Have you ever wondered if you REALLY need to defrost meat before you can cook it on your grill?
Well, I’ve got a secret to share with you. While recipes usually call for thawed meat, there’s no reason you can’t cook your steak straight from the freezer. Grilling a frozen steak takes slightly longer, but in many ways it’s actually easier to make a great steak if you skip the defrosting step!
I came across this method by accident but it’s been my favorite way of making steak ever since. Even better, you can use it to make pork chops and boneless chicken pieces too! There’s no reason to defrost the steaks for your next BBQ; just follow these instructions and you’ll have a meal that will amaze your guests.
- 1 Why You Should Grill Frozen Steak
- 2 Why Frozen Steak is Better Than Thawed Steak
- 3 Best Way to Freeze Steak for Grilling
- 4 Before You Start
- 5 How to Grill a Frozen Steak
- 6 Get Your Internal Temperatures Right
Why You Should Grill Frozen Steak
My first summer as a teenager, I made a remarkable discovery while grilling some steaks for a friend and myself.
We had spent several hours playing video games and had worked up quite an appetite, as teenagers will. But when I went to the fridge I discovered we didn’t have anything ready to eat. There were some steaks in the freezer, but our young stomachs would never be able to wait for them to defrost.
So I started the grill and tossed the frozen steaks right on the flames. I figured I could make something edible, at the very least. If it didn’t work the dogs would take care of the evidence before my parents returned and yelled at me for wasting food.
Imagine our shock when we first cut into those beautifully seared 1.5-inch thick ribeyes and found the perfect pink interior. Each bite was juicy, tender and full of the woodsy BBQ flavor so admired by steak enthusiasts. These were the best steaks I’d ever made!
What I discovered that summer’s day is something professional cooks have long known. You don’t always have to defrost your meat before you cook it. For thinner cuts, under 2 inches in thickness, you can skip defrosting and head straight to your grill.
In fact, in many cases it’s actually better to grill frozen meat than waste time thawing it first!
Why Frozen Steak is Better Than Thawed Steak
Why would a steak look and taste better when grilled from frozen rather than thawed?
There’s a few reasons why this method works so well for thick steaks and other cuts like pork chops. One of the challenges of grilling a thawed steak is getting a tasty deep sear on the exterior without overcooking the interior.
Grilling Frozen Steak vs Thawed Steak
Most types of grills can easily reach 500°F, which is an ideal temperature for searing meat. At these high temperatures, the juices on the surface of your cut will quickly evaporate and form a tasty crust.
It only takes about 3 to 4 minutes over the flames to sear each side of a thawed steak. But you’ll likely find a band of grey, overcooked meat just under the surface of the crust. What’s this all about?
The problem is, the high temperatures and flames you need to develop the tasty sear also cook the inside of your steak too quickly. Even if the very center remains pink, the meat closest to the surface usually comes out grey and overcooked.
It’s actually hard to grill the perfect steak, if you start with a thawed piece of meat.
This is why there are so many articles on things like reverse-searing and sous vide steak-cooking. Thinner cuts from 1 to 1.5 inches thick nearly always partially-overcook while searing them on the grill.
When you grill a frozen steak, on the other hand, the exterior develops a deep char while the inside remains partially frozen. Even the meat just under the surface stays cool and raw as the exterior browns. This gradient in temperatures, from seared on the outside to frozen in the center, prevent your steak from overcooking.
Once you finish your steak on the cooler side of the grill and rest it, the inside will be uniformly and evenly cooked. No grey bands of overcooked meat in these steaks!
If you’re a fan of rare steaks especially, you’ll love this technique, but it works no matter what your preferences are. From blue to well done, it’s easy to BBQ a frozen steak!
Best Way to Freeze Steak for Grilling
What kind of advanced planning is needed if you want to grill frozen steaks?
It doesn’t take a lot of work, but you’ll get better results if you’ve purchased and packaged your meat with this technique in mind.
Afterall, if your meat is frozen into an awkward shape it won’t cook evenly on your grill. You can’t grill a bunch of steaks if they are frozen together, either.
Here’s everything you need to consider as you prepare to grill your frozen meat.
Before You Start
You can grill frozen beef and pork steaks, pork chops and boneless, skinless chicken thighs and breasts using this technique. Your steak should ideally be between 1 and 2 inches in thickness for the best results.
Your steak needs to be frozen flat, so that the frozen surface makes direct contact with your hot grill grates. You can buy packages of individually frozen steaks and chicken pieces if you prefer, or you can do this yourself at home.
It’s best to remove the raw meat from any packaging and freeze it on a plate or pan. You can even press the meat between two plates, so both surfaces freeze perfectly flat. This is a great idea if you’re freezing boneless chicken, which tends to be less uniform in thickness than steak or chops.
Once frozen, you can wrap the meat individually in foil or vacuum-seal it for longer storage. Then your steak will be ready to cook anytime you feel like firing up your grill!
Best Steaks to Cook From Frozen
Which steaks are the best to cook from frozen?
Actually, the cut matters less than the thickness of your steaks and the shape they were frozen into. The technique works as well with a flat frozen ribeye as it does with a sirloin or strip steak.
I don’t recommend using this method for cuts thinner than 1 inch such as a skirt or flank steak. These tough cuts need tenderizing and marinating and are really too thin to benefit from freezing before grilling. You’ll get better results grilling these cuts thawed rather than frozen.
While you can use this method for cuts thicker than 2 inches, it may take quite a while to finish on the cooler indirect heat of the grill. I’ve tried the freezing method with a 3-inch thick London broil and didn’t think the extended cooking time really resulted in any flavor benefit.
But for steaks from 1 to 2 inches thick it’s my method of choice for sure. If I was going to cook up a pricey 1.5-inch thick Wagyu steak I would grill it frozen in a heartbeat.
Preparing Your Grill
There’s one other trick to making a great frozen steak, and that’s in your grill set up.
You’ll need to build a hot fire for the initial searing stage, and then move your meat off the direct heat to finish cooking on indirect heat. This is called 2 zone grilling.
If you’re using a charcoal grill, you’ll need to arrange your burning charcoal on one side of the cooking grate, leaving the other side empty. Once you sear your steak over the charcoal, shift it to the other, cooler side and cover to continue cooking.
Gas grills are even easier to manage. Once your steak has seared, all you need to do is turn one of the burners off and move your meat to the off-side. Close the lid and cook until your meat reaches your desired temperature.
Yes, it’s really this easy!
How to Season Frozen Steak
There is one thing about cooking a frozen steak that’s a bit of a challenge, and that’s seasoning your meat.
There’s really no point in adding salt and pepper or a seasoned dry rub to a frozen steak. The seasoning won’t stick and will just fall off on the grill. But cooking an unseasoned steak is just insanity. What is a pitmaster to do?
You have two options. You can add salt and other seasonings to your raw meat before you freeze it flat. Or you can seasoning it as you cook, between the searing and indirect cooking stages.
I prefer to season as I cook, since this allows me the most flexibility. But either way, as long as you season it before it’s frozen or as it cooks, your steak will have amazing flavor.
How to Grill a Frozen Steak
- Preheat your grill and set it up for 2 zone cooking.
- Place the frozen steak on the hot side of the grill. Cook for approximately 5 minutes or until the underside is nicely seared. The upper side will still be visibly frozen.
- Flip the steak over and continue cooking on the hot side of the grill. Cook for another 4 to 5 minutes, or until the entire surface is nicely and evenly charred. The center of your meat will still be partially frozen and raw.
- Move your steak off the flames to the cooler side of the grill. Season both sides of your meat with salt and pepper. Cover and continue cooking the steak on indirect heat for 10 to 15 minutes. When the internal temperature is within 5 degrees of your desired final temperature, pull the steak from the grill.
- Rest your steak covered for 5 to 10 minutes, and serve!
Get Your Internal Temperatures Right
How do you know when your steak is done?
Don’t trust the cooking times when you’re grilling a steak. The best way to know when your steak is ready is to use a thermometer to take its internal temperature.
Guide to Steak Temperatures
Here’s a list of the temperatures for different levels of steak doneness. It’s best to pull your steak about 5 degrees before it hits your ideal temperature. It will reach the ideal temp as it rests.
Extra Rare or Blue: 115°F
Rare: 120° to 125°F
Medium-Rare: 130° to 135°F
Medium: 140° to 145°F
Medium-Well: 150° to 155°F
Well Done: 160°F and up