The One Ingredient That Makes Defrosted Meat Taste So Much Better

updated Mar 23, 2020
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Credit: Mia Yakel/Kitchn

When I moved to a neighborhood with a Costco not long ago, I found myself buying bulk packages of meat that I could divvy up in freezer bags for later use. It sounds good in theory, except that I’m not much of a planner. I don’t thaw the meat all day in the fridge the day before I want to use it or prepare a lovely marinade or sauce for it. I usually end up trying to defrost that bag of meat under the faucet as quickly as possible, sometime around 5 o’clock.

But there’s one thing I always do that makes the meat taste much better.

Balsamic Vinegar Is the Key to Better Defrosted Meat

Whether it’s been defrosting all day or quickly in the sink, there’s always time to add some flavor. I find that adding a glug of balsamic vinegar to the bag allows the meat to lightly marinate as it thaws. The meat becomes quite tender from the acidity, and also very flavorful without an overpowering vinegar flavor. My food critic of a 9-year-old loves meat prepared this way. He doesn’t know why, but he always declares, “We can have this dinner again.”

By “glug,” I mean a tablespoon for about 1 pound of meat. Now, because the meat is frozen, it’s going to look as if 1 tablespoon vinegar isn’t enough, but trust me on this. As the meat thaws, its natural juices will add to the vinegar, and there will be plenty distribution. (But go ahead and add another teaspoon, if you insist.) Once it’s thawed, remove the meat from the bag — discarding the “marinade” — and cook it as you otherwise would.

I employ this trick most often with steaks (strip being my favorite), but I’ve also used it with chicken breasts and pork tenderloin. As far as cooking method, I love to lean on my grill, but you can also pan fry or bake your meat. Do keep in mind that there is no oil in this “marinade,” so you will still have to oil your grates or sheet pan, etc. Or you can also a glug of olive oil to your bag a little while before you’re ready to cook. 

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