Dan Souza is the editor-in-chief of Cook’s Illustrated as well as the host of America’s Test Kitchen (the parent brand of CI).
In this YouTube video already viewed over 6 million times, he performs a great steak experiment.
Souza attempts to disprove the conventional wisdom that a steak needs to be thawed (and some say room temperature) being thrown in a hot pan or on a grill.
The experiment begins by taking a big, beautiful, marbled strip loan steak and cutting it into 4 pieces.
Then the pieces were individually vacuum sealed and frozen.
The day before cooking, half were thawed in the refrigerator overnight and the other half stayed frozen.
To cook the steaks, Souza added both thawed and frozen pieces to a hot skillet to sear each side for 90 seconds and then transferred them to a 275-degree oven until they were cooked to an internal temperature of 125 degrees (which is medium-rare).
One of the things the food scientists also measured was moisture loss by weighing each steak before and after cooking.
Ready for the results?
One thing was obvious – the frozen steaks were going to take a lot longer to cook.
But that makes sense and certainly doesn’t ruin your steak dinner plans altogether.
The thawed steaks only needed about 10-15 minutes in the oven whereas the frozen steaks needed 18-22 minutes to get to 125 degrees.
Not much of a difference as long as the steak is good, right?
What surprised us the most was that even the frozen steak managed to get a nice brown crust in the skillet.
We would have expected it to be too cold to brown. They also managed to develop their crust in the same amount of time (the 90-second sear).
In the end, both steaks cooked in much the same way.
There was a surprise though…
The frozen steak, in many ways, cooked better, than the thawed steak.
Underneath the crust of the meat are small bands of overcooked meat before you get to the nice, juicy center.
After both steaks were cooked, it was also surprising to see that the frozen steaks had thinner bands of that grey meat than the thawed ones did!
And to top it off, the frozen steaks lost an average of 9% less moisture during cooking.
But none of this matters until they taste good, right?
Well, with a pro behind the pan, all the steaks looked and were said to have tasted great.
In fact, the taste-tasters unanimously preferred the steaks cooked directly from the freezer!
When you think about it, some of the results make sense.
The frozen steak will still be patted dry on the outside and the differences in temperature will make the meat’s surface brown while not overcooking much of the meat below.
It’s also hard to overcook a frozen steak since the process is slower.
The perfect steak
According to Souza, the perfect steak will always be the one that has never been frozen.
Of course, not all of us have that luxury, but it’s good to know.
If you do want to freeze your steaks more often now that you know they can be cooked before they’re thawed, Souza has perfected the best freezing method.
First, put your steaks uncovered on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper in the freezer overnight (this helps dry them out so you don’t get ice crystals whizzing off of them when they hit the hot pan).
Then, the following day, wrap the steaks in plastic and put them in an airtight bag (such as a Ziplock), and return them to the freezer.
When you do go to cook your frozen steak, it’s best to add oil to the skillet until it measures 1/8 inch deep (which is more than you might think!)
Finally, using a large skillet will cut down on splattering.
Now there’s a way to have a steak dinner even if you forgot to take it out of the freezer to thaw.