Roughly 1/3 of the meat Americans consume is beef, and if you've got a nice steak dinner planned, a failed thawing process doesn't have to ruin it. Although cooking a fully frozen steak isn't practical, with a few tips, you can cook a steak that remains slightly frozen. In fact, for some dishes, slightly frozen steak actually makes meal preparation easier.
Frozen steak is actually better for sliced applications, such as fajitas or Philly steak sandwiches, than fully thawed steak. In fact, "Cook's Illustrated" magazine recommends freezing steak for 10 to 20 minutes before slicing, as a slightly firm steak is easier to slice cleanly than a fully thawed -- and therefore floppy -- one. For best texture, slice against the meat grain, which produces shorter meat fibers and less toughness.
Grilled or Broiled Steak
You can also cook slightly frozen steak when you're planning to cook the entire steak with a high-heat method, such as grilling or broiling. To check, hold the steak in both hands and try to bend it in the middle. You should be able to bend the steak easily -- if it resists bending, it is too deeply frozen and the inside may not cook through until after the outside burns.
When working with slightly frozen steak, you'll need to adapt your seasoning method, as the steak will release moisture from the ice locked inside during cooking. The outside of the steak should be moist because the outer layers thaw first. Pat the steak dry with paper towels, then season with large-crystal salt, which will not dissolve as quickly as table salt. Discard the paper towels immediately, leaving them on the counter can cause cross-contamination and food-borne illness.
Though you can cook partially frozen steak, you'll need to take certain precautions to ensure whole steaks cook all the way through. Unlike sliced steak, which has enough surface area to cook quickly, whole steak can retain ice pockets in the interior which prevent full cooking. The only way to be sure your steak is cooked is to insert a meat thermometer into the deepest part of the meat. Safe minimum internal temperature for whole beef cuts is 145 degrees Fahrenheit.
- "Cooks Illustrated"; Classic Fajitas; July 1999
- USDA: Be Smart, Keep Foods Apart
- USDA Fact Sheet: Keep Food Safe! Food Safety Basics
- PBS.org : Is Your Meat Safe -- How Much Meat Americans Eat