America's Test Kitchen suggests cooking meat frozen


#1

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#2

I do love ATK an awful lot, but this method does have one drawback…you cannot season/flavor the steak at all prior to cooking. I personally love to do a coffee spice rub sometimes, perhaps just a quick crust of pepper.

frozen to cooking while possible eliminates that step so you have to be left with the base flavor profile of the protein you are using.

A good well marbled sirloin or rib eye…sure. Don’t try this with a filet, or top round. Or with any protein that needs seasoning prior to cooking to add flavor as the meat itself is bland. Yes I am looking at you chicken!!


#3

Seems like even leaving at room temp for 5-10 minutes would soften the exterior of the steak well enough to add some rub. Not sure if this would undermine the benefits of cooking from frozen though. Maybe you could season before you freeze?Worth experimenting, anyway. Let me know the results - I’m genuinely curious.

As for this cook-from-frozen idea, I’m surprised - it certainly goes against every recipe I’ve ever read which generally starts with “bring steak to room temperature before cooking”. I’m willing to give it a try though, since I usually have to freeze my steaks anyway, and if the results really are “hands down” better it sounds like it’s worth it.


#4

i can vouch for this technique, at least if you’re cooking to rare. i came up with it independently (hardly a big accomplishment, but hey) and it not only worked, but it was easier for me to avoid overcooking. otoh i much prefer to err on the side of bloody.


#5

I tried this two days ago. I cut my own ribeyes from the whole and vacuum pack and freeze them. I cut them to 1 1/2 inches, admittedly 1/2 thicker than they tried.  First, after searing, I seasoned and it worked out fine.However, the cooking in the oven took FAR longer than they state. In 20 minutes, my steak was 31 degrees F. It took my steak about 1 1/4 hours to reach 125 degrees F (I used a meat thermometer). However, the results were awesome - the steak was perfectly cooked throughout, no bands of slightly different doneness and the finished product was very ■■■■■ and flavorful. I’ll definitely do this again, but will allow for the cooking time.


#6

That’s where the ketchup comes in!


#7

I wonder how well this applies to grilling. I’m guessing not much, since there’s no oil to rely on.


#8

Does anybody know how well this works with human flesh? Just hypothetically of course.


#9

I find cooked from frozen steaks to be chewier/tougher but maybe that’s because I don’t finish them in the oven but in the pan. Laziness.

So now I thaw them all first and just cook 'em up right in the pan. Yum.


#10

Human flesh is reportedly closer to pork so I’d use whatever method is recommended for (long)pig.


#11

Can you do it BEFORE freezing?


#12

Rubs are a surface treatment so if your goal is to but a flavorful coating on the meat it shouldn’t be a problem. The bigger issue is that with a frozen piece of meat any salt you add (in a rub or on its own) won’t be able to work its magic on the meat. When you salt a thawed/fresh piece steak and let it sit for 45 minutes + the salt works its way into the meat, seasoning it throughout and denaturing proteins which helps keep it ■■■■■ and tender. I’d like to see if they tested the frozen steak vs thawed vs thawed and properly salted. Sadly AMT/Cooks Illustrated (according to this months issue the test was done for the magazine based on a letter to the editor) tends to leave exactly these sorts of gaping holes in their recommendations and testing.


#13

So to answer what some have asked. you can season/flavor prior to freezing, but this would present a different set of issues.

When using a rub on things like beef, you make the base of the rub salt. What happens is the salt penetrates the protein strands and carries the flavor profiles with it. To off set this, moisture is wicked to the surface of the meat.

So you cannot just rub some salt on the steak and then freeze it right away as the actual displacement would never take place, or worse it would begin to while freezing and the surface water would crystallize and freeze on the outer layer of the meat. which would be bad.

Additionally you could season, allow the displacement to take place then dry off the excess water and freeze the meat, but 2 issues come up here. First: the meat sitting at room temp is being exposed to potential bacterial formation and contamination. Second: its just too many steps to be able to cook a steak from frozen.

At that point, I’d rather just remember to take the steak out and thaw in the fridge the night before. Lets be clear, how hard is that to remember!!!

Also for something else asked above…This would NOT work for grilling as you cannot normally get that kind of direct high heat on the meat. Additionally pan searing would be problematic as the frozen surface wouldn’t come to temp quick enough for that hard crust. The oil in this method is essential. or any fat really.

Honestly, this is one of those things from ATK that I chalk up to interesting science, but file it away as just because you can doesn’t mean you should.


#14

this is how many diners do it. apparently works fine for thin steaks and burgers.


#15

I’ve been seeing this a few places and it looks like its being presented wrong. They aren’t recommending cooking frozen steaks, or freezing steaks before cooking. They’re just pointing out (as a lot of home cooks, multiple cook books, and other blogs and magazines already know) that if your steak is already frozen it will cook up just fine if you don’t bother to thaw it, and that it will often be a marginally better.

Although there are a number of sources (Modernist Cuisine was one IIRC) that do recommend freezing or par freezing your steaks before cooking. They just point out that you need to season them first if your going to do it deliberately. I think the bigger/more important thing here is that the advice to let your meat come up to room temp before cooking or searing is a myth. Best case scenario is that it has no effect, but often times the colder the meat the less likely it is to over cook.


#16

Ah this is interesting to me - I was actually thinking of an Alton Brown recommendation that stuck in my head that basically was to salt the meat immediately before searing. But when I went to look that recommendation up, it turns out while that is a somewhat good idea, he agrees that a better idea is to go with your 45+ minutes rule (but never 10-30 minutes). So your right, a frozen steak would not benefit from a long salting if only the surface was thawed, but Alton’s second recommendation of a very short salting would be fine. Again, whether they could be salted and then frozen is something else entirely.


#17

Not A-1 !?!


#18

It works fine with grilling, I do it all the time. The results can be less dramatic though, and its a subtle difference to begin with. Worst case the frozen steak on the grill is gonna be the same as the one you thawed. I also think you’re over stating the risk of contamination with leaving meat out for the ~hour it takes for salt to do its deal on a typical steak. The salt on the surface is gonna kill/inhibit growth of many of the things your worried about and the interior of a whole muscle is largely sterile (barring parasites which should only be an issue with wild game. The 40-140 degree “danger zone” also largely applies to things that are left out for more than 2 hours after being cooked but before consuming. The heat from cooking is going to sterilize the exterior anyway, unless you leave to meat out long enough to spoil/go rancid. Which can take days, or never happen at all, depending on ambient conditions. An additional thing to consider is these kinds of food safety rules are based on a worst case scenario, and largely directed at bulk producers. If I’m leaving 100 steaks out for 2 hours multiple times a day day for years on end, and 1 steak out of thousands will make a person sick with this treatment I’ve got a decent chance of making a person sick. That chance becomes a certainty when there’s a million other guys doing the same thing. Many other western, industrialized countries (like France!) don’t even have the same sort of regulations/cultural aversion to leaving meat out the way we do. Its fairly common to leave meat out for extended amounts of time before cooking. And as far as I know food borne illness isn’t any more common.

Or just do it in the fridge if you’re that worried. There’s nothing magical about the counter that makes the salt work.

Its also not particularly hard to season before you freeze if your gonna go to the trouble of freezing things properly to begin with (as they direct in the video).


#19

They point out that the thawed steak had a thicker gray band, but how would that have compared to a fresh steak? For completeness, they should have made a fresh steak- call it the control- refrigerated or dry aged as long as it took to freeze/thaw the other steaks.


#20

Alton’s rec is a common one. Basically the salt draws out moisture, dissolves, then the liquid gets drawn back into the meat (along with the salt). As I remember it this takes at least 45 minutes for the typical steak. If your not going to properly rest the steak after salting that moisture is still on the surface (and thus not in the steak). That makes the steak drier to begin with, and makes it harder to sear. Leading to overcooked or drier meat.

Like with a lot of things I think the advice originates in restaurants. Your cooking the same steaks, the same way, on the same heat source, many times a day for many days. That lets you do a lot of things that don’t work in other circumstance. Like judge temperature by feel. But there are also things that just don’t work. There’s no way you could preseason and rest each steak to order. Noone’s waiting 2 hours for a steak, and you can’t predict when a steak will be ordered to do it before hand. Its also prohibitively difficult (a lot of the time, mostly due to space) to preseason all your steaks before service. So noone does it. You’re not taught to do it, it isn’t mentioned. But in all those millions of steaks getting cooked by the pros people notice that the steaks you season right before cooking are better than the ones that get seasoned and sit for 1,2,5, or 10 minutes. So you don’t ever do that. You’re taught not to do that. And honestly in a restaurant setting that’s for the best.

But then it becomes received wisdom. You’ve got the pros, writers, journalists (and Alton) telling the guys at home to never season a steak until just before it hits the heat (or sometimes till after its cooked). Its good advice if your not going to spend the time to preseason, but otherwise it makes no sense outside of context. Just like you can’t tell when a steak is done by poking the palm of your hand unless you already know what that particular steak feels like at medium rare, and are cooking enough steaks regularly enough to know that intuitively.