Let's face it, handling raw meat is messy. By preparing your steak and freezing it with its marinade, you can handle a big batch at once and portion out multiple meals. Then, all you need to do is thaw it out and cook it. Sounds like a great plan, but it might not work for every situation. Understand the rules for freezing marinated steaks so you can optimize your efficiency without sacrificing flavor or safety.
Pros of Marinating and Freezing Steak
Whether you're planning to marinate and cook up some steaks tonight and want to freeze some for a future meal or you've hit the jackpot with a great steak sale at the grocery store -- preparing and freezing the steak makes future meal planning and preparation easy. Freezing halts the marinating process, eliminating the danger of ending up with over-marinated steak. Additionally, the marinating process will resume once the steaks are thawed, so you don't need to worry about doing all of the work without having an impact on the flavor.
Flip Side of the Coin
Although the idea of thawing your steaks and popping them on the grill without having to handle them again is an alluring concept, it isn't a foolproof one. The freezing process can throw the flavor of your marinade out of whack by diminishing the acidity and flattening the flavors, particularly if you're freezing the steaks for longer than three months. Another factor to keep in mind is that freezing can change the texture of your steaks. As it freezes, the membranes in the meat expand and liquids in the tissues solidify. If you aren't careful to freeze the marinated steaks properly, you could end up with dry, mushy meat.
How to Marinate and Freeze Steak
Trim the steaks of any excess fat, if necessary. Put the steak in a large, resealable freezer bag. Pour your favorite bottled or homemade marinade over the steak. Press as much air out of the bag as possible and seal it. Refrigerate the marinating steak for roughly two to three hours to let the meat marinate and chill to help the meat freeze faster when you place it in the freezer. This minimizes the chances of the meat's texture being compromised during the freezing and thawing process. After chilling the steaks, double bag them in another freezer bag to avoid any potential leaks. Pop the package of marinating steak in the freezer and freeze it for up to three months. After three months, it may not taste as good and the texture may start to degrade.
Safely Thawing Frozen Steaks
The best way to thaw your marinated steaks is in the refrigerator. Depending on how large your package of steaks is, it could thaw overnight or it might take as long as 24 to 48 hours. Allowing a little extra time is fine because steaks that are thawed in the refrigerator are safe to store for three to five days before cooking. Alternatively, if you need to thaw them faster, submerge the package in cold water. You’ll need to refresh the cold water every 30 minutes or so to keep it cold. This method usually takes anywhere from one to three hours, depending on how many pounds of steak you're thawing.
Cooking Marinated Steaks
There's nothing different about the cooking method that you'll follow. Cook your marinated steaks as you normally would -- on the grill, stovetop or oven. While the food safe internal temperature for beef is 145 degrees Fahrenheit, which produces a medium steak, you could cook it to 125 F if you like it rare, 130 F for medium rare or 155 F for medium-well.
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- U.S. Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service: The Big Thaw -- Safe Defrosting Methods -- for Consumers
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