It’s been 17 years since we first starting freezing our steaks and other cuts for our customers.
Donald Russell Direct had only been going for around a year, and we had been sending steaks out to customers fresh, packed with traditional ice packs. It was a rapid learning curve, and when chatting to our customers as they called to place their next order, we realised that almost everyone was freezing the majority of their steaks once they’d been delivered.
Freezing steaks at home can have mixed results. Domestic freezers aren’t all the same and few can be set to freeze at a low enough temperature to not affect the texture of the meat. Also, if the customer wasn’t careful, the chilled steaks - which would be at a much higher temperature than anything already frozen - could incidentally thaw some of the other items being stored in the freezer before reaching freezing point themselves.
It made much more sense for us to freeze the products for our customers instead. So we invested in equipment, and purpose-built our own blast freeze where our vacuum packed meat could be ‘shock frozen’ super quick, at a super low temperature. This ensured customers would never experience toughness by freezer burn, or any other change to the quality of the meat through dodgy home-freezing.
Back then, we would cut and prepare everything on a customers’ list before freezing the complete order. This could sometimes mean that steaks cut a little further down the primal (i.e. the whole sirloin, for example) could be slightly further matured than those cut the day or so earlier. A customer could then theoretically get a slightly different level of maturation from order to order.
We also used to pack our steaks in pairs, which we realised wasn’t as handy for customers who may just want to take one out of the freezer. So we started vacuum packing each steak individually, and professionally shock freezing each batch of them there and then. This guarantees excellent consistency of flavour and tenderness (something we have since built our reputation on), as each steak is perfectly frozen in time, right at the moment of its optimum maturation.
It was a risky approach, going frozen – we were pioneers! At that time, frozen food still had an association for being substandard. We had to work hard to convince people that by starting with the best quality meat, matured properly and hand cut prior to freezing, the results could be better than ‘fresh’ meat. We had to earn our customers’ trust with the products themselves, and have never forgotten that our reputation is only as good as your last steak.
I’m so glad we decided to ‘go frozen’. The public is finally coming round to the fantastic quality benefits of having their meat prepared in this way, and I can honestly say we’ve never looked back!