Sometimes, a frozen steak is all you might find in the freezer, when you're trying to plan for supper. You can cook steak either from frozen or thawed. However, always follow U.S. Department of Agriculture food safety guidelines when defrosting your steak to minimize the chance of bacteria forming. A high-quality steak needs nothing more than some salt to make it taste delicious, but you can season a thawed steak with a variety of dried herbs and spices.
To Thaw or Not
Cooking a steak from frozen works especially well if you like a rare or medium-rare steak. This is because the outside of the steak will cook faster than the center. When the center is warmed through and perfectly rare or medium-rare, the exterior will be cooked to just the right degree.
For well-done or medium steaks, however, there is a greater risk the outside of the steak will be overcooked before the interior of the steak has thawed and cooked through. To avoid this, cook frozen steaks at a lower temperature after searing if you want a medium or well-done steak.
Cooking a Steak From Frozen
Seasoning a Frozen Steak
If you are cooking steak from frozen, there are few seasoning options available before cooking, as herbs and spices will not stick to or penetrate the meat. To season a steak cooked from frozen:
- Add seasonings to the pan after the steak has seared to lightly season the meat; or
- Dress the steak after it has been cooked.
Seasonings added during cooking that are best:
- Sprigs of fresh herbs
- Plain butter
- Dried spices
- A small amount of flavorful liquid, like wine or brandy
Recommended seasonings after cooking:
- Pats of seasoned butter
- Pan sauces, such as a red wine and mushroom sauce
Heat a cast-iron pan on high heat until a small amount of water dropped into the pan instantly sizzles. Sprinkle the bottom of the pan with salt.
Place the frozen steak into the hot pan, on top of the salt. Cook until the underside is starting to brown, around 3 to 5 minutes.
Leave the frozen steak undisturbed as it cooks. It should sizzle and char slightly.
Do not add oil to the pan for cooking a frozen steak. The moisture produced during melting will cause the oil to splatter.
Flip the steak and cook on high heat for another 3 to 5 minutes, until the second side is starting to brown.
Lower the heat to medium, add any seasonings, and cover the pan with a lid.
For a medium or well-done steak, lower the heat to low before covering.
Cook for an additional 5 minutes before testing for doneness. Use a quick-read thermometer to test for doneness at the center of the steak.
- Rare: 140 degrees Fahrenheit
- Medium-rare: 145 F
- Medium: 160 F
- Well-done: 180 F
Remove the steak from the pan when the internal temperature is 5 degrees lower than the desired degree of doneness. Let the steak rest for 5 to 10 minutes, covered, before serving. Make any pan sauce you wish to serve with your steak while the steak is resting.
Letting the steak rest gives a little time for the juices to redistribute, leading to a juicier steak.
The steak will continue cooking while resting. This is why you remove the steak from the heat before it is fully done. The internal temperature will rise around 5 degrees during the resting period.
Cooking a Thawed Steak
If you are thawing your steak, you have three options:
- Refrigerator thawing, where you place the meat in the fridge to slowly defrost, generally overnight
- Submerging in water, where you submerge the wrapped steak in cold water for 1 to 2 hours
- Defrosting in the microwave, where you use the defrost setting to thaw the steak in a matter of minutes
There are benefits and drawbacks to each method. Refrigerator defrosting is the safest, but takes the longest. Cold-water defrosting still takes time, and microwave defrosting is the fastest, but there is a risk of accidentally cooking the steak.
Seasoning a Thawed Steak
Season a thawed steak for a minimum of 20 minutes to upward of overnight, depending on how much flavor from the marinade you want the steak to take on.
Possible seasoning combinations include:
- Olive oil with oregano and minced garlic
- Montreal steak spice with vegetable oil
- Cayenne, garlic and fresh cilantro
Add in a small amount of acid, such as lemon juice or apple cider vinegar, to tenderize the steak.
Heat a cast-iron pan on high heat, and do not add any oil to it. Use a pan large enough to comfortably hold the steak.
When it is very hot, sprinkle a layer of sea salt on the bottom of the pan. Pat dry the steak, if it has been thawed, with paper towels and place it in the center of the pan.
Cook for 2 minutes before turning the steak and cooking the other side. Turn every 1 to 2 minutes to ensure even cooking.
As was the case with cooking a steak from frozen, test for doneness with a quick-read thermometer.
Remove the steak from the pan once the internal temperature is 5 degrees lower than the desired degree of doneness. Let it rest for 5 to 10 minutes, covered, before serving.
Storing Extra Steak
Freeze Raw Steak
To freeze raw steak, keep it in its original packaging. Raw steak can be frozen for 6 to 12 months, properly wrapped. If you are freezing the steak for more than 2 months, add extra protection by wrapping it in:
- heavy-duty tin foil;
- plastic wrap; and
- freezer paper; or
- place it inside a plastic bag.
In all cases, make sure that the wrapper is airtight.
Store Cooked Steak
Store extra cooked steak, whether cooked from frozen or thawed first, if you have leftovers, to use in salads, chills, soups or sandwiches.
Storing tips as recommended by the USDA:
- Always store in an airtight container, or well wrapped in plastic
- Store in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days
- Store in the freezer for 2 to 3 months