Conventional wisdom states that frozen steaks need to be thawed before cooking. Cook's Illustrated senior editor Dan Souza decided to test this, taking eight frozen steaks, thawing half of them overnight in the fridge and keeping the other half frozen.
He then cooked both sets of steaks in the pan for 90 seconds on each side to get a good sear, and then put them in the oven to cook for as long as it took for them to reach medium rare, or an internal temperature of 51 degrees Celsius (125 Fahrenheit).
The frozen steaks were found to have a thinner layer of grey, overcooked meat just under the crust, as compared to the thawed steaks, and they lost on average 9 percent less moisture during cooking. And most importantly, in the test kitchen, Souza says the chefs preferred the cooked frozen steaks over the cooked thawed ones, “hands down”.
So what’s the science behind all of this?
According to the video by America's Test Kitchen, a fully frozen steak is extremely cold, which means the meat below the surface takes longer to be overcooked as the steak is being seared. And the difference in moisture loss? When steaks are cooked at a temperature of 60 degrees Celsius (140 Fahrenheit) or higher, their muscle fibres begin to shrink, which causes them to push out a lot of moisture. As the thicker grey band under the crust of the thawed steaks indicated, they were more overcooked, which means they lost more moisture.
So now that you know the science behind it, what’s the best way of cooking a steak straight from the freezer? You’ve got to freeze it right first, says Souza, don’t just throw a fresh steak into a zip-lock bag and straight into the freezer. Place it on some baking paper and leave it to dry out in the freezer overnight. Once fully frozen, wrap it in cling wrap, put it in a zip-lock bag and back in the freezer for storage. When you want to cook it, fill your pan with oil so its about a centimetre high. This is more oil than you’d normally use to sear a steak, but it ensures that the heat gets into all the crevices that form during freezing.
“It’s the best steak out of the freezer you’ll ever eat,” says Souza.