How to Defrost Steak

If you purchase steaks in bulk from online retailers or even a local butcher shop, the chances are that the meat will arrive frozen in vacuum-sealed bags. Do not worry. This is perfectly fine.

Vacuum-sealing will preserve the steaks’ quality and will not ruin the flavor or the texture once the meat is defrosted and cooked.

This storage presents a different challenge, though. Your steak is frozen, and you need to thaw it before cooking. What is the right way to thaw a steak, and how long does it take to do it?

Is there a way to quickly defrost a steak? Is it safe?

Learn the answers to these questions in this short defrosting steak guide.

The Best Way to Defrost a Steak

What does it mean to defrost a steak perfectly? In our opinion, several factors are absolutely essential:

  • Keep harmful bacteria away from the steak during defrosting.
  • Do your best to preserve the flavor and texture of the steak during defrosting. 
  • Cook the steak right after the meat reaches room temperature.

Over time, the best practice in steak defrosting is the refrigerator method. Though by far the slowest defrosting method, the refrigerator method provides the best security in keeping harmful bacteria out of the way and preserving the flavor and texture of the steak.

frozen steak

Take the frozen steak from the freezer. Place it on a plate or a flat tray. The steak should lay flat on the plate or tray to defrost evenly so that, as the meat thaws, the water will drip uniformly.

Ideally, you want to put the plate or tray with the frozen steak in the refrigerator at least 24 hours before you need to start cooking the steak. That should be more than enough time for the steak to thaw without compromising the quality of the steak.

Depending on the size and thickness of the steak, defrosting might take a bit longer or shorter time. Still, 24 hours should be enough for all types of steak.

The steak is most vulnerable as it defrosts, so it is essential to protect it from bacteria during that time. The cold temperature in the fridge will do a good job of keeping bacteria controlled in these situations.

How to Defrost Steak in the Microwave

What happens if you are in a hurry and do not have 24 hours to wait for the steak to thaw? Microwave defrosting is something that you might think of. After all, you might think, your microwave does have a defrost setting, and it should be safe.

The reality is a bit different. While it is true that a microwave does have a defrost setting that can rather quickly defrost a steak, the method will come with few compromises. Firstly, the microwave during the defrosting period will start to cook the steak slightly. Additionally, the process will negatively affect the taste of the steak, and the meat will have a higher risk of being exposed to harmful bacteria.

Therefore, we would not recommend using the microwave method unless you are in a time pinch. If you must use the microwave method, make sure that the steak remains in its vacuum-sealed bag during defrosting, and, as soon as defrosting is complete, cook the steak immediately. The longer the meat stays out, the higher the chance for bacteria to contaminate the meat. 

The microwave method is the quickest. Depending on the size of the steak, it might take from 15 minutes to an hour to thoroughly defrost.

The Hot and Cold Water Methods

Another way to quickly defrost the meat is to put the bag of frozen steak in a container full of hot or cold water. Both methods seem to work and take less time than the refrigerator method.

Vacuum packed fresh beef top blade steak

The hot water method will defrost most of the steaks in just an hour or so, but it comes with a downside. Hot water will start to cook the steak slightly as it defrosts. Additionally, there is an increased risk of harmful bacteria finding its way to your steak.

The cold water method takes a bit more time, but it lowers the dangers of bacterial contamination. Most of the steak will take two to three hours to defrost in the cold water.

Make sure to change the water frequently to keep it cold throughout the process. You can combine this method with the refrigerator method by putting the packaged steak in a dish of cold water in your fridge.

Defrost a Steak Using the Sous Vide

You can also defrost a steak using the sous vide method, allowing for a quick seasoning or marinade before cooking. Because this defrosting method doesn’t take too long, there is no risk of bacterial growth, alleviating any food safety concerns.

When you’re ready to defrost your steak, set the sous vide thermostat to 38°F and place the frozen steak into the water bath. Allow the cold water to circulate the meat for 75 minutes.

If you’re in a hurry, you can increase the temperature of the sous vide appliance to as high as 102°F. In this case, you should only defrost the steak for 11-15 minutes. Remember to begin the sous vide process with hot water instead of cold to defrost the meat quicker.

After this cooking time, your steak should be perfectly defrosted and ready to pan fry, broil, or grill to perfection.


The final piece of advice is to always check the packaging the steak comes in. Ideally, you want the vacuum-sealed packaging to be waterproof to most effectively prevent bacteria from reaching the meat.

Photo of author

Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam is the founder of Steak Revolution. He loves sharing his knowledge of steaks with everyone, ensuring you get the perfect steak every time.