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Does cooking steak from frozen make it retain its juices better?

ursy_ten Jul 14, 2011 02:13 AM

My sweetie is cooking me dinner tonight!

However he said something in passing this afternoon that I've never heard of before.

He was going to cook the steak from frozen because his mother told him that if you do, they will retain more of their juices. She is an excellent cook, but I don't think I've come across this tip before. Have you?

  1. TheHuntress Jul 14, 2011 03:56 AM

    I have never heard of such a thing. I like to eat my steak blue, so cooking it from frozen isn't really an option for me. I am curious to know what happens if you do cook it from frozen, though.

    1 Reply
    1. re: TheHuntress
      ursy_ten Jul 14, 2011 04:25 AM

      Yeah. I like it pretty rare. Hmm.

    2. f
      Food on the brain Jul 14, 2011 04:13 AM

      I must say I have never heard of such a thing either. I suspect it depends upon how thick the steak is. If, as we like, you have a nice thick steak (1 1/2"), this likely would not work, as the outside would be well done and the inside still quite rare. If you defrost the steak in the coldest spot in the fridge, it will lose less of its juices.

      I too look forward to hearing how you make out.

      1 Reply
      1. re: Food on the brain
        ursy_ten Jul 14, 2011 04:31 AM

        I think you're right about the thickness. They were not particularly thick steaks, and they were cooked through - medium to well done. I don't think they were any juicier for it, so I guess there's my answer?!

      2. linguafood Jul 14, 2011 04:28 AM

        I've never, ever heard anything like it. In fact, a steak should be at room temp before you put it on the grill. If you let it rest 5 min. after taking it off to let the juices settle, they won't run out as they would were you to cut it immediately.

        Frozen steak. Oy vey.

        6 Replies
        1. re: linguafood
          RealMenJulienne Jul 14, 2011 06:27 AM

          Now hold on a bit. I have always believed the room temperature thing but It's starting to not make sense to me. Supposedly throwing a cold steak on the grill causes it to "seize up" and squeeze its juices out but has anyone actually tested this? This thread has me thinking that a chilled or frozen steak will be better at retaining a rare center while the outside develops a crispy crust, especially for a thin cut.

          1. re: RealMenJulienne
            linguafood Jul 14, 2011 07:47 AM

            Wellll -- give it a shot and report back :-D

            1. re: RealMenJulienne
              twyst Jul 14, 2011 07:53 AM

              The reason you dont throw a cold steak on a hot grill is not because it causes it to "seize up", its because you will end up with a charbroiled outside of the steak with an uncooked center. Letting a steak get up to room temperature before putting it on the fire allows for more even cooking, and more of the center of the steak can be cooked to your desired temperature.

              1. re: twyst
                biondanonima Jul 14, 2011 08:10 AM

                For thinner cuts I actually prefer to start them cold from the fridge. It allows me to get a REALLY good crust on the outside while keeping the inside rare. I've never found the "seizing" thing to be an issue. Of course, I only do this with cuts like skirt and flank, that are naturally on the thin side - I wouldn't do it with a thick cut filet or ribeye.

                1. re: biondanonima
                  cowboyardee Jul 14, 2011 08:30 AM

                  +1 ^^^This^^^^

                  Cooking a cold steak accentuates the difference between the outside of the steak and the center. Because most people judge doneness at the center of the steak, a steak that is warm (room temp) before cooking will be more uniformly cooked when it's pulled off the heat and will be perceived to be juicier because it is in fact less overcooked (in terms of the meat nearer the surface). This is good logic for thick steaks. So for thick steaks cooked traditionally, let em get to room temp.

                  But for thin steaks, a cold center actually helps the cook develop a crust on the outside of the steak without overcooking the center. This is often a good trade-off for thinner steaks where creating a nice crust is often at odds with wanting a steak that isn't overcooked.

                  Cooking frozen steaks is just the extreme end of this spectrum. I certainly wouldn't recommend cooking a frozen steak on high heat unless it was quite thin. Then it actually sorta makes sense. On the other hand, if you cook a steak in a very controlled manner like sous vide (where overcooking isn't possible for the most part), you'll find that cooking a steak from frozen makes no difference at all. There's no voodoo to it.

                  1. re: cowboyardee
                    biondanonima Jul 14, 2011 08:38 AM

                    I actually cooked a half-frozen flank steak the other day because I was being impatient and I didn't want to defrost in the micro and risk cooking the already thawed bits. I just left it on an extra minute or two per side to make sure the frozen areas got cooked, and I let it rest a bit longer than usual. Came out perfect and husband was thrilled with the extra rare parts!

          2. danna Jul 14, 2011 08:00 AM

            I profess no special knowledge on this subject, but my husband would be horrified. He won't even let me thaw a steak outside the refrigerator, or speed up thawing in any other way (like warm water). He says too quick a thaw causes the fibers of the meat to shorten, making it tough and I'm not sure what else. (He's not a cook, but spent some time studying this stuff at Univ. of Wis. so....i dunno)

            12 Replies
            1. re: danna
              cowboyardee Jul 14, 2011 08:18 AM

              Untrue unless your 'thaw' is actually cooking the meat, as you might in the microwave.

              I'll cook a frozen steak in a sous vide bath at 130 F - that's about as quick a thaw as you'll get outside of the microwave. The result - tenderness and juiciness that can put traditional methods to shame. Unless I'm looking to marinade, I've found it makes no difference to the final product whether the steak is frozen or room temp before being sealed and cooked in a water bath.

              Muscle fiber contraction is a function of temperature, not time.

              1. re: cowboyardee
                danna Jul 14, 2011 08:39 AM

                what do you do with the steak after you pull it from the water? that is, what's the outside like?

                1. re: danna
                  cowboyardee Jul 14, 2011 08:50 AM

                  I typically dry it, let it cool a bit, then sear it on very high heat to create a crust and charred flavor. Sometimes I use a grill instead (still, very high heat). Afterward you wouldn't know that it had been cooked sous vide - you would just think that it tastes especially beefy and that it was cooked to perfect doneness.

                  Out of the bath, a whole steak looks unappetizing since the outside is typically a smooth purple-gray color. But the inside is a perfect rosy medium rare. There are a few applications where you can slice the meat very thin right out of the bath and serve it - maybe with the meat slices wrapped around a filling or as a garnish on some soups or such. And of course then there's always the creative finishing touches - coating with panko, or wrapping with bacon, or cutting into chunks and trying a tempura.

                  1. re: cowboyardee
                    danna Jul 14, 2011 09:01 AM

                    Interesting. The best fried chicken I ever had was sous vide, I assume waterbathed and then breaded/fried at a higher than normal oil temp? No idea, it was in a restaurant, of course. (you're not doing that at home are you?)

                    1. re: danna
                      cowboyardee Jul 14, 2011 09:09 AM

                      I do it at home. But i'm sort of a nerd that way, and it's more of a hobby than just a way to get dinner to the table.

                      Yeah, the fried chicken was most likely fried in hotter-than-normal oil. Sometimes you have to adjust the batter/breading a bit too. I've even seen recipes where very hot oil deep frying is used to crisp the skin of unbattered sous vide chicken.

                      1. re: cowboyardee
                        p
                        pericolosa Jul 16, 2011 09:31 AM

                        >I've even seen recipes where very hot oil deep frying is used to crisp the skin of unbattered sous vide chicken

                        I do this all the time with the oil at 350°-375°. An easy way to produce consistently perfectly cooked "deep fried" chicken. (I lower the temp by 50° if my chicken is not pre-cooked.) One of these days I'll figure out how to do it with batter.

                  2. re: danna
                    twyst Jul 14, 2011 09:51 AM

                    I use a blowtorch.

                    mwahahahaahah <-- thats my evil grin and laugh. Using a blowtorch in the kitchen is so much fun!

                    1. re: twyst
                      cowboyardee Jul 14, 2011 10:52 AM

                      Messed around with that for a while, and it is A LOT of fun, but I eventually determined I could get a better crust in a very hot pan or on a grill. The blowtorch is less smoky though.

                      So now i have to find other excuses to bust out the Burnzomatic. You know, there are very few deserts that aren't delicious with a creme brulee-style caramelized sugar crust.

                      1. re: cowboyardee
                        danna Jul 14, 2011 10:58 AM

                        I need to acquire one of those, and get rid of the anemic William Sonama brule torch. I want to try torching some salmon like my sushi chef does. I've already bought the obscenely priced japanese seaweed salt.

                        1. re: cowboyardee
                          twyst Jul 14, 2011 06:41 PM

                          I use a bernzomatic too. Its such overkill for a kitchen torch it borders on ludicrous. I really only use it when Im in a hurry and dont want to make a mess.

                          I bought the le creuset panini pan and press for when I want to get pretty grill marks on things, it does a fantastic job.
                          http://www.amazon.com/Creuset-Enameled-Cast-Iron-Panini-Skillet/dp/B00077265S

                          Also, when doing things like shortribs I took a page out of david changs cookbook and drop them in the deep fryer for a minute or two. I know you are setup for sousvide cowboy, I highly recommend you try this recipe for his shortribs!

                          http://www.tinyurbankitchen.com/2010/...
                          or in the momofuku cookbook if you have it!

                    2. re: cowboyardee
                      k
                      kbpacer Feb 12, 2012 02:22 PM

                      I've had a sous vide supreme for a few months now, with a many successes and a few miserable failures (marinades seem to do me in). I will buy Prime ribeye at Costco and freeze them individually. We love, love them in the sous vide, but I've always thawed them in the fridge. I'm going straight from the freezer tonight into the water bath... I'll let you know how it works. Any great sous vide suggestions would be much appreciated! I'm still learning.

                      1. re: cowboyardee
                        k
                        kbpacer Feb 12, 2012 06:25 PM

                        Mmmm. 1 3/4 in ribeye frozen... placed directly in 130' sous vide... cooked for 2 hours and some change (extra hour for frozen), then seared in a super hot cast iron skillet. My house will smell like steak for 3 days, but it was great. Like butter...

                    3. monavano Jul 14, 2011 08:12 AM

                      The only steak that should be cooked frozen is Steak Ums ;)

                      1. dave_c Jul 14, 2011 09:22 AM

                        Never heard of that "trick".
                        How are the steaks frozen?
                        Purchased frozen in vacuum sealed pouches?
                        Frozen in your freezer?

                        The reason I ask is that the packaged frozen steaks are frozen quickly (similar to IQF) where large ice crystals won't form.

                        Freezing at home larger ice crystals can form and damage the meat, especially inf kept frozen for a long time. The end effect is the steak loses more juices.

                        Another factor is how do you like your steaks done?
                        The colder the steak the longer you cook. The longer cooking time will tend to dry out the meat.

                        However, I've never tried cooking a frozen steak.

                        Let us know how it turns out.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: dave_c
                          y
                          Yaxpac Jul 14, 2011 09:29 AM

                          I freeze burgers intentionally before cooking and they are most definitely juicier than a burger that was not previously frozen. The difference is dramatic. I usually let them defrost partially and then cook on the grill.

                        2. c
                          cocoagirl Jul 14, 2011 10:33 AM

                          The only steak I cook frozen is a 2 1/2 pound rib eye on the bone. 400 degrees for 1 /12 hours and the rib eye comes out like a very nice piece of roast beef for two- rare in the middle and roasted on the outside. This is the only way to make a perfect roast beef for me and my +1. However, in the last issue of Cooks one of their monthly tips was to lightly freeze your steaks before cooking on the grill for a charred outside and a rarer inside- so it is not out of bounds. tips su

                          1. Caroline1 Feb 12, 2012 05:08 PM

                            Bringing steak to room temperature before cooking is a common (and good) recommendation, but I don't recall ever hearing about cooking from frozen. My concern would be over getting the steak cooked evenly/uniformly. The fat and the edges will thaw and start cooking a good while before the more dense frozen meaty sections will. But who knows? If you don't like it, you don't have to keep doing it. Let us know how it goes!

                            For the record, I have cooked frozen hamburger patties but hamburger is sort of "homogenized," with the fat evenly distributed throughout the burger. Steaks are different.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: Caroline1
                              Caroline1 Feb 13, 2012 07:19 AM

                              I need to add a further comment. I HAVE sous vide steaks from frozen, but that's a whole other cooking method. Unlike pan frying or broiling, you cannot overcook a steak with sous vide. Frozen works just fine in this case.

                            2. g
                              gilintx Feb 12, 2012 10:04 PM

                              Apparently, this technique is used in "Modernist Cuisine." They freeze steak for an hour (not sure if that's solid or less than), sear it quickly stovetop, then transfer to a 200 degree oven to finish up. Here's a link to a NYT article: http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/18/din...

                              2 Replies
                              1. re: gilintx
                                linguafood Feb 13, 2012 08:11 AM

                                But is it really necessary? Are the results worth it?

                                I suppose a steak could always taste 'better', but I've been getting perfect results with non-frozen steaks brought to room temp, salted well in advance, seared high and finished in the oven.

                                Perfect for me = crispy on the outside, meaty & juicy on the inside aka med-rare.

                                1. re: gilintx
                                  paulj Feb 13, 2012 01:07 PM

                                  I suspect Modernist Cuisine agrees with Harold McGee and others that the juiciness of meat is basically (purely?) a function of its temperature. As they heat up, the meat proteins denature (uncoil and then recoil), and squeeze out the juices between cells. The hotter the meat, the more juice is squeezed out.

                                  I suspect the rational behind this MC method is to first cool the meat so the searing step creates flavor and color on the outside, but does not heat the interior much. The slow oven (200F for 1 hr) slowly heats the whole steak, producing something that is uniformly medium rare (or what ever your target is). Sous vide followed by torch aims for the same result - uniform temperature and doneness with a flavorful crust.

                                  Other methods can produce a good blend of surface crust and interior doneness, but there is more room for error. If the meat is too thin, or too warm start with, the interior will be too done by the time the crust develops. But if too cold or thick, you could have the crust, and and an interior that is too rare.

                                  Of late I heard conflicting claims about what resting does, or how it works. At best it can result in a more even distribution of the juices, and may less tendency for them to drain out when cut, but it can't restore juices that have been driven to the surface where they drain or evaporate away.

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