For the carnivores of the world, few meals can compare with a perfectly cooked steak. On those nights where you’re salivating at the thought of a prime cut of meat but have neglected to thaw out any of the steaks in your freezer, there’s no reason to give up and order out. In fact, many food experts recommend that you cook frozen steak for the best results.
It might sound a little weird, but there is science backing up the reasons to cook frozen steak instead of letting it thaw first.
Fresh meat that’s never been frozen is always going to be the best option for quality and flavor, according to Master Chef Josh Evans of Longhorn Steakhouse, which is why the chain only uses fresh cuts of meat. This master of the grill says cooking a thawed piece of steak can actually lead to a tough, dry piece of meat.
When you go to cook a frozen steak, though, there are a few things you need to keep in mind when it comes to general preparation. Many agree the key to a great steak is the combination of getting the right amount of “crust” on the outside of the steak without overcooking it. Have you ever had a steak that is nicely browned on the outside, but has that grey ring around the pink center? That gray band of meat is overcooked because the high heat needed for that beautiful browning cooks the interior too quickly.
Dan Souza of America’s Test Kitchen says that’s one way you’ll see the benefit when you cook frozen steak.
“The meat [in the center] has a long way to go before it gets overcooked while we can bring the exterior rapidly up to the very high temperatures we need for browning,” Souza said in a YouTube video tutorial on the subject.
The secret to success when cooking frozen steak is using two types of heat: direct and indirect. On the stove, the direct heat comes from cooking in an oven-proof skillet with oil. Once the frozen steak has browned nicely on the outside, transfer your skillet into a low-temp oven (we’re talking less than 300 degrees) to complete the cooking to your preferred doneness, using your meat thermometer to check in regularly.
You can get the full, step-by-step procedure on how best to cook a frozen steak from Cook’s Illustrated, a division of America’s Test Kitchen. This way you can eliminate defrosting from your food-prep checklist altogether on steak night!
***Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated Josh Evans’ position on frozen steak. It has been updated to clarify that he only recommends fresh steak.