Picture the scene. You’ve just come in from a hard day's work with your belly growling and a real hankering for some top-quality steak, but oh no, you’ve forgotten to take the steak out of the freezer.
You pull the steak out and it clangs onto the counter like a rock-hard frozen piece of stone. Disappointment washed over you and you resign yourself to beans on toast. It doesn’t have to be like this though, here we’re going to show you the quickest – and safest – ways of thawing out your frozen steak in time for dinner.
What is the proper way of thawing out a steak?
To thaw meat SAFELY you must keep it at a safe temperature as it thaws to prevent fast-growing bacteria from overrunning your meat and making you sick. This is true of almost all meat, steak especially.
The absolute optimum way of thawing out a vacuum-sealed steak is to simply pop it onto a large plate or tray to catch any drippings and then leaving it in the fridge. The time it takes to thaw will of course vary depending on the thickness of your steak but a good rule of thumb is to give it 24 hours. After 24 hours, a quick “poke test” should tell you if it needs any more thaw time.
Contrary to popular belief, you want to avoid leaving your steak on the kitchen counter to thaw out. This may have been the “old school” way of doing it but it’s not the best and certainly not the safest.
I need my steak thawed quicker than that!
Of course, nobody wants to wait 24 hours for their dinner, and we’ll move past the hindsight of “should have remembered to put it in the fridge”. We’re in a situation now that requires quick thawing of meat but keeping the risk of warm weathered bacteria growth to a minimum.
In this world, there is no gain without some give. If you want to thaw your steak quicker, you’re going to have to make some sacrifices on the end result.
Your microwave probably has a defrost setting which can work pretty well. Unfortunately, defrosting frozen steak in a microwave is known to rob the steak of its juices, leaving it tougher and drier than you’d probably like.
If you are brave enough to try this method, make sure you check your meat frequently and only allow it to be in the microwave long enough to thaw, rather than cook. Then, you should immediately transfer it to a pan or oven to finish cooking and get some much-needed colour.
If the microwave isn’t your thing then you’ll probably already be aware of the water method to thaw your steaks, this is where you simply plop your frozen packaged steaks into some cold water to help the thawing process along. Cold water is still warmer than ice so it will help thaw your steak quicker and the cold temperatures should also keep the bacteria growth to a minimum.
Although some research has suggested that using very warm water to thaw steak quickly and immediately cooking it after can prevent the steak from reaching a temperature that spreads harmful bacteria, the USDA over in America still recommends using cold water instead.
To get the benefit of water thawing and defrost steaks faster than you can in the fridge, submerge them in cold water in a leak-proof bag, keeping them in their vacuum-sealed packaging. You’ll also need to change the water every 20-30 minutes to make sure it stays cold.
How long will it take for my steak to thaw?
The cold-water method can take a few hours and should only really be done if you’re super pressed for time. The ideal method is to plan on thawing your steak in the refrigerator and for about 24 hours.
However, the thickness of your steaks makes a big difference. Thin steaks may take between 1-2 hours using the cold-water method, whereas a kilogram slab of steak will likely take closer to 3 or 4 hours to thaw. In the fridge, expect larger steaks to vary between 24 and 30 hours, while smaller steaks may take about 18 to 24 hours.
So you can see the cold water method is a huge time saver but we wouldn’t recommend relying on it every time. The best way to thaw your steak is to plan ahead and get it in the fridge.