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The Case for Cooking Steak from Frozen

A perfectly-seared crust and a pink-all-the-way-through middle—that's the steak of your dreams. And with the help of the freezer, that dream becomes a reality.


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Steak in a cast iron pan

Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Simon Andrews

You love a thick cut of ribeye, but it's impossible to get it perfectly cooked. The thing that's standing in the way? Enemy No. 1: The dreaded Gray Band.

If you're not familiar, the Gray Band is a thin strip of suspicious gray matter—actually, it's just overcooked meat—that appears around the edges of a steak, just beneath a charred, caramelized crust. It's unsightly, but it's the price you pay for that beautiful sear.

Or is it? What if there were a way to get rid of the Gray Band, and have a steak that's uniformly pink from edge to edge?

There is a way. And it's pretty simple: cook your steak from frozen.

"The freezer is our friend because it allows you to sear the outside of the steak at a very, very, very high temperature," says Eric Robinson of ThermoWorks. "Because the steak is frozen, the heat doesn't penetrate into the steak itself."

The key is starting with a very hot skillet—at least 350 degrees for the Maillard reaction to occur, but the hotter the better. Cooked in a pan that hot, a frozen steak will get browned and crisp on the outside, while the inside remains uncooked. To cook the middle of the steak perfectly, you slide it into a low oven (a process that mimics two-zone grilling). When the interior of the steak hits 120 degrees, it's done—and it will be pink all the way through.

That's the theory, anyway. But when my colleague Anna Stockwell developed her recipe for cooking steak from frozen, she found that there are a few nuances and caveats to the method. (One caveat: it takes longer than most steaks. Hey, perfection takes time!)

Here are our tips for pulling it off perfectly:

1. Use a Thick Cut of Steak

This technique works best with porterhouse, ribeye, or T-bone steaks that are 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Thinner steaks such as skirt or flank steak aren't the best choice because their interiors can overcook before the exteriors are well-browned.

2. Freeze Your Steak Naked

When you freeze your steak for this method, you don't want to wrap it in plastic wrap or foil, because this will cause condensation, and that condensation will cause splatter when the steak finally hits the hot oil in the pan. So though it may seem odd, freeze your steaks completely unwrapped. This prevents condensation and also dries the steaks out, which will further help you in getting a perfect sear—just like an overnight rest unwrapped in the refrigerator helps dry out chicken skin and gets it extra crispy.

Once you freeze the steaks unwrapped overnight, you can seal them in a freezer bag with the air pressed out and keep it frozen for up to three months.


Why'd you come around me with a crust like that? (Photo by Chelsea Kyle, Prop Styling by Beatrice Chastka, Food Styling by Simon Andrews)

3. Freeze the Steak Completely Flat

This will allow you to have the full surface area exposed to the cast-iron skillet, once again ensuring that entire crust will get a perfect char. Freezing your steak on a flat surface, like a baking sheet, will help with this.

4. Use More Oil Than You Normally Would

Anna found that you need to use more oil in your cast-iron skillet than you might with an unfrozen steak: about 1/3 cup. This ensures that the hot oil reaches all the way up to the sides of the steak and browns every cranny of the steaks' surface.

5. Season the Steak After You Sear It

Another step that may seem counterintuitive is to season the steak after you've seared it, right before you pop it in the oven. This is simply because the salt and pepper won't adhere to the surface of the meat when it's frozen.

6. Monitor Your Temperature Obsessively

Once you've seared the steak in oil, you'll finish it in the oven at the low temperature of 275° F. This indirect heat will cook the middle of the steak. Since your steak is still frozen through the center, this is going to take a bit longer than you're accustomed to: around 45 minutes.

Don't leave anything to chance. Your best friend in this process is a thermometer. If perfect steak is your life's mission and you want to be ultra-precise, Robinson suggests a leave-in internal probe thermometer like this one, which will allow you to monitor the temperature of the steak progressively at every point. That said, any accurate instant-read thermometer will also work. Just make sure to check the temperature frequently, and pull the steak from the oven the second it reaches an internal temperature of 120 degrees (the steak will come up in temperature a bit as it rests).

To get the full step-by-step instructions on how to cook your steak from frozen, follow Anna's recipe. Or, if you must, wait until the longer, lazier days of summer, when you have time to cook a steak from frozen—and you can do it on the grill.

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This post originally appeared on Epicurious and was published February 26, 2019. This article is republished here with permission.

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