Sous Vide Frozen Steak: From Frozen to Perfect Every Single Time
Sous vide frozen steak is by far the most convenient way to cook the perfect steak straight from the freezer every single time. Here’s a step-by-step guide on how to do it.
Whenever we reach for something raw in the freezer, say a steak, the first thing we usually do is let it thaw before doing anything else with it. We wait for it to defrost completely, season or marinate it, and then we cook up a great steak meal.
What if I tell you that you can cook your frozen steak straight out of the freezer without thawing, and the result is guaranteed to be phenomenal every single time? Is that even possible?
With traditional methods, the answer is hell no! But with an immersion circulator, AKA a sous vide machine, the answer is a hands-down yes.
(What the heck is sous vide? If that’s the question on your mind right now, here’s everything you need to know about it, or download my sous vide guide bundle below. It’s free.)
Before we explore how to sous vide frozen steak, you might be asking why you might want to do it that way. Let’s go through the reasons for cooking frozen steak sous vide, then you can decide if you’d like to give it a try. (Spoiler alert: You may be dumping frozen steak in your sous vide water bath more frequently than you expect!)
- Why should you cook frozen steak sous vide?
- Will your steak come out different in texture and flavor if you cook from frozen?
- Can you sous vide marinated frozen steak?
- Is a vacuum sealer required?
- The Basics of Sous Vide Cooking Steak from Frozen
- Season, Freeze, and Cook vs. Freeze, Cook, and Season
- Meal Prep with Sous Vide Frozen Steak
- How to Sous Vide Frozen Steak (Step by Step)
- Sous Vide Frozen Steak Recipe
- About the Author
Why should you cook frozen steak sous vide?
Whether it’s ribeye, sirloin, porterhouse, filet mignon, New York strip, or T-bone steaks, cooking a steak using the sous vide cooking method is one of the best ways to make perfectly juicy and tender steak exactly to your liking. You won’t need to worry about overcooking it ever.
From my personal experience, cooking frozen steak sous vide has even more advantages when it comes to time-saving, cost-effectiveness, and convenience.
- Time-saving. First and foremost, dropping your frozen steak (in a food-grade bag) directly into a sous vide bath obviously allows you to skip the thawing part. You could pre-season your steak before freezing or cook the unseasoned frozen steak, then add seasonings or sauce to finish. (I love this Sweet and Sticky BBQ Glaze from ChefSteps for my steak.) The latter saves even more time. More on this later.
- Cost-effectiveness. You can go ahead and purchase bulk value-packs of steak at Costco, knowing that you’ll be able to cook the meat perfectly every single time. No need to worry about expiration dates. All you need to do is to place each portion in a food-grade plastic bag (seasoned or not) before freezing.
- Convenience. From freezer to sous vide without defrosting is already very convenient, in my opinion. But it doesn’t stop here. Once the steak is under the water, you can walk away from your kitchen for a couple of hours without even thinking about it. And if the frozen steak you purchased at the store is already vacuum-sealed in food-grade bags (a lot of frozen foods are), then we are talking about going from the shopping cart to your freezer to sous vide directly. Your hands don’t even have to touch the raw meat. How convenient is that?
Will your steak come out different in texture and flavor if you cook from frozen?
With countless times of cooking both fresh and frozen steak sous vide under my belt, I will tell you that I simply cannot tell the difference. Period.
Can you sous vide marinated frozen steak?
(I knew this was going to be your next question.) Yes, you can! With marinade, however, you want to be mindful of the ingredients, because they can subtly change the texture of your steak. Yes, I said subtly, which means you don’t have to stress about it too much. But if you really want to dig a bit deeper, be mindful of your marinade.
- Does it contain salty ingredients? If yes, they will act like a brine for your frozen steak.
- Does it contain acidic ingredients? If yes, that will change the texture a bit.
- Does it have oil? If yes, it will soften and wilt the tissue of your steak.
- Does it have alcohol or sugar? If yes, it can draw out the moisture of your steak and make it less juicy.
If you don’t make the marinade yourself, chances are that you don’t really know exactly what’s in it. Again, don’t stress about it. The difference in texture is subtle. Your marinated frozen steak will most likely taste amazing anyway. Just let the frozen marinade break down a little before you start the timer when cooking.
Is a vacuum sealer required?
Nope! As with most sous vide creations, a zip-top style bag can do the trick just fine. I recommend food-grade freezer bags for the job. You can package your steak with spices and fresh herbs or even marinade, seal it up, and freeze it. When you are ready, throw the frozen bag directly into your preheated water bath to cook. So convenient!
As I mentioned earlier, a lot of the time, you’ll find vacuum-sealed steaks in the store. As long as it’s the right plastic and seal, it’s sous vidable right away. (Yes, sous vidable is a legit phrase—as of now!)
What’s considered the right packaging? Read on.
The Basics of Sous Vide Cooking Steak from Frozen
I think I’ve got your burning questions answered, so I am going to talk about the most important things about sous vide frozen steak now—packaging and cooking time.
Packaging: Can you sous vide the frozen steak in its original packaging, or should you repackage it?
It’s hard to beat the convenience of cooking your steak sous vide in its original packaging. However, not all packaging is suitable and safe for sous vide.
Before you drop your vacuum-sealed frozen steak from the store into your sous vide bath, you want to make sure the steak is sealed in a sous vidable plastic bag, which is made of high-quality, BPA-free polyethylene or polypropylene.
You may not be able to find this information easily, though. I always ask the store staff or the butcher. If the answer is positive without hesitation, then I know the packaging is safe, and I don’t need to repackage it. It’s also a good idea to give the packaging a good examination, checking the seal as well as the quality of the bag. Use your best judgment to determine if the seal is strong enough to handle the sous vide cooking process and if the plastic looks high quality and heavy-duty like your food-grade freezer bags.
The rule of thumb is when in doubt, always repackage your steak in the right sous vide cooking bags before putting it into your freezer. Then you can drop the frozen sealed bag directly in your sous vide without any concerns when you are ready to cook.
Oh, one more thing—if your stored-bought frozen steak comes with an absorbent pad in the packaging, please remove it and repackage your steak. I am pretty sure (122% sure) the absorbent pad is not meant to be sous vided.
Cooking time: How long does it take to sous vide frozen steak?
The cooking time for cooking frozen steak is undoubtedly a bit longer than cooking fresh steak sous vide. The easiest way to figure out how long it takes to sous vide frozen steak is to take the cooking time for cooking fresh steak and multiply it by 1.5.
Frozen Cook Time = Fresh Cook Time x 1.5
For example, a fresh one-inch-thick ribeye steak takes 1 hour in the sous vide at 129°F to come out medium-rare (just the way I like it). According to the formula above, a frozen steak with the same thickness will need 1.5 hours.
If your steak is a bit thicker, say 1.5 inches, fresh cook time is 1.5 hours to reach medium-rare. The frozen cook time will be 2 hours and 15 minutes (1.5×1.5).
Wait, what about cooking temperature? Aha! Good question. That doesn’t change.
The only thing that changes when cooking frozen steak sous vide is the cook time. The temp is the same, the taste is the same, and the texture is the same (if you don’t add salty, acidic, or oily ingredients, which will subtly change the texture).
This formula also applies to other small-cut frozen meats such as sous vide chicken breasts, pork chops, pork tenderloin, etc.
For your convenience, I put together a frozen steak cook time and temperature chart for quick reference.
Season, Freeze, and Cook vs. Freeze, Cook, and Season
There are two ways to cook sous vide frozen steak. They can be summarized as follows:
- Season (or marinate) fresh steak first, freeze, then sous vide.
- Freeze (or buy frozen steak) without adding anything, sous vide, then add seasoning right before searing.
I experimented with both ways, and here’s what I have learned.
On the left side of the photo above are two sirloin steaks vacuum packed by Farmer’s Market, Hong Kong, the online butcher where I regularly purchase my meat. The packaging is sous vide-safe, so I popped it in my freezer as soon as I received my order.
I repackaged the two ribeyes on the right side of the photo in a sous vide bag. I seasoned the steak lightly with salt and pepper and added fresh rosemary and a splash of my favorite extra-virgin olive oil before vacuum sealing with a hand pump.
Both bags were placed in my freezer on the same day. A week later, I set up my sous vide and dropped the frozen bags in the water bath of 129°F for 1.5 hours. (My steaks were one inch thick.)
The finishing step for the pre-seasoned ribeye was straightforward—I melted butter in a hot skillet and seared each side for 90 seconds.
As for the sirloin, I added salt, pepper and some garlic powder before searing.
I am here to report that both ways generated the same amazing medium-rare steak with no noticeable texture differences. However, the pre-seasoned ribeye ended up more flavorful. I think the salt and oil probably enhanced the flavor. That’s not to say that the frozen sirloin with no added seasoning before cooking wasn’t good. Again, the texture and taste of both steaks were equally satisfying. I think the flavor could also be changed by serving with a good steak sauce or smoked salt flakes on the side.
The results of the experiment assured me that sous vide frozen steak, pre-seasoned or not, is a super convenient way of cooking steak, and I have been doing it more and more often. Whether or not I pre-season the meat before freezing really depends on whether I have fresh steak on hand, if my steak comes in vacuum-sealed and sous vide-safe bags, or if I feel like it. 😛
Meal Prep with Sous Vide Frozen Steak
Because cooking frozen steak sous vide is so convenient, let’s double down with some meal prep tips and ideas.
Prepare Sides While the Steak Is Cooking
For a well-balanced meal, you can prepare the sides to pair with your restaurant-quality steak while it’s in the sous vide. For example, 30 minutes before your steak is done, roast some potatoes in the oven and saute some asparagus on the stovetop at the same time. Before serving, give your steak a good sear on both sides and sprinkle some smoked salt flakes for added flavor. Here you have a restaurant-quality meal from your own kitchen.
I like to sous vide my vegetables, as well, so I usually start off my sous vide at a higher temperature to cook the veggies first, then lower the water bath temp by adding ice water to cook my steak. My veggies can hang out in the water bath to keep warm as the steak is cooking.
Batch-Cook Frozen Steak Sous Vide
You may also batch cook frozen steak sous vide. Once the cooking is done, chill the bags rapidly in an ice-water bath before refrigerating. If your steak is vacuum-sealed, it can last in your fridge for a whole week as long as it’s still in its cooking bag, so you can either serve it up to please a crowd or enjoy it multiple times throughout the week in different meals.
When you are ready to eat, simply cut open the bag, pat the steak dry with paper towels, and sear both sides in a hot, buttered pan. This is the quickest and simplest way to reheat your sous vide steak—finishing and reheating at the same time.
From there, assemble your steak meal with these steak recipes or come up with your own creations! The sky’s the limit.
Perfect Steak with Brussels Sprouts and Sweet Potatoes
How to Sous Vide Frozen Steak (Step by Step)
Alrighty, let’s get down to business. Here are the step-by-step instructions to sous vide your frozen steak perfectly every single time!
Step 1: Prepare your steak
If your steak is fresh:
- Season your steak with your preferred spices and fresh herbs. (Optional)
- Arrange your steak in a single layer in a cooking bag, and, optionally, add fresh herbs. If using a zip-top style bag, remove as much air as possible, then seal. If using a sous vide bag, vacuum seal.
- Freeze until ready to cook.
If your steak is frozen from the store:
- Check the packaging and make sure it’s sous vide-safe and steak pieces are in a single layer. If yes, pop it into your freezer directly.
- If not, repackage it in a sous vide-friendly bag, then freeze.
Step 2: Set up your sous vide
I use Anova’s Sous Vide Precision Cooker. Preheat the water bath to your preferred temperature according to the time and temp chart above.
Step 3: Cook frozen steak sous vide
Place your frozen bag straight from the freezer into the prepared water bath and set the timer according to the time and temp chart above. Use the water displacement method if using a zip-top style bag.
Step 4: Pat the cooked steak dry
When the steak is cooked, remove it from the bag and pat it dry with paper towels. If your steak is not pre-seasoned, add seasonings now. A little salt and pepper goes a long way, or use whatever seasonings your heart desires.
Step 5: Fire up the stove and heat a heavy-duty pan such as a cast-iron skillet over high heat.
Step 6: Add butter and swirl until foamy.
Step 7: Sear the steak
Gently place the steak in the skillet to sear for about 90 seconds on each side or until a nice crust forms on the outside. (Work on one piece of meat at a time. Don’t overcrowd your skillet.) Remove from the skillet and let it rest for 5 minutes before slicing.
The most convenient way to cook the perfect steak straight from the freezer every single time.
- 2 1-inch-thick ribeye, NY strip, sirloin, or T-bone steaks, fresh or frozen
- Salt and pepper, to taste (optional)
- 1–2 sprigs fresh rosemary (optional)
- Unsalted butter as needed
- For fresh steak, arrange it in a single layer in a zip-top style bag or a sous vide bag. Optionally, season with salt and pepper beforehand and add rosemary sprigs. Remove the air from the bag either manually or using a vacuum sealer. Freeze.
- When ready to cook, set up sous vide and preheat water to 129°F for medium-rare doneness. (Refer to the Sous Vide Frozen Steak Time and Temp Chart in the blog post for different doneness and thickness.)
- Once the water reaches the desired temperature, take out the steak from the freezer and drop the frozen bag into the water bath directly. Use the water displacement method if using a zip-top style bag. Set the timer for 1.5 hours.
- Once the timer goes off, remove the steak from the water bath, cut the bag open, and take out the sous vide steak. Pat it dry with paper towels. If your steak is not pre-seasoned, add seasonings now.
- Heat a cast-iron skillet over high heat until very hot; add butter, which will immediately melt and foam. Quickly add the steak to sear for 90 seconds on each side.
- Remove the steak from the heat and place it on a cutting board to rest for 5 minutes. Slice and enjoy!
- Serving Size: 1
- Calories: 760
- Sodium: 308.8mg
- Fat: 38.9g
- Saturated Fat: 17.1g
- Trans Fat: 1.4g
- Protein: 102g
- Cholesterol: 237.5mg
Keywords: sous vide frozen steak
About the Author
Sharon Chen is an Integrative Nutrition Health Coach, an author and a sous vide fanatic who believes food not only brings healing but also connection. As the creator of StreetSmart Kitchen, she's on a mission to help you find balance, ease, joy, and simplicity in the kitchen as you improve your well-being.