As with many foods, people debate the best place to store steak. Is the refrigerator the best place? Or is it the freezer? A quick survey of individuals would give varied answers, with each person believing they had the best answer with evidence to back up their opinion. So, we've researched this topic to get the best answer for whether to store your steaks in the fridge or freezer.
For raw and cooked steaks, either the refrigerator or freezer can be a great place to store steak. Safety and flavor are two main concerns with steak. A refrigerator will keep a steak fresh for up to a few days. If the steak is not cooked or eaten within that time period, proper freezing will ensure the steak will be equally enjoyable at a later date.
Steak can easily be frozen or kept fresh in the refrigerator whether it has been cooked or is still raw. Wherever it is stored, it is important to know whether the steak is safe to eat. Once that has been determined, a person can decide where to store it until it is cooked or eaten. Keep reading for all the bet tips on storing steak!
How Do You Know a Steak has Gone Bad?
Before storing your steak, it is important to make sure it is safe to eat. The safest measure is time. According to the USDA, some cuts of beef may be good up to five days in a refrigerator, and many meats come with a use or freeze by date. While a best by date is related to quality, the use by date states the food will spoil past that time. However, there may not be a date, or the steak may have been previously frozen. Cooked steak can stay in the refrigerator up to four days; any longer than that, it should be frozen.
Two other ways you may tell that steak has spoiled are by smell and touch. Spoiled steak has a foul smell and will feel sticky or slimy to the touch. In some cases, the steak may even feel abnormally dry.
How To Properly Refrigerate a Steak
When refrigerating an uncooked steak, it is acceptable to leave the steak in the original packaging. However, the packaging is likely to leak. It is best to place a plate under the steak to catch and drippings. Ideally, you should place the plate on the bottom shelf or drawer. This is so that, should drippings spill from the plate, there is minimal risk of other foods becoming contaminated.
Additionally, a refrigerator should be below 40o F or and above 34o F. If the refrigerator is too cold, the steak may freeze. If the fridge is too warm, it may spoil.
Typically, an uncooked steak can be safely stored in a refrigerator up to five days, according to the USDA. Past that, it should be discarded. If steak has been cooked, it should be safe to eat for up to four days. When storing cooked steak in a refrigerator, it is best to wrap it airtight, using plastic wrap or aluminum foil.
Temperatures are key to cooking and serving delicious steaks; check out "How Long Do You Rest Steak? [And Does It Keep Cooking When Resting?]"
Does Freezing a Good Steak Ruin It?
While it is possible, freezing a good steak will not ruin the steak. When freezing a steak, the three things to consider are:
- How soon will the steak be frozen
- Method of wrapping
- Length of time in the freezer
It is best to freeze it as soon as possible. The closer the steak is to the point where it will spoil, the lower quality the meat will be. This is not to say the steak will be of poor quality if too much time has passed; it will simply be of higher quality when frozen quickly.
After food safety, one of the biggest concerns people have with food storage is taste. Both the method of wrapping and the length of time in the freezer will contribute to the quality of the meat once thawed. A poorly frozen steak will be tougher and have less flavor than one that has been well-sealed and frozen. Additionally, discoloration may be an issue with a poorly frozen steak.
How To Properly Freeze a Steak
To freeze a steak, make sure it is well wrapped to preserve freshness and prevent freezer burn. The most recommended method of wrapping is vacuum sealing, which may be worth the investment for those planning to freeze a lot of steak or other meats. Second to vacuum sealing, plastic wrap is recommended.
For best results, remove the steak from the original packaging and wrap it in two layers of plastic wrap. Aluminum foil can also be used around the first layer of plastic wrap. It is imperative to make this as airtight as possible! Too much air left in the packaging will increase the risk of freezer burn. After properly wrapping, the steak can be put in a freezer bag and frozen.
After six months, the quality of the steak will degrade. If the steak has been properly wrapped and frozen, the taste and texture will be as good as when it was fresh prior to that point. After about six months, people often notice the steak has a tougher texture and less flavor. However, the USDA states steak can be safely stored indefinitely.
Check out, "Are Ziploc Bags Safe For Food Storage?"
Is Frozen Steak As Good As Fresh Steak?
It is commonly believed a frozen steak is sub par to a fresh cut of steak. However, this seems to be largely due to the methods and quality of freezing a steak. A frozen steak can be as good as a fresh steak. If proper storage guidelines are followed, the steak will stay at the same quality as it was at the time of freezing. When a steak is not properly wrapped and stored in a freezer, it may become freezer burned.
While freezer burn does not affect the safety of a frozen steak, it will certainly affect the quality. Steak with freezer burn is typically discolored and tougher, which will result in a lower quality steak. Ultimately, a fresh steak is more likely to be better than a frozen steak, but this does not mean a frozen steak will lower quality.
How to Cook a Frozen Steak?
Typically, it is recommended to defrost a steak by keeping it wrapped, putting it on a plate, and placing it in the refrigerator. It is normally thawed in 24 hours or less and then can be cooked as normal. For food safety reasons, the USDA recommends avoiding defrosting meats at room temperature to deter the growth of harmful bacteria.
Cooks Illustrated found steaks can be cooked right from frozen, and the tasters even preferred it. While it took longer to cook the steaks, which was not surprising, the results were very good.
Freezing Or Refrigerating Steaks
Ultimately, where steak is stored will come down to a combination of food safety and personal preference. A steak stored properly in either location will be of similar quality. Some people will prefer to buy a steak fresh and cook it within a few days before it spoils. If someone chooses to buy steak ahead of time and keep it frozen, they can rest assured the steak can be of the same quality.