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I missed the Great Frozen Steak Rush of 2012. Nathan Myhrvold suggested it in his massive food science bible, Modernist Cuisine, and pretty soon it was everywhere.
Grilling steaks is right in my wheelhouse. How did I miss this wave? In my defense, I was already falling in love with Sous Vide steak, so I thought “why bother cooking from frozen when I can sous vide from frozen, and get more consistent results?”
That was my answer for years…until a few weekends ago. My friends at Certified Angus Beef sent me a care package of steaks, and I really wanted a ribeye for Sunday dinner. Life got in the way, though; I had to do a Sunday software install for the day job. The install ran late – even later than I thought it would. I found myself with frozen steaks and not a whole lot of time. That’s when the thought “why not try from frozen?” popped into my head.
But…cook from frozen? How? Why?
Why grill a frozen steak
The general idea is the same as sear and move steak, taken to an extreme. Sear the outside first over high heat, then move the steak away from the fire, close the lid, and gently bring the steak up to temperature. This gives us a dark, browned crust on the outside, while the inside is cooked slowly and evenly to our desired doneness. (I’ll take mine with an 125°F internal temperature for medium-rare, please.)
Starting from frozen works the same way – it just takes longer. For the searing step, the outside needs to warm up before it will start to brown. Be patient, and make sure you get good grill marks on the exterior. You can take your time on this, because you won’t overcook the steak. Searing the outside doesn’t warm up the inside much when you start from frozen. At best, the center is thawed out a bit by the time the searing is done.
Next comes the “and move” step. Cooking to doneness happens on the indirect heat side of the grill, as the gentle heat slowly brings the steak up to temperature. The result is a beautiful steak – evenly cooked from edge to edge, with a browned, seared crust.
So, am I switching to grilling frozen steaks, and letting my sous vide gather dust? Which one is better? Which makes the best steaks? Well…it depends.
Sous Vide’s advantages:
- Perfectly cooked edge to edge – the entire steak is the desired temperature before we sear.
- Overcooking is almost impossible. If you need a steak to sit for a few hours, waiting to sear and serve, sous vide is what you want
- Shorter active cooking time. Drop the steaks in the water bath…and walk away for 60 to 90 minutes. Pull the bags out of the water, open, pat the steak dry, and sear for a couple of minutes a side. Done.
Grilling from Frozen advantages:
- More even from edge to edge than typical sear and move – but not as good as sous vide
- Overcooking is harder – but not as hard as sous vide. With indirect cooking and a good probe thermometer, you can pull the steak exactly when you want it. But…a few minutes too soon, and the steak is the “blue” side of rare; a few minutes too long, and you’re in Medium territory. You still have to pay attention, and time things right.
- Shorter total cooking time. Sous vide from frozen means 60 to 90 minutes in the water bath, plus searing. Grilling from frozen takes about 30 minutes.
- Better grilled crust on the steak – the frozen interior lets you get a really good sear on the outside without overcooking the inside.
In other words, I’m going to cook my steaks sous vide and from frozen, depending on what I need. I love having options when I need them!Print
Grilled Frozen Ribeye Steak recipe. Why thaw? Put those frozen ribeye steaks right on the grill.
- 4 (1-inch to 1.5-inch thick) frozen boneless ribeye steaks
- Salt (1/2 to 1 teaspoon kosher salt per steak)
- Fresh ground black pepper (1/2 teaspoon per steak)
- Set up the grill for indirect high heat (450°F+): Set the grill for indirect high heat; half the grill with direct high heat, and the other half with no heat. On my Weber Summit gas grill, I preheat the grill with all burners turned to high for 10 to 15 minutes. Then I turn off half of the burners – I turn off burners 1, 2, 3 and leave burners 4, 5, 6 on high. Then I brush the grill grate clean with my grill brush.
- Sear the steaks: Put the steaks on the grill over the lit burners. Sear the steaks, flipping often, until they are browned and crusty on both sides, about 12 minutes. (On my gas grill, I grill in a 3-3-rotate-3-3 pattern to get diamond grill marks. I set the steaks on the grill so they are on an angle, with the tip of the steak pointing Northeast. I grill the steaks on the first side for 3 minutes, then flip the steaks, making sure they still point in the same Northeast direction. I grill the second side for 3 minutes. Then I flip them again, back to the first grilling side, rotating the steaks 90 degrees as I flip them – now they’re pointing Northwest, to give the steaks diamond grill marks. I grill for 3 minutes and then flip the steaks one last time, pointing them in the same Northwest direction, and grill for another 3 minutes to get diamond grill marks on the last side.)
- Move the steaks and finish with the lid closed: Move the steaks to the indirect heat side of the grill, away from the fire. Push a probe thermometer into a steak from the side, aiming for the center of the steak, then run the wire out under the grill lid, keeping the wire away from the direct heat part of the grill. Close the lid and cook the steaks until they reach an internal temperature of 125°F for medium-rare, about 12 minutes. (For Rare, cook to 115°F internal, about 9 minutes; for Medium, cook to 135°F, about 15 minutes.)
- Season and serve: Remove the steaks from the grill and sprinkle evenly with salt and coarse ground black pepper. Let sit for five minutes for the juices to redistribute, then serve.
- I went with my gas grill because I was in a hurry, but grilling from frozen works just as well on a charcoal grill. Set your Kettle up for a Sear and Move indirect heat setup with charcoal.
- This technique will work with any thick-cut steak. Try it with a New York strip, a filet mignon, or a sirloin.
- I’m usually a “salt ahead of time” guy, but do NOT salt the steaks before they’ve been seared – the salt will just bounce off the frozen steak. For these steaks, I wait to salt and pepper them until after they are done cooking.
- Really, don’t trust timing on this recipe. Use a thermometer. Please?
- Grill (I love my massive Weber Summit and my Weber Kettle)
- Probe Thermometer (My Thermoworks Smoke and Thermoworks ChefAlarm have high heat probes that can stand up to grilling. I use the Smoke because the Smoke Gateway app has a tracking graph – it makes it easy to get timings for the indirect heat side of the recipe. And, yes, I’m a geek.)
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
My other Grilling Recipes
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