Dry Aging Is Controlled Rotting
Some Egyptian royals were so fond of dry aged beef they were buried with it . During dry aging, the meat is stored in a sanitary room at 34 to 38°F and usually 70 to 80% humidity with brisk airflow for anywhere from 28 to 75 days. Dry aged beef is noticeably different tasting than fresh beef or wet aged beef. The longer it dry ages, the more complex it becomes. Some describe the taste as earthy, nutty, gamey, leathery, mushroomy, and cheesy. Some say it can even develop notes of prosciutto. Some people are addicted to it. Some just plain dont like it. Before you decide to try dry aging at home, go to a restaurant and try several ages of beef. In the picture below, we see bone-in rib primals in the dry aging locker of David Burkes Primehouse in Chicago . From left to right, they range from 7 days to 20 days, 30 days, and 60 days.
All of the aged steaks were wonderful, but all very different. After 45 days, the flavor had changed so that it no longer tasted like beef as we know it. It was as if the meat came from a different animal. Many of the changes in taste occur in the fat rather than the muscle. As for the texture, beyond 45 days, I was unable to notice much difference in tenderness. My favorite was the 28 day steak because it had not yet gotten funky, but the flavors were concentrated and the meat was oh so tender. Others preferred the older meats, proving once again that taste is a matter of taste.
A Few Things To Remember
Dry ageing beef using professional equipment will deliver a different result to your home setup, so dont expect your efforts to match that of your favourite steak house or butcher just yet.
Also be wary of meat spoilage. If you think your efforts have failed and the meat spoiled instead of aged, dont push it further.
How Bacteria Affect Meat
Dont go all squirmy on me now. Our guts are full of good bacteria! Theyre all over our skin and everything we touch. Good bacteria keep us healthy, fighting off bad bacteria, boosting our immune system and help our digestion.
With dry aging beef, bacteria are your friend, working to reduce the toughness of muscle fibers and connective tissue, and convert chewy collagen into buttery-smooth tender steak.
Bacteria also oxidize the outer layer of fat surrounding the meat to increase tenderness. The important thing is to welcome only the good bacteria, and keep away the bad
For the whole hog on dry-aging beef, check out this video of the professional process. The science is the same, and its fascinating.
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Dry Aging Tip No2 Less Is More
- Remember the phrase less is more. This goes for seasoning your dry aged meats. Our top dry aging tips are to use salt, pepper, and a quick squeeze of lemon after cooking. This is because dry aging naturally amplifies the flavors in your meat. If you add too much seasoning, you can overpower the existing flavor which makes the whole process of dry aging practically pointless.
- Try to keep things simple, no need to marinate, salt or butter. The point is to enjoy the naturally enhanced flavor.
- Condiments: do not use ketchup.
- If you do decide to marinate your dry aged meat or you fancy adding a complimentary sauce to your dish, weve got you covered. Check out our dry aged steak marinade and complimentary sauce ideas blog. Here we share our top 3 recipes that are the perfect compliment to a dry aged steak.
Whats The Difference Between Dry
Maybe youve heard these terms thrown around but are unsure of what they mean.
Youre likely more familiar with wet-aging, as this is the process used in beef purchased from grocery stores. Wet-aging involves vacuum sealing beef, which is the same method thats used to prevent freezer burn when freezing beef.
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What Cuts Of Steak Are Best For Dry
We are talking the beef sub-primals here, big hunks of meat.
Look for a good solid fat cap as this will take the hit on moisture loss and bacterial development which can then be trimmed off so that you lose minimal real meat content. Always leave a little fresh white fat after trimming because this is what imparts show-stopping umami flavor when allowed to oxidize over time.
Look for top-grade USDA prime quality meat. This is really important. Dry-aging will just dehydrate an inferior piece of meat. Were talking top-drawer meat here, cuts renowned for their tenderness, flavor and marbling. Heres more on how to select the best cuts for dry-aging.
The types of steak cuts that are best for dry-aging are as follows:
- Strip loin
- Rib steak
- Prime rib / rib roast
All these big guns in the steak arena will age well and improve dramatically in texture and flavor during the dry-aging process.
Talk To Your Local Butcher Or Farmer
When it doubt, dont be afraid to ask for help. Your local butcher or farmer should be your go-to person.
They are experts when it comes to meat and can help you with your buying decision. Let them know that youre planning to try dry-aging at home. They can give you their recommendations and maybe even provide you with advice on the actual process. They can also ensure that you are taking home only the highest quality of pieces.
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How Long Does It Take To Dry Age Beef
The length of time you dry age your beef depends on your tastes and your patience. An easy guide is:
- 2 to 4 weeks if your goal is increased tenderness
- 4 to 6 weeks for that spectacular dry-age flavour
- 6 to 8 weeks if youre a fan of a more funky, aged flavour
- Longer if you really want to get into the blue-cheese zone
A Substitution For The More Adventurous
While a standard home refrigerator should get the job done, one isnt as consistently cold as a refrigerator meant for dry-aging. If youre feeling particularly adventurous, consider investing in a dry-aging refrigerator. Consider how a dry-aging refrigerator outperforms your standard home fridge:
It keeps its contents cold. To dry-age meat successfully, you need low temperatures. Ideally, the temperature range should be between 34.7 degrees Fahrenheit and 35.6 degrees Fahrenheit. This small range doesnt leave much room for error.
Even if your home fridge has electronically-controlled thermostat regulation, it wont be able to precisely remain in these temperature constraints. A dry-aging refrigerator is designed to meet the specific temperature requirements for dry-aging meat.
It controls the climate. Temperature isnt the only factor to consider. You also want to have a sterile environment for dry-aging beef. A dry-aging refrigerator sterilizes and controls the humidity to prevent the development of unhealthy mold.
It has other purposes. If you decide to take a break from dry-aging meat, this type of refrigerator can be used for other purposes. For example, you can keep herbs, vegetables, and fruits fresher for longer in the consistent temperatures and sterilized conditions that this fridge offers. Just make sure you disinfect the fridge in between uses.
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Whats The Ideal Time To Dry
The ideal length of time for dry-aging meat really comes down to individual taste. For Flannery, the sweet spot is around 30 to 35 days. For retail customers, we go 35 days, but for restaurant customers we go 18 to 20, she says. Thats because in the restaurant industry, if a diner isnt familiar with dry-aged beef, their first reaction might be to think that something is off.
Pandel says he likes meat thats been aged around 45 days. You can tell its been aged, but its not unpleasant, he says. Weve gone further. In running a steakhouse its personal preference. Some folks like it really funky, but for some people its too gnarly.
And the longer you go, the funkier the flavor will get. Dry-aged meat does have a unique smell and flavor. Funky is a good way to describe it, she says. Its a more rich flavor up until the 30-day point. When you go farther than that, and if you go really far out, like 60 to 90 days, you develop a serious blue cheese funk to it. It will smell remarkably like blue cheese.
Misconceptions About Dry Aging
While its possible to dry-age beef at home, it is far more difficult and involved than some guides would lead you to believe.
One popular misconception is that you can dry-age steaks by lining them with cheesecloth or paper towel, then leaving them in your fridge for four to seven days. While this method dehydrates steaks , it does not properly age them. Beef needs to be aged for at least 14 days for enzymes to properly tenderize fibers, and needs to be aged for at least 21 days for complex flavors to develop. One week in a fridgecheesecloth or no cheeseclothwont make that happen.
Instead, dry-aging takes dedicated equipment, time, and large, primal cuts.
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Choose & Prepare Meat
Choose a large cut of meat to dry age. Dry aging single steaks is not a great idea since the amount of waste would be much greater than the usable portion.
When dry aging a steak sanitation is very important. Always clean all surfaces with food safe sanitizing solutions prior to preparing the steak.
I prefer to trim any large pieces of fat off the outside of the steak. This gives the meat more surface area to breathe. The moisture from the steak will not permeate through the layer of fat. If you prefer to leave the fat on you can do so. Finally trim off any visible or accessible silver skin. You do not need to chase the silverskin deep into the meat, just trim what is visible.
Make sure the meat is not dry to the touch. This can happen if it is left out for too long . If the meat is damp you can proceed to the next step. If it is dry in any spots just brush it with some water.
What Is Dry Aged Steak The Science Behind The Hype
Before we get into the fine details of cooking dry aged steak at home, first a few definitions. Dry-aging a steak involves storing meat, uncovered, in a chilled environment for an extended period of time. While this seems awfully simplistic, theres a number of highly complicated process that take place in the meat as a result of this treatment.
To start, by allowing the steak to sit uncovered and dry, the liquids within the meat begin to evaporate, condensing both the remaining moisture and the corresponding flavor. But wait, you might be saying. Doesnt the tenderness of a steak depend on the moisture content and therefore, shouldnt a dry-aged steak be tougher? While the logic seems sound at first glance, dry-aging meat causes a variety of other enzymatic and bacterial processes within the meat, breaking down proteins and naturally tenderizing the steak. What were left with is a cut of steak that, as a result of the dry-aging process, is more flavorful and tender at the same time.
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Proper Preparation & Cooking Of Dry Aged Meat:
Your set up is a huge part of the dry age process, but so is knowing how to treat the product when its ready to eat. There are important two factors you need to consider when approaching the preparation and cooking stage: palatibility and food safety.
PALATABILITY basically refers to how enjoyable it is to eat, both in terms of flavor and texture. Assuming all your aging parameters were correct and theres no spoilage, the only hindrance to perfect palatability is going to be the rind, or hard outer shell that forms during aging. The rind does not soften during the cooking process and so needs to be removed. Dont be stingy with your trimming here theres no point in aging steak only to have a poor eating experience by leaving rind on there.
When trimming back your rind, you may notice that there are parts of the muscle itself that have turned a brown shade. In most cases, this is nothing but oxidization of the myoglobin, a harmless color change. As long as you feel the darker areas and they seem to be the same consistency they will be fine to eat, despite not being appealing in color. Theres always a chance that the discoloration is not simply part of the myoglobin cycle, but a more concerning issue like meat that was close to an air pocket or seam which held mold. You should be able to make a judgement call here using smell and touch, but if in doubt, trim it away. Food poisoning is not fun, FYI.
AND SO TO SUMMARIZE
My Very Simple Dry Aging Setup
So, I decided to head to Costco to buy a $150 mini frig. When I found the fridge, it was on a high shelf, so I couldnt get it down. Thats when I decided to use my extra fridge in the garage. Heres my setup.
- Medium-sized frig with grated racks
- Two aluminum pans with optional salt placed on the bottom to catch drippings
- House fan
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What Causes Flavor Change
So really, aged meat doesn’t lose much moisture. But, wait a minute, haven’t I read that aged steaks can lose up to 30% of their weight in water? Isn’t that one of the reasons why aged steak is so expensive?
Don’t believe everything you read. That 30% figure is deceptive at best, and an outright lie at worst. Yes, it’s true that if you dry-age an untrimmed, bone-in, fat-cap-intact prime rib, you’ll end up losing about 30% of its total weight over the course of 21 to 30 days or so. What they don’t tell you is that the weight is almost exclusively lost from the outer layersthat is, the portion of the meat that is going to be trimmed off anyway, regardless of whether it’s aged or not.
Has it never struck you as not just a little bit odd that the aged ribeye steaks in the butcher’s display aren’t 30% smaller than the fresh ribeyes in the display? Or that aged bone-in steaks are not stretching and pulling away from their bonesI mean, surely the bones aren’t shrinking as well, are they?
The fact is, with the exception of the cut faces that need to be trimmed off, the edible portion of an aged prime rib is pretty much identical to that of a fresh prime rib.
Okay, let’s say I’m convinced about that. Does that mean that the whole idea that “meat flavor is concentrated” in an aged steak because of dehydration is also false?
I’m afraid so. It’s a great idea in theory, but several facts don’t support it.
“That is, the less aged the meat was, the more moisture it expelled.”
Readying Your Freezer For Dry Aging
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How To Dry Age A Steak At Home
How to dry age a steak at home.
You may have heard chefs use a term called dry or wet meat. Dry meaning dry-aged and wet meaning wet-aged or boxed meat. Boxed meat are smaller more manageable subprimals that have been generated by the packer and shipped into retail grocery stores. The meat cutter then trims, cuts and portions the subprimal into retail ready cuts. The steaks are then placed in trays and over-wrapped keeping the moisture of meat inside the plastic environment. After all, meat is approximately 72% water.
I will show you how I take a discounted ribeye steak from the grocery store and turn into a dry aged restaurant steak eating experience!
I recommend you choose a Boneless ribeye or top loin New York strips steak. Once you are comfortable with this process you can try with bone-in rib and or strips steaks.
Is There A Quick Way To Dry
Well sure, theres always a short-cut, but as youd expect, there will be some compromises.
If you rub steak with special ground-up rice called Koji , then leave it uncovered in the refrigerator for a few days, you end up with something surprisingly close to real dry-aged steak.
Were not the biggest fans of this method because tenderness one of the principal aims of dry-aging is not as good with Koji-rubbed meat as it will be with the dry-aging method described here. But in a pinch, if you only have 3 days, hey, could be worth a try.
Read more about how to shortcut the dry-aging process here with the Koji-rub method.
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