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Grilling Frozen Steaks – How to Get the Most Out of Your Frozen Beef

So it’s almost time to fire up the grill.  You’ve got all of your gear out and you’re just about ready to go, but then the moment of dread hits you.

You forgot to thaw your steaks.

It’s a mistake that I’m not afraid to admit I make from time to time – it happens to the best of us.  But the hungry stomachs waiting for their steak dinner might be less forgiving.

Fortunately for you and I, grilling frozen steaks isn’t the end of the world.  In fact, it’s entirely possible to deliver a steakhouse quality result from a frozen start; you just need to know what to do.

In this article, we’ve created a complete resource to grilling frozen steaks.  By the end, you’ll know exactly what to do to make the most out of your frozen beef – and a few tips for how to avoid the situation altogether in the future.

Implications of Grilling Frozen Steaks

Before we get into a step by step guide, it’s worth pointing out a few items of note about grilling frozen steaks.

First and foremost, it’s perfectly safe to grill frozen steaksAccording to the USDA, there is nothing unsafe about grilling frozen steaks – you just need to bear in mind that it’s going to take longer for your food to reach a safe internal temperature.

Starting out with a frozen steak also does not impact the flavors at all.  If grilled properly, your frozen steak will end up just as beefy, tender, and delicious as a thawed out steak would.

Pros and Cons of Grilling Frozen Steaks

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of throwing your ice cold beef on the grill:

Pros

  • It actually might be easier to achieve a delicious outer crust on a frozen steak.  Since the inside of the steak is nice and cold, you can crank up the heat on your grill to sear the outside without worrying too much about overcooking the center while you sear.
  • You can bring out lots of flavor.  Naturally, the steak is going to have to spend more time on the grill to get the internal temperature up to a safe eating level.  While it takes extra time to get there, the positive is that your steak will almost slow cook – giving the fat marbling more time to render and develop into deeper flavor.
  • It’s easier to retain moisture, which will lead to tender steak.  Since the moisture in the steak is frozen, it’s less likely to escape the meat quickly as your sear develops.
  • You don’t have to wait for the steak to thaw.  While your steak will definitely spend more time on the grill compared to a thawed steak, you don’t have to sit and wait for the steak to thaw out to get started.  If you’re looking at the net amount of time from your freezer to your plate for a frozen steak, it’s probably faster to just throw it on the grill.

Cons

  • It takes longer to grill a frozen steak.  Compared to grilling a thawed steak – you’re looking at 50% to double the cooking time.  So if you remember to thaw your steak, it definitely cuts down on your cooking time.
  • You can’t wing it.  If you’re an experienced grill master, you’re probably more than capable of searing a thawed steak to perfection just with your eyes and with feel.  You can’t rely on looks and feel with a frozen steak and you 100% need to utilize a probe meat thermometer.  Undercooking beef is not something to mess around with, and you simply can’t know what’s under the outside layer of a frozen steak without measuring the internal temperature.
  • Higher probability of flare ups.  Since moisture will naturally warm up, turn to water, and drip down onto your heat source, the probability of grill flare ups is a little higher.  Just something to keep in mind and prepare for in advance.

Grilling Frozen Steaks – Step By Step

As promised, here’s our step by step guide to grilling delicious frozen steaks:

Step 1: Prepare Your Grill

The key to any successful cook on your grill – especially when it comes to grilling frozen steaks – is setting up your grill properly.

First, you should set your grill up for two zone grilling.  When it comes to grilling frozen steaks, a two zone set up (with one side of your grill scorching hot and one side cooler) is key to great results.  Your steak will sear on the hot side of the grill, then you’ll move it eventually to the cooler, indirect heat side to finish.  Set your grill to about 450-500°F on the hot side for the sear.

Note: If you are struggling to set up two heat zones on your grill, it’s ok to sear on hot temperature then lower your temperature after the sear is done.

On a similar note, you should preheat your grill about 10-15 minutes in advance to make sure it’s up to temperature before your steaks go on.  Preheating your grill is always a good idea, but especially when it comes to grilling frozen steaks you’ll want to ensure your grill is fired up and hot before the steaks go on.

The type of grill you have at home also doesn’t make a difference in terms of grilling frozen steaks.  No matter whether you are grilling with a gas, charcoal, electric, or pellet grill, all of the steps we outline will work!

Last but not least, you should have a probe thermometer handy.  I mentioned this already, but measuring the internal temperature of your steak with a probe thermometer is the only way to ensure it’s cooked all the way through and to your liking.

Step 2: Sear the Steak

The next step is to sear your steak, typically for about 5 to 7 minutes per side, depending on how thick it is.  Thin steaks will sear for less time and thicker steaks can handle more time searing.  Don’t be afraid to press your steak down onto the grates firmly to ensure nice grill marks begin to form.

I also like to rotate my steak 90° halfway through each side, which results in a beautiful checkerboard style pattern of grill marks on the steak.  Doing this also adds more surface area to the sear that takes place on each side of the steak.

After the steak has seared for about 5 to 7 minutes per side (so about 10 to 14 minutes total), it’s ready for the next step.

Step 3: Finish the Steak with Indirect Heat

After the steak has finished searing and has developed an even crust on the outside, move it to the indirect heat side of your grill, or the top rack so that it no longer cooks directly over the flame.

Here is where you’ll want to season your steak a little bit too.  With a thawed steak, you want to season it before it goes on the grill – but seasonings will fall right off of a frozen steak.  After the sear, the outside will have some moisture on it and will be much more receptive to a little bit of salt and pepper.

At this point, insert your probe meat thermometer into the center most point of the steak.  Most times after the sear, the temperature will read somewhere between 80°F and 90°F – but don’t worry if yours measures a little higher or lower than that.

Close the lid of the grill and allow your steak to cook over indirect heat until it reaches your desired doneness.

Steak Doneness Guide

  • For medium rare, remove the steak from the grill once it reaches an internal temperature of 125°F
  • For medium, remove the steak from the grill once it reaches an internal temperature of 135°F
  • For medium well, remove the steak from the grill once it reaches an internal temperature of 145°F
  • For well done, remove the steak from the grill once it reaches an internal temperature of 150°F

Step 4:  Let Your Steak Rest

One of the most important parts of the steak cooking process comes at the end, when you’re probably most ready to devour your delicious looking steak.

Letting your steak rest for about 10 minutes before serving, believe it or not, can take your steak from good to great, or great to legendary.

When the steak cooks on high heat, the juices all concentrate to the center of the steak.  As it rests, that moisture redistributes back evenly throughout the steak, so each bite is tender, tasty, and a beautiful texture.

Step 5: Enjoy!

Now comes the easy part – enjoy your steak!  After all of that hard work, now it’s time to dig that fork and knife into your beautiful cut of beef and admire your work.

Keys to Freezing Steak

Since fresh beef typically only stays fresh for 3 to 5 days, it’s fairly common practice to freeze it.  Freezing beef extends the shelf life of your food and allows you to access the flavors up to a couple of months into the future.

With that in mind though, there’s a right way and a wrong way to freeze steak.  If you want to get the best flavor and longest shelf life from storing your beef in the freezer, we’ve compiled a few guidelines to follow below.

The key is to try to reduce the surface of the steak’s exposure to air.  When your steak’s surface touches the air, problems begin to happen and in terms of storage, freezer burn becomes a more likely possibility.

  • Wrap each steak individually with plastic wrap.  Make sure that the plastic wrap covers the whole steak and is wrapped as tightly as possible.  The better you wrap the steak, the better the flavor will be preserved.
  • Place the wrapped steaks into a sealable freezer bag for an extra layer of protection.
  • Bagged steaks should be placed into a freezer that’s set to 0°F or as close to that temperature as possible.
  • Frozen steaks that are wrapped properly will last for about 3 months.  Technically they will last longer but after 3 months the flavor will begin to be affected by freezer burn.
  • Pro tip: write the date your froze the steaks on their bags in a permanent marker so you know exactly how long they have been frozen!

Does It Matter Which Type of Steak I Freeze?

Nope!  No matter whether you’re eating a T-Bone, Porterhouse, NY Strip, Ribeye, Tomahawk, or otherwise, all of the above principles apply the same.  You won’t lose any flavor by freezing steaks, and as long as you grill your frozen steak the right way, the end results will be spectacular.

The big thing to keep in mind is that the thickness of your steak will greatly affect the cooking time.  Some cuts of steak are naturally thicker than others, so you should plan accordingly for your grilling times depending on which type of steak you cook.

Final Thoughts on Grilling Frozen Steaks

Even though you might have a moment of panic when you realize you forgot to thaw your steak, the situation is most definitely salvageable.  With the above advice, you can easily make some incredibly tasty and delectable steak on your grill starting from a frozen cut of beef.  Just don’t panic, and plan for a little bit of extra cooking time on the grill.

In fact, starting with a frozen steak has its benefits – you might find your seared steak crusts to be just a little bit crispier and your steak’s insides to be a little tastier too.

Have any other tips for grilling frozen steaks?  Did we miss something in this article?  We’d love to hear from you about your experiences in the comments section below!

While you’re here, check out our resource on grilling frozen burgers next so that you are equipped for the same situation on burger night.