thick and shoe leather and just as tender - medium rare consisting of a thin pink line through the center; reminiscent more of a pregnancy test kit than prime culinary fare.
After becoming an adult I was fortunate enough to travel the country and in doing so eat at some fairly nice restaurants. What did I notice? The steaks were huge! They were at least twice as thick as the steaks I was accustomed to eating and far more enjoyable. I never wanted to eat thin steaks again.
Recently I got my hands on a quarter cow, which not only saves me a bunch of money by purchasing in bulk, but I also got to provide all of the specifications for the butchering myself, which means I now have a freezer full of 1 ½” steaks waiting to do my bidding!
Can you cook frozen steak?
Yes! Not only can you successfully cook a frozen steak, but when done correctly it is actually one of the best ways to prepare a perfectly seared juicy steak. Properly cooking frozen steak is also the most forgiving method because it is cooked slowly to bring the interior to the ideal temperature, which also eliminates that overcooked gray band of meat directly below the seared crust.
The problem with a freezer full of frozen steaks is that they are, well, frozen! It takes some planning ahead to thaw them out and have them ready for dinner. But have no fear, it is actually best to cook frozen steaks while they are still rock hard? I’m serious.
Don’t pre-thaw your frozen steaks. Here’s why: When browning the steak in the pan the surface exterior will heat up sufficiently to form a nice crust while the inside stays nice and cold, preventing the residual ‘graying’ inside the meat nearest to the surface.
When you finish the steak in the oven the interior will thaw and gently heat up to your desired temperature. Since the interior is heating up in the oven and not in the pan you will eliminate the gray band of meat encapsulating your medium-rare goodness which means a more tender steak and more moisture.
So how do you do it exactly?
How to Cook a Frozen Steak
(Printable recipe summary at the bottom)
Gather a couple of frozen steaks and get out your 12” pan (I recommend cast iron) and add enough oil to cover the bottom (~⅛”). Heat on high and lay your steaks into the pan.
NOTE: Make sure there is not any noticeable ice on the steak or you will have a nasty flare up. If so, let the exterior thaw slightly and pat dry with a paper towel.
How Long to Sear a Frozen Steak
Cooks Illustrated, where I learned this trick, recommends cooking at 90 seconds per side. For my gas stove it is closer to 2-3 minutes per side. Use your judgment and adjust time and heat accordingly. You don’t want a carbon-dated charred mess but you also don’t want the steak to come out gray. If the time is up and it doesn’t look like it has browned sufficiently, just put it back in for a bit longer. Relax, you are burning meat. You should be good at that.
How to Bake Steak
You have your oven pre-heated to 275 degrees, right? Ok good. When the steaks are done in the skillet, place them on a wire rack sitting atop a baking sheet. You want the steaks elevated on the wire rack so they cook evenly in the oven. If they sit directly on the pan there will be more heat transfer to the bottom of the steak.
Now you can season the steaks to your liking. I like to use my Steak Seasoning Rub recipe, or paint them with a steak marinade. (you can't really marinate a frozen steak, but they still taste great with the exterior brushed with a marinade)
Now place the baking sheet in the oven and wait. How long? Well that depends on how well you want your steaks done and how thick they are. So that is going to vary. Figure 15 minutes – 30 minutes, although my 1 ½" steaks take up to an hour. Plan for much longer if you incessantly have to keep opening the oven to check on them…
…which is why you need this:
Yes, you need a digital meat thermometer. Using this allows you to pull your steaks out of the oven without ever once having to open the oven door to check their progress. This is one of my favorite items in the kitchen and at under $20 there is really no excuse why everyone shouldn’t have one. Say goodbye to rubber chicken, ruined Thanksgiving turkeys and overcooked steaks. This one piece of equipment will result in more successful meals than anything else you can buy.
After the steak reaches your desired level of doneness, remove it from the oven and let it rest for 5 minutes. Why? Because if you cut into it now the juices will come running out and your steak won’t be nearly as moist and succulent as it could be. You already put in all this effort to make a great meal, don’t ruin it now.
Your steak is done, but can still be customized any way you want. Jazz up your steak with any of these toppings:
How to Cook a Perfect Frozen Steak
- 2 Frozen Steaks
- Cooking Oil
- Salt and desired steak flavor enhancer see my recipe below
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ teaspoon worcestshire
- ¼ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
- ¼ teaspoon high quality liquid smoke (don’t let BBQ diehards ever talk you out of buying it)
- 1 teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- ¼ teaspoon brown sugar
- ⅛ teaspoon onion powder
- ⅛ teaspoon garlic powder
- ⅛ teaspoon paprika (smoked is best)
- ⅛ teaspoon cinnamon
- Dash of salt
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
- Heat 12" pan on high and add enough oil to thinly cover the bottom of the pan, approximately 2 tablespoons of oil.
- Sear each side of the steak for 90+ seconds, or until a brown crust forms. I recommend using a splatter screen to keep oil contained.
- Remove from pan and place on wire rack over a baking sheet.
- Add desired steak seasonings, such as the marinade listed, and generously dust with salt.
- Insert oven thermometer inside the deepest part of the steak and place in the oven for 15-30 minutes, until it reaches your desired level of doneness. Opening the oven frequently will drastically increase cooking time. (Medium rare is 135 degrees)
- Remove from oven and let rest 5 minutes prior to cutting and serving.
- Mix all ingredients together and brush on steak when putting it in the oven. Feel free to use a steak seasoning rub instead.
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