It’s steak night! Woo! Except… you’ve forgotten to defrost the steaks. What can you do? Is all hope lost?
Thankfully, there are lots of ways you can safely, hygienically, and conveniently defrost steaks, in plenty of time for cooking.
The most important thing to remember when defrosting any meat is to stay out of the ‘Danger Zone’.
This refers to temperatures between 40 and 140 Fahrenheit, or 4 and 60 Celsius. When meat is exposed to ‘Danger Zone’ temperatures for any significant length of time, bacteria begins to spoil it.
These bacteria can, when consumed, cause food poisoning. Thus, stay away from thawing steaks at room temperature!
Now, with that piece of wisdom out of the way, let’s take an in-depth look at the five very best methods for defrosting steak: how to use them, their pros, cons, and defrosting times.
Method One: Refrigeration
Approximate defrost time: 12-24 hours
If you’re wondering how do you defrost a steak without ruining it? Thaw your steak in the fridge. Aside from being the safest, most hygienic thawing method, your steak will taste and feel just as good as a fresh steak.
Here’s how to defrost steaks in the refrigerator:
Step One: Take your steaks out of the freezer, but leave them in their packaging. Put the packaged steaks into another freezer bag (with a zip-lock, preferably), or some other airtight container. Next, place this container on the bottom shelf of your fridge, away from other open foodstuffs.
Step Two: Leave the container with the steaks in it for at least twelve hours, but preferably closer to twenty-four.
Step Three: Finally, season and cook your thawed steak as you normally would, within 2-3 days of defrosting it. Alternatively, refreeze it within this time if you change your mind on steak night!
Wait… refreeze it? Can you refreeze defrosted steak? Well, yes, you totally can, but with one caveat. If you have used the refrigeration-thawing method described here, then you can refreeze your steaks within a 2-3 day period. However, if you have thawed steak by any other means, do not refreeze it under any circumstances.
- Safest and most hygienic method of defrosting steak, with minimal chance of promoting bacterial growth.
- No-fuss! Just pop the steak in the fridge and walk away.
- Steaks are defrosted evenly throughout the meat.
- Longest defrosting time out of all the methods here suggested.
- Fridge space may be limited, and taking up shelf space for 12-24 hours may not be an option for you.
Method Two: Microwave
Approximate defrost time: 2-5 minutes
If you can avoid microwaving meat to thaw it, please do.
Microwaves thaw meat unevenly and tend to negatively impact the meat’s overall taste and texture. Nevertheless, it remains an option for those who are really pressed for time.
Here’s how to thaw steaks in a microwave:
Step One: Remove the steaks from their packaging and place them, one at a time, on a microwaveable plate. Do not put the steak onto the plate in its original packaging.
Step Two: Set your microwave to ‘Defrost’, or alternatively to 30-50% power. Cook each steak for two minutes on this setting, followed by further one-minute increments.
Step Three: Test the steak to determine its thaw by pressing the center and making sure it is no longer icy and hard. Repeat the latter part of Step Two if the steak is not yet thawed.
Step Four: Cook the defrosted steak as you normally would, immediately following the microwave-defrosting. Microwave-defrosted steak will not keep for any length of time.
Many people wonder: How can I thaw a steak in 10 minutes? You can most certainly use a microwave to defrost a steak in just ten minutes. However, microwaves deliver uneven thaws, and worse still, tend to impair overall flavor and texture.
Instead, I recommend you use a defrost tray or the ‘pot and tray’ method described below to defrost a steak fairly quickly.
- Fastest defrosting method for thawing steaks.
- Microwaves thaw steaks unevenly, leaving the outside warmer than the inside.
- Steaks thawed in a microwave will likely come out partially-cooked, leading to taste impairment and difficulties in the actual cooking phase.
- Must be cooked immediately, whereas steak defrosted in a fridge can be kept for days before cooking.
- Requires your constant attention so as not to start cooking the steaks, instead of defrosting them.
Method Three: Cold Water Bath
Approximate defrosting time: 1 hour per 1lb of steak
Here at Meat Sumo, we love this thawing method for meat. Not only is it safe and hygienic, discouraging the growth of bacteria, but it’s also fast too.
Here’s how to defrost steak in a cold water bath:
Step One: Remove your steak from its packaging, and transfer it to a ziplocked bag. Make sure you get as much air out of the bag as possible. Also, ensure that your steak bag is fully sealed against water ingress.
Step Two: Place the bag of steak into a bowl, and fill the bowl with cold water. Make sure that the bag is completely submerged.
Step Three: Recycle every 30 minutes with fresh water to keep the steaks cold. (This helps to limit bacteria.) Leave your steaks in their bag in the cold water bath for 1 hour per 1lb of meat.
Step Four: Cook the steak right away, once the thawing process is complete.
- Your steaks will be thawed evenly throughout the meat.
- Pretty quick defrosting method, behind refrigeration, a defrosting tray, and the ‘pot and tray’ method.
- A safe, hygienic thawing process which leaves little-to-no chance for bacteria to spoil the meat.
- You must cook steaks defrosted this way straight away, as they will not keep.
- This method does require a fair amount of attention, stopping the water warming up, and the meat being exposed to ‘Danger Zone’ temperatures.
Method Four: Use a Defrosting Tray (e.g. the Thaw Master™)
Approximate defrosting time: 15-45 minutes
Made of a special aluminum alloy with thermal conductivity of up to 20,000 times that of ordinary metals, defrosting trays (such as the Thaw Master™) are specially designed to draw the cold from frozen meat.
Here’s how to defrost a steak using a defrosting tray:
Step One: Place your defrosting tray on the countertop. Remove the steak(s) from the freezer and take it out of its packaging.
Step Two: Put your frozen steak(s) on your defrosting tray. Leave as much space between them as possible.
Step Three: Turn the steak(s) every 10-15 minutes. Doing so, you expose both sides to the metal of the tray.
Step Four: Leave the steak(s) on the defrosting tray for around 15-45 minutes, depending on the thickness of the cut. (Thin cuts like flank may only take 15 minutes to fully thaw, whilst thicker cuts like ribeye might take up to 45 minutes.)
Step Five: Pat your newly-thawed steak(s) and cook immediately, as you usually would. (Best to start with a sear on high heat, and cook on a high heat throughout.)
Defrosting trays offer a unique means of thawing steak, and having read our instructions, you may be wondering:
Can you leave frozen steak out to thaw? You should not leave frozen steak out at room temperature to thaw. The only exception to this rule is when you are using a special technique, or piece of equipment that limits the time the steak is exposed to room temperature.
You should try to ensure your frozen steaks are not left at room temperature for anything longer than 30 minutes, where possible.
- Quick defrosting method, taking as little as 15 minutes to defrost some thin cuts.
- Delivers an even thaw throughout the steak.
- You have to buy a defrosting tray, rather than defrosting the steak with a household item.
- Puts your meat at risk of accruing bacteria, since it is bringing them up to room temperature (even if only for a very short period of time).
- There are faster, less expensive methods out there (see our next suggestion!)
Method Five: ‘Pot and Tray’
Approximate defrosting time: 5-20 minutes
If you’re wondering; how can I defrost a steak quickly? Use the ‘pot and tray’ method described here. Utilizing everyday household items, and a little ingenuity, this method can defrost even the thickest cuts of steak in just 20 minutes. What’s more, it delivers a nice even thaw, unlike the microwave method.
Here’s how to defrost a steak using the ‘pot and tray’ method:
Step One: Turn a baking tray upside down on your kitchen countertop. Next, fill a large pot with room temperature water.
Step Two: Take the steak from the freezer, and remove it from its packaging. Place it in an airtight, preferably ziplocked bag.
Step Three: Place this bag on top of the tray. Next, rest the large pot on top of the steak-in-the-bag.
Step Four: Leave the steak to thaw for 5-20 minutes. (Thinner cuts will take around 5-10 minutes, thicker cuts 10-20.)
Step Five: Remove the thawed steak(s) from the bag, pat dry, and cook immediately, as you usually would. (Best to start with a sear on high heat, and cook on a high heat throughout.)
The reason this method works is that the pressure of the heavy pot, combined with the heat conductivity of the metal tray and pot, and the warmth of the water inside the pot, all help to quickly and effectively draw the frost from the steak.
- Fastest method after the microwave method, but better quality than the microwave.
- Delivers an even thaw throughout the steak.
- Uses simple objects from around the home.
- Meat is still at risk of forming bacteria, because this method raises the temperature of the steak to room temperature (AKA the ‘Danger Zone’).
It’s common knowledge that the safest and most hygienic way to defrost meat is in the refrigerator overnight or in a cold water bath the day of cooking.
Thankfully, however, steaks are generally thinner cuts of meat, which you can effectively defrost at room temperature, without huge risk of bacteria forming. If you’re pressed for time, then the ‘pot and tray’ method is your best bet.