Abstract: The objective was to determine the meat quality effects of rapidly thawing beef steaks in a water bath. Frozen beef strip loins (n= 24) were cut into steaks sequentially from the rib end and identified by anatomical location (anterior, middle, posterior) within the loin. Within location, steaks were randomly assigned to conventional (C; 18 to 20 h, 4 °C) or rapid thawing methods. Rapid thawing methods, fast (20 min, 20 °C) or very fast (11 min, 39 °C), were conducted in a circulating water bath. The physical, thawing, cooking, color, and texture characteristics of each steak were recorded. Data were analyzed as a randomized complete block design with a 3 thawing treatments × 3 locations factorial analysis with loin as a block. No location by thawing method interaction was detected (P > 0.05) for the measured variables. Compared to C steaks, rapidly thawed steaks exhibited lower thaw drip loss (P < 0.001) and higher a* values (P < 0.001). Thawing treatment did not influence L*, b*, cook yield, or shear force. Steaks from the posterior end had higher (P < 0.001) surface to volume ratios that may have contributed to the higher thaw loss (P < 0.01), longer cooking time (P < 0.001), lower cooking yield (P < 0.001), and higher shear force (P < 0.02) compared to steaks from the anterior and middle portions of the loins. These data indicate that beef steaks taken from the entire length of the loin can be rapidly thawed in a water bath following food safety guidelines with minimal impact on meat quality.
Practical Application: Freezing rate and frozen storage effects on meat quality have been well documented; however, there is comparatively little information on the meat quality effects of rapid thawing within food safety guidelines. This study demonstrates that beef strip loin steaks can be rapidly thawed in as few as 11 min without affecting texture or cooking yield, while reducing thaw drip loss. Thus, rapid thawing may enhance the apparent juiciness of steaks for consumers and provide an effective method for maintaining consistent control of experimental conditions for researchers.