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Can You Freeze Steak After Seasoning?
Freezing a steak after you season it does little to change the makeup of the meat itself. It can be a great way to save extra meat that came in a marinade or is already seasoned from the grocery store.
Though there could be an issue if the seasoning blend has a lot of garlic or onion, as alliums tend to break down over time when frozen. This creates an off-flavor and aroma that somehow manages to dominate all the other seasonings.
If you are vacuum sealing your seasoned steak right before freezing it, you can still expect at least a month of storage time before you have to worry about a potential freezer burn issue. This is assuming you did your best to freeze it quickly, which produces small ice crystals that help stave off premature freezer burn.
What Freezing Steak After Seasoning It Does
Freezing steak after seasoning doesn’t do much to the meat, beyond perhaps any salt slightly changing the freezing time at the surface. Once the steak freezes the salt can’t do much to penetrate the meat or draw out water-soluble proteins.
It’s other seasonings with volatile compounds like garlic that can oxidize over time which can become more of an issue. When a seasoning oxidizes the chemical compounds break down, causing them to lose their potency, while also creating off flavors or aromas.
Some seasonings like granulated garlic and ginger don’t thaw well after freezing. They tend to take on an unpleasant grainy texture, which you’ll notice when you chew the meat.
Freezing a seasoned steak might be called for if you bought it at the grocery store with premixed marinade or seasoning on it. Sometimes I catch myself seasoning more steak for a recipe than I can possibly eat in one sitting, so I vacuum seal and freeze it for later.
If I do freeze a seasoned steak and I know there’s a lot of garlic in the seasoning blend, I try to use it within a week or less. This seems to be the threshold where the garlic breaks down to give off dominating, off-putting flavors.
Should You Freeze Steak After Seasoning?
If your seasoning blend or marinade doesn’t have a lot of garlic or ginger in it, then it doesn’t matter much if you freeze it after seasoning.
If you are planning a seasoning rub that’s heavy-handed with garlic, then it’s best to leave all the garlic, ginger, and any other allium-based ingredients out. You can then add them when you thaw the steak later to keep their flavors fresh without any granular texture.
When to Season Before Freezing
Since salt and pepper do next to nothing when frozen on meat, freezing a steak is usually to preserve a flavorful marinade. This might be a steak from the grocery store that came in a vacuum-sealed bag with a premixed marinade or a marinade that you applied yourself, but you have more steak than you can eat in a single sitting.
In times like this, you can freeze the steak with confidence. With rapid freezing and slow thawing in a cold-water bath, the steak will taste very much like it did before you froze it.
The exception here would be garlic and other allium-based seasonings like granulated onion powder, which tends to gradually breakdown when frozen. You end up with a dominant, yet slight off garlic flavor that isn’t as pleasant as the real thing.
How Long Before You Freeze the Steak Should You Season It?
It’s best to give marinades and spice rubs a few hours before freezing to impart their flavors to the steak. Once most seasonings and meat freeze there is almost no flavor transfer.
If you’re talking about simple salt and pepper, you can season them for 10 to 15 minutes before freezing and then pat the surface dry. Then vacuum seal and freeze as fast as possible to reduce the risk of freezer burn.
If you buy a steak from the grocery store that is already seasoned or packaged in a marinade, and it’s too much meat for a single serving, or you just want to store it away for later, freezing it isn’t a bad idea. Though you might want to read the label carefully to see just how much garlic and onion is in the seasoning.
I find that garlic in particular tends to break down into a somewhat off-putting version of itself that dominates the other seasonings when it’s put in the freezer. In my experience, you have about a week before frozen garlic will add an unappealing flavor to a frozen steak.
If you don’t think you can get to that garlic-seasoned frozen steak in a week or sooner, I advise against freezing it.
If you need to season steaks and freeze them to do something like prepare for a long camping trip, try to leave the garlic out. Then season them an hour or two in advance of freezing to let the flavors of the seasonings permeate the steak.
Freezing rapidly in a convention freezer set to its coldest setting with the internal fan running will reduce the size of the ice crystals that form. This is handy with a heavily salted steak, which might be slightly slow to freezing, making it a little more prone to premature freezer burn.