Low-Temp Oven Steak

The reason we freeze the steaks in this recipe before cooking them is to make sure we don’t overcook them. It will work even if the steaks are frozen as solid as a brick, though it might take a little longer in the oven. That’s why this recipe works so well as both a weeknight dinner and as a main course at a dinner party.

—Nathan Myhrvold, coauthor of Modernist Cuisine and Modernist Cuisine at Home

Tips & Substitutions:

  • To watch a video of Nathan demonstrating this technique, click here.

Steps 1–2:

  • You can use a completely frozen steak for this recipe, though it might take a little longer to cook.
  • If your oven doesn’t go all the way down to 70 °C / 160 °F, that’s all right. Set it to its lowest temperature. The steak may cook faster, but since you are cooking it to a core temperature, that is fine.
  • If you aren’t sure how low your oven actually goes, you may want to first calibrate it. You can read all about calibrating your thermometer, oven, and refrigerator here.
  • The purpose of freezing the steak is so you can first sear it without overcooking it. This will give it an even texture and “doneness.”
  • For best results, freeze the steak on a baking sheet. This will give the steak an even surface area.

Steps 3–6:

  • You can sear the steak by pan-frying it, or with a blowtorch.
  • Make sure to sear the fat on the sides of the steak.
  • We have found that just searing one side of the steak is enough to provide flavor and aesthetics, but you can sear both sides if you so desire.
  • You can use any neutral oil when searing the steak. Our favorite is Safflower oil, because it has such a high smoke point.
  • If you use a blowtorch, move the flame continuously back and forth across the steak for even browning.
  • The core temperature of the steak will increase at a faster rate as time goes on. Once the thermometer indicates that the core temperature is within 10 °C / 18 °F from your target, check the steak every minute or so to avoid overcooking.
  • Make sure to use an oven-safe probe thermometer.
  • The steak will continue to cook a few more degrees after it comes out of the oven.
  • We like to cook our steaks to a core temperature of 55 °C / 131 °F for a medium-rare finish. But for strip steak, you can go as low as 52 °C / 126 °F for a rare steak, or as high as 62 °C / 144 °F for a medium steak. For more on core temperatures for other cuts of steak, as well as other meats, see page 192 of Modernist Cuisine at Home. Remember that cooking time will vary for different cuts and thicknesses of steak.

Steps 7–8:

  • If desired, brush the finished steak with melted butter and then sprinkle it with salt to taste.
  • When you cut into the steak, it will look more pink than red. In a few minutes, it will turn redder as the oxygen in the air binds with the myoglobin in the steak. Myoglobin is the muscle version of hemoglobin.

16 Responses to “Low-Temp Oven Steak”

  1. John says:

    This freezing thing seems off. I understand the logic, but no, I do not agree. Freezing makes the steak cold, which in turn will cool down the skilet way too much. It will take too much time to get a good sear and this will cook the steak more.

    Instead do as Americas test kitchen recommends. Warm and dry(!) meat in oven until about 30°C. Then very fast sear it, then proceed. Cooking time may just be shorter than 50 minutes, but it is okay.

    • Sebastien says:

      John, there is one thing that supersedes plain logic: actual experience. I can tell you I have followed this recipe more than once, and you are quite simply wrong. It does not take too much time to get a good sear, and the steak does not cook thoroughly at all. You can get comparable results to sous-vide+sear in terms of the depth of the grey band.

    • Harry Marks says:

      I’ve followed this recipe for the last couple of months with great success. I use a counter top oven set at 200º and it’s now the only way I’ll cook steaks.

    • Ryan Hale says:

      The best way to get around your concern about not getting a good sear on the frozen steak is drying the steak’s crust out for at least a few days. When it’s got a dry crust, it takes NO longer than about 10-20 seconds to get a great sear on each side. This gave me a perfect seared bark and cooked even ALL the way through.

  2. Phil says:

    This is a brilliant concept!

    Especially since there’s no other reliable way to serve steak for more than 2 people and have all the steaks be of a uniform quality. Not cooking indoors at any rate. (And cooking smoke + guests isn’t good)

    I was going to ask a food safety question about bacteria on the surface of the uncooked underside of the steak, but would I be right in guessing the oven temperature is sufficient to kill off anything nasty?

  3. David says:

    I thought I ask a question that has troubled me awhile here. I roasted a two boned rib roast (unseared but I think I had seen the same effect on seared meat) on the bone for 6 hours at around 160 F. The taste and flavour is incredible as expected. However, the outside of the roast develop a brown redish colour with a very strong flavour. The texture is very different than a seared/browned meat. What is the reason and is there a way I can prevent it (I usually end up cutting it off and reserving it for stock but that’s expensive meat!). Thank you.

  4. hemsen says:

    I have an oven with an electronic thermostat that I have tested to be very accurate. Would there be any food safety issues cooking short ribs for 72 hours in the oven at 58 °C? (Assuming that the oven can actually hold a steady 58 °C.)

    The shorts ribs where seared before I put them in the oven. I also just vacuum packed one. For reference, I am cooking a few sous vide alongside (both seared and not seared before vacuum packing).

  5. Jpat says:

    I tried this “freezing” process in reverse and it was perfect. I wanted to precook steaks after I dry aged them 2 weeks in fridge, so I could serve fresh, tender, perfectly cooked steaks weeks later – after freezing them. Could I obtain the best of both worlds (BOBW)? I cut a boneless trimmed ribeye roast (Costco) into 1 1/2 inch steaks & aged them in my fridge ala Alton Brown.

    Preheat oven to 170 deg. F.
    1.Temp probe in dry aged ribeye steak, oiled all sides, seasoned with garlic, salt, pepper
    2. Wrap tightly in foil with temp probe wire hanging out and place in oven on wire rack,
    3. After internal temp reaches 75 deg. turn off oven,
    4. when steak reaches 125 deg. (took over 2 hours) take out of oven let cool to able to handle, then place in fridge to cool 1 hour
    5. place in freezer 24 hours min.
    when guests arrived, take steaks out of freezer, unwrap from foil, oil all over again, place frozen steaks on hot gas grill, brown well. Add oil after turning to make charred grill marks. When browned well both sides, steaks are not only thawed, but warm inside and medium rare.
    Perfection! BOBW!

  6. indiaf says:

    I agree re: 60 seconds not long enough to get good sear. I did 75 secs at least!! And ended up upping my oven tempt to 200 and it worked great!

  7. RedRum says:

    Seriously… I don’t get it… why would someone take 3 hours to cook a steak??? I understand that sous vide and this method are fool proof to get the done-ness you want, but with a bit of practice you can get the same results in a fraction of time if you just cook them on a hot pan… for a 1-inch steak I would say about 1.5 minutes per side for a medium-rare. Have a probe to check internal temperature to be on the safe sied. Maybe use the Blumenthal/McGee trick flipping every 15-20 seconds. But other than that, I would say all these methods are over-complicating a very simple cooking technique… I have experimented with sous vide, low-temp cooking etc. In the end of the day I find them redundant, I just spend a bit of time paying attention to cooking and have not bothered with the low-temp methods any more.

    • Jordan says:

      I think there is more to the slow method than just making sure you don’t over-cook. Keeping the steak in heat longer, gives more time for the collagen and fats to break down in the meat, making for a much more tender steak. If you are starting with a very high quality steak, this is less important, but the slow cook method is a way to make a mediocre steak taste like prime!

  8. B Annan says:

    Seared to a light brown like the photo (couldn’t get each side THAT nice looking), then 170F for 70 minutes. Very tender, good beef flavor (of course when there is no extra butter but added a little kosher salt), but it was a warm steak which I am not used to. If it’s a function of time/temp/tenderness might try a few other ways to get a hotter steak on the plate with the good things this technique brought out. “BOBW” seems very Rachael Ray….

  9. Joseph says:

    Redrum,
    It’s not about getting it done the fastest way possible AkA (The American Way). It’s about tasting perfection in every bite. Also in my experience in the kitchen you will NEVER get a perfect steak like sous vide or even the sear frozen, cook low method. Think of it this way a person can’t make a perfect pot roast in 5 minutes. Just like they can’t make a perfect steak in 3 minutes flat. Modernist authors wouldn’t put their name on the line for something below par.

    Joseph

  10. Ryan Hale says:

    I was skeptical but then I tried it with a couple ribeyes that I dry aged or 5 days (can’t wait to try 10, 20 or maybe 30 days!!!!) I used a 1.5 hr freeze, a safflower oil coated pan at full tilt for about 10-15 seconds per side and a 133 & 136 degree final temp on the pair. PERFECTION!!! Served with some green beans (boiled then grilled with bacon and butter) and a descent Boreaux. Long story short… I will probably never grill a steak again!

  11. Eric says:

    This is a great way to try out sous vide at home, before you invest in the equipment. Cooking with low temperature, I’ve found the fat doesn’t render and is hard and looks unappetizing ( in your photo you can see white bands of fat on the pieces to the right, top side). Any suggestions on how to improve this?

    • Tim says:

      Two things you can do 1) fat is an insulator and can spend more time on the stove without transferring a lot of heat into the meat itself, so you can sear/torch the fat side much longer in order to render more of the fat and develop more flavor. Feel free to play with the heat (medium/medium high) so the fat can spend more time rendering. 2) trim off most of the fat leaving a thinner layer (~0.5-1cm thickness) and sear/torch to the point where most of the fat is browned.

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