Discover how to defrost steaks with a variety of methods.
Preparing for the Freezer
While this step isn’t required, it is helpful and can save time. When you bring your steaks home from the store, try to remember to remove them from the Styrofoam and throw out the moisture pad from underneath. That extra packaging often freezes onto the meat and prevents that side from defrosting as easily, so removing it ahead of time puts you at an advantage when you’re ready to defrost.
You can also separate the steaks and freeze them laying flat next to each other. If they’re not touching, they will defrost more quickly.
One way to accomplish all this is to freeze the steaks lying flat and separated in a ziptop freezer bag in the amounts that you’ll want to use them. Once they’re frozen, you can jumble them up and they will stay separate for when you want to defrost them. If you froze them separately and then they stuck together a little bit afterwards, usually a tap on the counter will separate them.
Defrost in the Fridge
Defrosting steak in the fridge takes the longest but is the safest, and it results in evenly defrosted steaks. This method is hands-off and it doesn’t matter what kind of packaging the meat is in, so if you didn’t move the steaks to a ziptop bag and just froze them as you got them, this method will work for you.
With the steaks still in your ziptop bag or in its original packaging, remove them from the freezer and put them on a big dinner plate or food storage container and into the fridge. The plate is just to make sure no condensation or drips get on anything else in your fridge.
This method can takes 12 to 24 hours for a package of steaks, but once you move it to the fridge, you don’t have to think about it again until you’re ready to cook.
When I’m planning ahead, this is my favorite method because it’s so hands-off.
Defrost in Cold Water
Defrosting steak in cold water is the second slowest method, and it also results in evenly defrosted meat. This method is mostly hands-off. It works best if the meat no longer has its original packaging and has been transferred to a ziptop bag.
To defrost steaks in cold water, they need to be in a securely sealed ziptop bag, whether the meat is still in the original packaging or not. This is so that no water gets to the steaks. So start by putting the meat (or the meat and its packaging if the packaging is frozen to it) in a ziptop bag, if it isn’t already.
Fill your kitchen sink or a large pot with cold water and add the meat in its bag. If the original packaging was frozen to the meat, you can open the ziptop bag periodically to see if you’re able to remove the frozen packaging. Once you do, the temperature of the water can get closer to the meat and it will defrost more quickly.
This defrosting method takes about an hour for a package of steak, so it requires a little bit of thinking ahead. It is hands-off if you don’t have to worry about the packaging.
Defrost in the Microwave
Defrosting steak in the microwave may be quick but I recommend against it. If you’ve spent good money on a steak, you don’t want to run the risk of the outer edges cooking while the middle is still defrosting. If you absolutely must though, here are some tips.
Only microwave the steaks for 30 seconds to a minute at a time on defrost and then flip and rotate positions frequently to encourage even defrosting. You still may get some of the steaks starting to cook on the edges as they defrost and you’ll need to keep a close eye on them, which is why this is not my favorite method.
One possible solution if you’re in a rush is to start defrosting with this microwave method, and then switch to one of the water methods when it looks like the outer edges of the steaks are about to start cooking. Again, using the microwave at all for steaks is not recommended. It is best for defrosting ground beef where you can remove the bits of meat that have defrosted before they start cooking.
Defrost in Hot Water
Defrosting steaks in hot water is the second quickest method, it is mostly hands-off, and it defrosts the meat fairly evenly (or, at least, it doesn’t cook any of the meat while other parts are still frozen). This is totally my favorite method! But note that for this method, the frozen steaks must not be touching each other and all packaging must be removed before you begin (ideally, you removed the packaging and froze the steaks separately when you first brought them home). You can only defrost two steaks at a time per sink (or large pot) using this method.
The general wisdom used to be that using hot water to defrost meat was dangerous because bacteria can grow too easily at the higher temperatures. This is true but recent studies have found that it is safe if the meat is only in the hot water for a short time. I try to keep it below 30 minutes but have heard that an hour is safe. If you are immuno-compromised or unsure, please don’t try this method. Using hot water to defrost meat must be done carefully and is at your own risk.
To defrost in hot water, you’ll fill your sink or a large pot with hot tap water. Sealed in a ziptop bag, submerge up to two steaks in the water. It can be helpful to use a heavy plate or pot to keep it submerged and surrounded by water. Within 30 minutes, you’ll have defrosted steak ready to go!
Steaks that are defrosted using this method need to be cooked immediately. If there was any bacteria growth, you want the steaks to immediately hit high heat so that it gets killed. Transferring the steaks to the fridge afterwards would give any bacteria a chance to keep growing. Do not do that.
I'm Christine Pittman, a cookbook author and busy mom of two. My recipes are made from scratch, they're quick, and they're fresh. I started this website over 10 years ago and I'm delighted that over a million people now come to visit every month to try my recipes. Thank you for visiting and for joining me on this delicious journey!Find out more about me here.
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