Jun 10, 2012

Give Your Steak a Hot Water Bath

Finger included to cover the brand
Shame on me. I forgot to take the stew meat out of the freezer last night and put it in the fridge. We all were taught that is what you do. Or, give it a bath in cold water for a while. I remembered a recent conversation with a local chef. He explained to me that the USDA has approved a HOT water bath to thaw meat in almost no time. Before I decided to simply do it, I fired up Google and found some information about that.

The best info I encountered was in the New York Times, by Harold McGee (click HERE for his article). The article was based on some testing done by the USDA and himself. I'm going to just quote and summarize McGee's article here:
At the U.S.D.A. labs in Beltsville, Md., Janet S. Eastridge and Brian C. Bowker test-thawed more than 200 one-inch-thick beef strip loin steaks in three different groups: some in a refrigerator at 37 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, some in a constantly circulating water bath at 68 degrees, and some in a water bath at 102 degrees.

Air-thawing in the refrigerator took 18 to 20 hours, while the room-temperature water bath thawed the steaks in about 20 minutes, and the hot-summer-day bath in 11 minutes. These water-bath times are so short that any bacterial growth would remain within safe limits.
Stopwatch and instant thermometer
More detailed information can be found in that article and from the publication in March, 2011 by the USDA for the Journal of Food Science [link]. So, I tried this concept in my kitchen with stew meat by giving it a hot water bath. I used an instant thermometer to monitor the temp of the water, and kept it a little higher than the test amount. I kept it at about 120° F. I stirred the meat and refreshed the water every few minutes as I cut the veggies and rinsed/drained the black beans. My stew meat was thawed in about 8 minutes. WOW!!! Yeah, as a roller derby ref with some OCD, I tend to time everything.

I took notice of something in McGee's article (quoted below), that I tested too, about the flavor. Since he said it applied to steak, I applied it to stew meat. Both are beef based meat. Maybe I'll write some more blog entries as I test it on chicken, pork chops, ground beef, turkey, etc.
The water-thawed steaks actually leaked less juice than the air-thawed steaks.
I can verify that the stew meat did have a little more juice and flavor, once the crock pot stew was done. Quick and easy, and full of flavor. Try it yourself. Stay tuned for more usage of the hot water bath on frozen chops and chicken.

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