Quick and Easy Steak Thawing Trick

The need for a speedy steak may arise from any number of circumstances. You miscalculated the amount of people around the table (oops), someone is suddenly joining your dinner party, or maybe the day got away from you and now it’s an hour until dinner.

Never fear. Just because that beautiful piece of meat is harder than stone, doesn’t mean you’ll be eating at midnight.

The Quickest Way to Thaw Steak (Safely)

Of course, the best way to thaw meat is in the fridge, but that could take up to 24-36 hours — and we need steak STAT.

Here’s what you’re going to do:

First, if the frozen steak isn’t already in a zip-top bag with as much air removed as possible, remedy that situation. (If it’s in a vacuum-sealed bag, just leave it in that).

Next, submerge the steak in cool water — it’s important that it is cool, not warm and certainly not hot. Cool water ensures the safety of this method, keeping the meat cool as it thaws (like a mini-fridge, if you will) and keeping the danger zone (of 40 degrees F to 140 degrees F) at bay. You can do this in a bowl, if you have one large enough, or simply plug the kitchen sink and fill it enough that you can submerge the bag with the steak in it. 

Place a heavy spatula, wooden spoon, or anything that will weigh the steak down enough to be completely submerged on top of the meat. Remember, you need to keep the steak cool and leaving some exposed to room temperature simply will not do.

If you have multiple steaks, speed up the process by keeping them each in their own bag and their own soaking water, using multiple bowls/vessels. If they’re stuck together because your freezing techniques have been a bit neglectful, separate the steaks once they’re thawed enough to do so and put them in their own bags in their own water bath.

Leave the steak(s) to steep for 30 minutes. Check in at that point and, if not completely thawed, empty out the water and replace with new cool water. Again, the water can’t get too ambient in temperature or you’re asking for trouble. Keeping it cool also guarantees you won’t have to deal with discoloration of the meat.

Steak will take 30-45 minutes per pound to defrost using this method. The good news is, it’s not often that we’re cooking more than a 16-ounce steak per person at home on a Tuesday. But if you are, A. I applaud the style of life you’re living and B. it’ll be a little longer for ya. Another bit of good news is that the steak doesn’t need to be 100% defrosted. Even if it’s still a bit icy in the middle, go ahead and cook it. It’ll just need a little longer on the heat.

Fast Thawing Methods to Avoid for Steak

In the Microwave

I’m not prone to using the microwave to defrost anything, but if it’s your safety net, I urge you to avoid it here. With a denser cut like steak, no matter how carefully you use the defrost setting, how much you rotate the meat, and how attentively you watch it — this method will start cooking the steak every time, affecting the color (hello, drab gray) and the texture (chewing for days). If you have no other choice, have at it; but if I had no other choice other than to thaw my steak in a microwave, I’d be calling out for pizza and saving my prized cut for another day when I could plan better.

On the Counter

Leaving the meat on the counter while you prep some ingredients and heat the pan is just fine, but as a method of defrosting it’s a big no-no. Even a cooler space like a garage or basement won’t do. Food poisoning is nothing to play around with.

Is It Okay to Thaw Steak in Warm Water?

You may be tempted to speed things up by using warm water for your steak submerging, but I assure you, the only thing warm water will speed up is bacterial growth. In terms of thawing, steak needs a gentle wake up from its chilly freezer slumber. Don’t forget — bacteria grows rapidly between 40 degrees F and 140 degrees F.

Can You Cook Steak From Frozen?

You can absolutely cook a frozen steak without thawing it first (furthering my above argument that a steak shouldn’t be anywhere near a microwave). You may need about an additional half of the cooking time for it, but some people argue the cooking time difference is negligible.

Something to keep in mind when pan-searing a still-frozen steak is that ice or moisture from the frozen meat may cause some flare-ups of steam, oil, or butter. Tread lightly. 

If you might use this method to cook frozen steaks on a regular basis and not only in an emergency, consider first freezing the meat on a parchment lined baking sheet. Then, once frozen, wrap the meat in plastic wrap and transfer to individual zip-top bags, removing as much air as possible. This should reduce the amount of moisture frozen on the meat.