What’s For Dinner? Frozen Steakhouse Steak

Have you ever had plans to go out and then decided that you’d much rather stay at home? If you’re like me that’s happened more than a couple times.

A few months ago I was visiting with my friend and grill enthusiast Matt Langford and that exact thing happened. We opened the refrigerator looking for something that we could cook for dinner and then realized all we had was a frozen steak. I had grilled a steak from frozen before so I knew we could do it, and I also knew that in the past few years, it’s become “a thing.” What I didn’t know was that it was going to be the best steak that we had grilled and enjoyed in a long time.

We started with a thick-cut CAB boneless ribeye that was a little more that 1.5 inches thick and plenty for two people. We brushed it all over with olive oil and seared it over direct heat for a couple minutes on each side. We seasoned it once we turned it because the salt and pepper doesn’t adhere well when it is rock-solid frozen. After each side was seared, we turned off the center burners and moved the steak to indirect heat to finish cooking. (For a primer on direct and indirect heat, read this.)

Once it was 130F in the center, we took it off the grill and let it rest for about 7 minutes. Once we sliced it up and sat down to eat, we marveled at how perfect it was. The steak was perfectly medium rare, juicy and had a great charred crust. It was so good and so easy that Matt decided it was going to be his new preferred method of grilling steak.

Gavin Pinto, the Test Kitchen Manager of Certified Angus Beef (CAB) told me “if you can cook [steak] from frozen, the quality is more consistent. It’s juicier because you don’t lose as much juice as you do when you thaw the meat from frozen.”

If you love steak, you know that a juicy, tender steak is the hallmark of a great grilled steak. The tender part comes mostly from the cut of steak that you buy but the juicy is up to the cook, so why not master a technique that keeps the steak juicier?

This makes sense especially now when food and beef prices are high. You can buy steak when it’s on sale and not worry about when you’re going to grill it. And, you can have a steak dinner any day of the week as long as your freezer is full.

This is not a method that I recommend with thin “sandwich” steaks because the center cooks through as it thaws. This method works best with thick steaks; steaks that are 1 1/2 to 2 inches thick and at least 1.15 pounds in terms of weight.

There is a camp of grill cooks who swear that you will get less of a cooked “gray” ring around the meat if you cook from frozen. I found this to be true with a strip steak that is denser and more compact than a boneless ribeye, but found that to be less of the case with the ribeye. But that also worked in my favor because the outer curved ring of the ribeye is the coveted ribeye cap, or Spinalis Dorsi muscle, and I find it to be much tastier cooked almost through.

If you still aren’t convinced, here are some other benefits of cooking steak from frozen:

  • It’s really difficult to overcook a steak when cooking from frozen which is some assurance for new grillers and anyone who has ever over-cooked a steak which is pretty much everyone.
  • Instead of pronounced grill marks, you get a really nice end-to-end crust that a lot of people prefer to grill marks.

In the months since that first frozen steak, Matt has refined his technique and has a few tips:

1. When you can see the ribeye cap (Spinalis Dorsi) start to separate where the fat layer is, it should be a perfect medium rare—but use an instant-read meat thermometer to make sure.

2. If you want a real steakhouse char, sear the steak over high direct-heat for the final 1-2 minutes of the cooking time.

3. Let the steak rest 7-10 minutes after cooking.

And, my final tip is to finish the steak with a drizzle of olive oil—or butter—and flaky salt as it rests.

Grilled Steak from Frozen with an Optional Steakhouse Crust

This is a dream recipe for people who don’t like to plan. You can literally make it without any advance planning as long as you have steaks in the freezer. And, it may be the best steak you’ve ever grilled!

Serves 2-4

Grilling Method: Combo—Direct and Indirect

1-2 frozen steaks, 1 ½-2 inches thick and at least 1.15 pounds

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Kosher salt

Black pepper

  1. Preheat the grill with all burners on high. Reduce the heat to medium-high Direct heat.
  2. Remove packaging from frozen steak. Brush all over with olive oil.
  3. Sear the steaks over Direct medium-high heat for 2-3 minutes on each side until they’re golden brown. You may not get consistent grill marks because the marks will only appear on the part of the steak that is making flat contact with the grates.
  4. Season generously on each side with salt and pepper when you flip the steak (s).
  5. Turn the center burners off and finish cooking over medium-high Indirect Heat. If you want crosshatch marks, you can position the steaks so that you get these marks when you turn the steaks and change the heat.
  6. Grill until the internal temperature reaches 130F for medium-rare. Remove the steaks earlier or later, depending on your desired level of doneness.
  7. This will take between 15-25 minutes depending on the thickness of the steak, but check every 10 minutes or so.
  8. If you want a Steakhouse Crust, turn one burner to high when the steak is a few degrees less than your preferred level of doneness. Sear the steak directly over the flame with the grill lid up for 1-2 minutes or until you have an end-to-end steakhouse (seared) crust and don’t see any grill marks.
  9. Remove from grill to a clean platter or cutting board. Drizzle tops with Extra-Virgin Olive Oil and season all over with a pinch of finishing salt.
  10. Let steaks rest for 5-10 minutes on a cutting board before slicing or serving.

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