It’s Saturday afternoon and you’ve got last-minute dinner guests coming over for a BBQ. You scan the freezer and spot some beautiful porterhouses, but there’s no way you can get them defrosted in time, right? What if I told you to just slap those frozen steaks right on the grill, and that the results might be better than any steak you’ve ever cooked?
That’s right, you can cook a steak that’s frozen solid. And get a perfectly cooked steak as a result. When I heard about this technique from Kim Allison at ThermoWorks, I couldn’t believe it. She convinced me that not only is it possible—it’s even recommended.
In fact, grilling your steaks from frozen helps solve the most common steak problem: The grey interior “banding” that’s usually the price you pay for a nicely charred crust. The folks in the ThermoWorks test kitchen found that when steaks were grilled from frozen, they consistently had a uniformly pink interior with little to no gray banding beneath the surface. And less gray banding means a more tender, juicier steak.
Here’s how it works: The extra-cold temperature of the frozen steak helps its interior temperature rise more slowly as it grills, protecting it from overcooking and creating a uniform pink interior as the exterior sizzles and chars. Here are the secrets to cooking frozen steak on your grill:
1. Freeze It Right
One thing that makes a big difference in your grilling success is how you freeze your steaks. In order to have the most surface area of the steaks exposed to the grill grates, freeze them on a completely flat surface (like a baking sheet)—or make sure the frozen steaks you buy are perfectly flat. Then transfer them to a resealable freezer bag, press out all of the air, and seal. Of course, you can also buy frozen steaks to grill—just make sure they’re perfectly flat.
Also, make sure you don’t let your steaks hang out in the icebox too long—you don’t want to be disappointed by freezer burn. When wrapped properly, frozen meat will stay freezer burn-free for about three to six months in the average home freezer.
2. Use Thick-Cut Steaks
This technique works best with steaks that are 1 to 1 1/2 inches thick. Porterhouse, ribeye, or T-bone would be great choices. Kim doesn’t recommend cooking frozen thinner steaks like skirt or flank, because their interiors can overcook before the exteriors are well-browned.
For the record, Kim also likes using this technique with thick-cut pork chops. She’ll even partially freeze a roast to achieve similar results—but that’s a whole other story.
3. Set Up a Two-Zone Grill
The most important thing to do when cooking frozen steak is to set up a two-zone fire. That means creating two areas on the grill: one for direct, high heat, and one for indirect, lower heat. That way, you can sear the steak until it’s nicely caramelized, then move it to the cooler side to cook through to perfection.
4. Sear, Season, then Cook Through
First, sear the frozen steak on the direct-heat side of the grill, until the exterior has a nice caramelized crust, 10-14 minutes. When you’re ready to flip the steak and sear the other side, be sure to generously season both sides of the steak with salt (we like kosher salt for its clinging ability) and pepper. (No matter how hard you try, salt, pepper, or any other spices just won’t stick to a frozen steak, so it’s best to season it after it’s warmed up a bit on the grill.)
For more information please see the list of How to grill frozen steak