The steakhouse effect in 45 minutes
Today, few will remember it, but the first to talk about steak stealing directly from the freezer had been in unsuspected time, the friend Enrico Brandizzi generating some general floor. Today it seems that the subject has not only been cleared but that it has become fashionable and that throwing the frozen meat on the grid is the “new black”, drawing a camphorated shadow of inadequacy around the good “two hours outside the fridge before cooking “, considered pure avant-garde until the other day.
Authoritative sites like Cooks Illustrated celebrate the results obtained with this method: 9% more juicy meat and a much more homogeneous texture as a result of intuitive greater resistance to frozen meat to overcooking, especially at points nearer to the bark, even if taking to longer times of cooking. In reading the many contributions to this, I came across a couple of border sites who argue that they started out from the concepts outlined above to find what we could call Prefreezing as a method to get the best absolute result in cooking a beef steak.
The authors have taken as reference the ideal cooking of a steakhouse, which is not replicable at home: the homogeneity of heat and the power expressed by professional devices are at the basis of a simply unique cooking level. Next to us we can only imagine stories of this kind, since in most cases the opposite is true: restaurant steaks have so much to run before matching those that each of us can achieve in the back of our garden . The fact remains that in their opinion the solution is precisely in the prefreezing, that means storing the steak in the freezer 45 minutes before cooking on a grating. The surface moisture would crystallize, resulting as the first being eliminated at the time of cooking, favoring a better and more homogenous searing. In addition, all the benefits reported by Cooks Illustrated would be achieved, but significantly lowering the cooking times.
I immediately wanted to do a test. I got two gorgeous and marbled ribs, cut personally one after the other so that their origin, thickness and size were as coherent as possible. Following the instructions, I applied a normal SPG rub but no oil or any other seasoning on the first of the two and put it in a freezer for the expected time. I simply left the other one at room temperature, as in the old system.
I wanted the maximum uniformity of the cooking conditions for both. I did not want rushes or drops in temperature due to fuel but the greatest possible stability. I chose to use a Kamado for cooking both steaks. As the degree of cooking I chose the medium: too easy to keep juicing on the Rare, let’s see if there are differences on more advanced cooking grades.
After 45 minutes, the consistency of the first steak removed from the freezer is actually what expected: like butter just removed from the fridge, hard but somewhat yielding. It was suggested not to use the oil as the basis for applying the rub before placing it in a freezer but to put a butter nut on the steak before baking it and so I did. For that traditional one I instead applied a veil of oil and a sprinkle of rub immediately before putting it on the grid, as I usually do.
There is only to compare the results obtained:
The most obvious difference is the cauterization lines. The prefreezing steak has a much more homogeneous cauterization. On the contrary, the Grillmarks of the traditional one are much more marked. Regarding the homogeneity of cooking, there is actually a predominance of the prefreezing steak even though, at the very least, it did not seem to me to be overwhelming.
The taste of prefreezing steak was definitely better. On the traditional one, there was a contrast between the bitter (though not excessive) peaks of the grillmarks and a slightly herbaceous bottom flavor. The first one was toasted, uniform, very pleasant. I was amazed at how important the difference in consistency between the two steaks was, and I noticed yet at the time of slicing before the tasting: prefreezing steak was much more tender and yielding to chewing. In terms of moisture, I did not notice significant differences: both very juicy.
Indeed, prefreezing steak times were about 50% longer. Which coincides with what Cooks Illustrated reported. I would therefore hypothesize that Prefreezing is not a time saving (at least significant) for the same benefits
The Prefreezing results were certainly positive and its added values were definitely tangible. It is a procedure that not only aesthetically contributes to the steak but also in terms of taste and consistency, which is far more impacting than reported on articles I read about it.
And do you have the cut of meat on which you want to try it?