How to Pressure Cook Frozen Meat
We’ve all got a frozen block of meat tucked away for a rainy day dinner- and that happens at the last minute with no time for defrosting. Here’s how to use your pressure cooker’s high-heat prowess to get an edible meal out of a meat icicle.
Whether you can use frozen meat in a recipe really depends on the kind of recipe it is – some cooking methods, even in the pressure cooker, are not appropriate for cooking frozen meats.
Here’s what works, what doesn’t and how to do it.
Tips for Pressure Cooking Frozen Meat
- DO brown what you can – Your frozen hunk of meat will likely be uneven and impossible to straighten-out. Just toss it in the cooker with some oil and brown whatever parts of the hunk come in contact with the base – even that little bit of browning will add tons of extra flavor to the dish.
- Don’t steam or braise frozen meat – Save steaming or braising pressure cooker recipes for defrosted meat (overnight in the fridge ought to do it). That’s because steaming frozen meat will give you a lovely cooked outer coating with a frozen solid inner core. Braising, similarly, only cooks the part of the meat submerged in cooking liquid really well while the rest of the meat will be disappointingly under-done.
- DO boil frozen meat– Boiling frozen meat under pressure allows the heat from the cooking liquid to penetrate the meat more evenly, quickly and deeply than other pressure cooking methods. Make sure to cover frozen meat completely with liquid.
- Don’t worry if the cooker takes longer to reach pressure – That hunk of frozen meat is a giant ice cube that will slow down the heat-up of the cooking liquid. So the liquid will take longer to reach a boil, and eventually build pressure. Depending on how much meat you’ve stuffed in the pressure cooker, it could take up to twice as long to reach pressure (20-40 minutes – no kidding). Keep an eye on electric pressure cookers which may time-out during this longer heat-up phase and need to be restarted.
- DO play around with the cooking liquids and spices to get different flavor profiles – Here are some ideas for cooking liquids: water, stock, wine, unsweetened fruit juices, left-over bean or steaming cooking liquid. Toss in a few aromatic veggies like garlic, onions, carrots, celery or leeks. Flavor with decisive spices or herbs like: cumin, coriander or curry powder; soy, fish or tabasco sauces; rosemary, laurel or juniper berries.
- Don’t forget to add salt! If none of your cooking liquids are already salty toss in about 2 teaspoons of salt, too. You can always add more when the dish is finished pressure cooking- adjust to your flavor and health needs.
- DO increase the cooking time according to thickness – Increase the cooking time 50% or more depending on the thickness of the block of meat. For example, ground meat usually needs 5 minutes pressure cooking time but if it’s in a single solid block that is at least 1-inch (2.5cm) thick then you’ll want to double the cooking time to 10 minutes. Frozen chicken legs, or pieces, which are in a single layer, only need 50% more of the recommended cooking time – so pressure cook them for 15 minutes instead of the recommended 10. Don’t worry, we have some recommended cooking time for frozen cuts in the meat cooking time chart.
- Don’t pressure cook frozen roasts or meatloafs – Roasts are pretty thick pieces of meat which will need a looong pressure cooking time. This means that the outside will be fall-apart over-cooked while the center will be barely cooked – even if you boil it. So when it comes out of the cooker it won’t even look like a roast, or loaf, anymore.
- DO take the meat’s temperature after cooking – I recommend taking the temperature at the center of the meat – just to be safe – to ensure that the super-heated liquid was able to transmit heat into meat all the way to the core (see target temperatures, below).
Basic Procedure for Pressure Cooking Frozen Meat
- Add block of frozen meat into the pressure cooker – chip it to fit if necessary.
- Cover meat with liquid (recommendations, above)
- Increase the recommended pressure cooking time and pressure for that cut of meat by 50% or more (depending on the thickness) or follow the recommended cooking times for frozen meat.
- Open the pressure cooker with Natural Pressure Release, unless otherwise indicated.
- Check the center of the meat with a meat thermometer to make sure it has reached the right temperature*:
- Beef, Pork, Veal & Lamb: 145°F (62.8°C)
- Ground Meats: 160°F (71.1°C)
- Chicken & All Poultry: 165°F (73.9°C)
Frozen Meat Compatible Recipes
Share your frozen meat pressure cooking adventures and any winning combinations in the comments below!
*United States Department of Agriculture Food Safety and Inspection Service (2012) ‘USDA Safe Minimum Internal Temperature Chart‘: http://www.fsis.usda.gov/wps/wcm/connect/625d9435-4f14-46fe-b207-5d6688cb4db5/Safe_Miminum_Internal_Temperature_Chart.pdf?MOD=AJPERES [accessed 2 January, 2016].