Aging Your Meat Results In A More Tender And Flavorful Steak
Once upon a time, you could go to your corner butcher and buy an aged USDA prime cut of beef. If you have had a good, aged steak, you know it is more tender and flavorful than what you typically buy in the store. The reason for this is that aging allows natural enzymes to break down the hard connective tissue in meats and for water to evaporate away, concentrating the flavor.
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.
Other Dry Aged Steak Options
At this point you might be saying that dry aging a steak at home may be all well and good, but it still sounds like a bit too much work for my tastes. In that case, youre in luck. At Chicago Steak Company we dry age our premium USDA Prime steaks in a special dry aging room, trimming and then individually wrapping steaks after theyve been aged to tasty, flavorful perfection. Our steaks are then shipped direct to your door, precisely aged and ready to eat. Whether you purchase your dry aged steak online or do it yourself at home, you cant go wrong with giving your high quality, premium meat a chance to mature and age prior to delving in.
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What To Do After Learning How To A Age Steak In The Refrigerator:
You are now ready to cook your dry aged steak which you can do so using a cast iron or grill. You can place the remainder of the primal cut back into the Steak Locker for additional dry aging time. Alternatively, if you do not desire additional dry aging time, cut the entire sub primal into steaks and freeze them individually. We recommend using vacuum sealed machines and bags to prevent freezer burn.
Our steak locker meat aging fridge range is multifunctional- by this we mean that our steak lockers do more than just dry aging steaks. With the Steak Locker, the curing of charcuterie, cheese and fish are possible, we will include further details about this in later posts.
To find out more about steak locker dry age fridges, visit our product page.
Mold Is Gooddepending On The Color
Mold in dry aging is like terroir. In winemaking, terroir refers to the hyperlocal environmental conditions that form the unique flavor and aroma profiles in the wines. So each region, sometimes down to the different vineyard plots, has its own unique terroir.
The mold in your fridge will be influenced by what is locally present in the atmosphere where you live. For example even though CAB in Ohio got their starter meat from New Jersey, it will have evolved over time to account for the local bacteria that can be found there. Not to mention the bacteria on the various humans handling the meat and opening the door. My fridge will be another evolution of that mold again, with a Texas twist being added into the Ohio hybrid. This is also the reason you want to make sure not to put any additional items in your dry aging fridge, and to keep the door closed as much as possible.
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How To Use Dry Age Bags
Remove your meat from the processor packaging, but do not wash the meat or otherwise clean the meat. Transfer the meat into the UMAi Dry bag using the clean transfer process . Once in the UMAi Dry bag, seal the bag using one of three methods: vacuum sealing, immersion method or netting method. All sealing methods are outlined in the instructions for dry aging beef and this tutorial on how to dry age steak at home.
How Long Does It Take To Dry
Ah, this is the million-dollar question.
The length of time you age beef affects the flavor enormously. Aging is, of course, a process of time. And what is perfection will differ from person to person. Again, experimenting is key here, so you can zone in on what fires up your particular palate.
That said, there are some generally accepted guidelines to timing, with 14 days being the absolute minimum for a subtle difference in texture . And 60 days being ripe, gamey, almost cheese-like in intensity and definitely an experience that is not for everyone.
Experts agree that 28-35 days is the sweet spot for most with beautiful bold, rich flavors developing and melt-in-the-mouth tenderness.
Here is a quick run-down on what you can expect at different points of the aging process:
Less than 14 Days
Dont bother. All that work for a barely discernible change in texture and flavor.
Things are starting to get interesting, and certainly at the end of this period, you will notice that texture is much improved, as muscle fibers break down into beautiful butter-smooth tenderness. You may, towards the end of this time, detect some deepening flavors developing. This is typically the age of steak at a good restaurant.
Getting funky now! Bold nutty ripe-cheese flavors develop along with dramatically increased juiciness and tenderness. Somewhere in this range will be your perfect Goldilocks steak!
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Dry Ageing Beef At Home
Dry ageing beef at home is easy. This 45 day aged beef was amazing.
The love going to a good steak house where they age their beef and then char grill. The meat is so tender and delicious. Its worth paying the extra cash to get such perfection.
The thing is, the meat you get at the supermarket isnt aged enough. Some butchers will dry age their meat for three to four weeks. Its great to find a good butcher like that.
Over the past ten years or so Ive taken to dry ageing my own beef at home. Its a simple process and a nice way of ensuring you get that steak house flavour at home.
So here Ill show you how I do it. Im not saying it is the best or only way but dry ageing beef at home like this has worked very well for me.
What Cuts Of Beef Can Be Aged
The carcass is often left whole to age first, then the butcher would breakdown that carcass and allow select primals to age longer. Since the dry-aging process is time-consuming and needs special care, only the highest quality cuts are selected for further dry aging.
The meats selected for dry aging should have generous marbling to ensure the finished product is juicy and flavourful. When a steak is grilled, the fat melts into the meat, creating a flavourful, buttery eating experience.
The rib and loin primals are most commonly selected to dry age further since they contain premium steaks such as the ribeye, striploin, and tenderloin.
Dry aging is usually for primals with the bone intact. Smaller cuts would not typically be selected to dry age on their own, such as a whole tenderloin, because there would be too much trim waste once the butcher removes the dried outer layer .
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The Dry Aging Set Up:
THE FRIDGE: Youll need a dedicated fridge for your dry aging. When I say dedicated, I mean it. Do not store any overflow items requiring refrigeration in here- no beer, no birthday cakes, no freshly harvested deer quarters. Youre trying to create and maintain an ideal microclimate for your beef to get funky. Protect your atmosphere! Further, sharing the space with other items may lead to cross contamination of flavor profiles which manifest in the fat.
I chose the 8.6 cubic feet Edgestar model, because its large enough for me to have a starter piece, plus 2-3 additional pieces aging at one time. It seemed to me that any smaller model would not allow me enough space to have a reasonable selection actively aging. And if youre going to spend the money, then give yourself the extra space. Also take note to make sure the interior widths arent too narrow the pieces of meat youll be aging are wide and will need extra room for air flow around the edges. Conversely, a fridge that is too large may have more trouble with humidity levels. Youll notice this unit also has wire shelves youll need these to make sure airflow is sufficient.
Be sure to disinfect your fridge before you use it for the first time I used a water/bleach mixture to wipe down all internal surfaces.
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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Where Do I Find Dry Aged Beef
Youll have to venture outside of your big box grocery store to find dry aged beef. Dry aged beef is typically only found at specialty butcher shops or upscale restaurants. You may even find dry aged beef when you buy direct from your local farmer .
If you are in the GTA area, you can check us out at heatherlea.ca to learn more about our Angus herd and dry aged beef. We have a lovely on-farm store to shop at for fresh and frozen meats. We also deliver all across the GTA and surrounding areas including: Toronto, Brampton, Etobicoke, Mississauga, Hamilton, Milton, Oakville, Guelph, Cambridge, Caledon, Orangeville, Shelburne, Bolton and more! Order online at heatherlea.ca/shop.
Why Dry Aged Beef
So what makes dry aged beef different, and how is it done? Lets start with what sets dry aged beef apart from unaged beef. There are two major elements that are affected in dry aging beef the tenderness and the flavor. If you look at dry aging from a scientific perspective, you can think of it as a controlled decay process. When done in a monitored environment, introducing the beef primals to the air allows the occurrence of natural enzymes that slowly begin to break down the molecular bonds of the meat. As these bonds are slowly broken, the end result becomes more tender. Now, the next question youre probably asking yourself is So the longer dry aged the better? Not necessarily. In a properly controlled dry aging environment, you could in fact take a primal out 100, 150, even 200 days. However, the noticeable tenderness of the dry aged steak at 200 days will not be tremendously different than that same steak dry aged 100 days, or even 45 days. What is going to be a hugely different is the flavor.
At this point, more than a few of you are probably wondering can I dry age steaks at home? In a nutshell, yes you can, but the real question to ask, do you want to? Lets take a look at exactly what goes into the aging process, so you can best understand the requirements.
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How To Dry Age Steak At Home
Now that weve hyped this most excellent method for preparing steak, we need to get down to the nitty gritty of just how to dry age steak. Large specialty butchers, high end steakhouses and gourmet dry aged steak online retailers typically have dedicated dry-aging rooms that control factors such as temperature, humidity and air circulation.
These extreme, dedicated set-ups will be impractical for most home chefs looking to impress at their next meat-centric dinner party. The good news is that, while handy, high tech equipment isnt required and you can dry age meat in your own home refrigerator or spare mini-fridge with a little bit of prep work.
Youll need to start with a larger, multi-steak cut of meat, preferably with a large amount of fat coating still remaining. You need the size and fat to protect the meat and leave you some substance to work with when you trim off the desiccated or wasted portions of your dry-aged meat when its done prepping.
Step Iiithe Right Time
Whether you prefer rib-eye, roast beef or a fillet steak is a matter of taste. What matters is that you age the meat for the right length of time. A tender piece of sirloin requires just about a week, and a piece on the bone can easily remain in the maturing fridge for four weeks. With the dry-aged maturing bag, an aging period of 21 days generally should not be exceeded.
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Which Cuts Work Best
Though both Poll and Pollaci said the cut is arbitrary — and mostly up to the preference of the diner — the most common cuts used for dry-aging are ribeye, sirloin, and New York strip.
These cuts are chosen because they tend to come from parts of the cow where muscles arent used frequently, like the ribs and the loin area, resulting in tender meat as opposed to tougher muscle. Its good to note that larger cuts, specifically primal cuts, are considered the best candidates. A primal cut, for those of us who aren’t butchers, is a larger cut of beef that has yet to be separated into individual steaks . Those big cuts can can handle aging much longer.
At Gallaghers, rib steak, sirloin, porterhouse, and filet mignon are all on the menu and dry-aged in their 52nd street-facing meat locker.
Castaway carries similar cuts, including a ribeye, New York, and tomahawk. Though Pollaci recognizes that some cuts fare better than others in the dry-aging arena, hes had a lot of fun experimenting with different cuts of meat, like brisket.
How To Age Beef At Home The Old Fashioned Way
Ready to age some beef? First, select high quality meat, at least USDA choice or USDA prime, preferably tightly wrapped in a vacuum pack cryovac bag. Fresh meat is best, but if you have frozen, Chef Gresh says it is important that you defrost the meat slowly in the fridge, not under running water, to help preserve its integrity. Next, get the right cuts. You want to start with a prime rib roast that weighs 20 pounds. Or a strip loin. Or a sirloin. No tenderloin. It is already very tender, it is low fat, and it can get mushy with age. These are expensive meats, so dont screw around or take shortcuts with the aging process. Thats a lotta meat. But what you dont use right away after aging, you can freeze.
The fridge should be kept at 34 to 38°F. Any lower than 32°F and the enzymes will go on strike. Above 40°F spoilage microbes can grow. Even if you arent aging meat, your fridge should be set to 38°F max. It significantly reduces spoilage, even in comparison with 40°F. And, of course, you need a reliable thermometer. A dial thermometer is not reliable. Normally I recommend digital thermometers, but a liquid bulb thermometer is accurate enough for refrigerator temps.
Take a large pan wider and longer than the meat, and fill it with about 1/2 of salt. It doesnt matter what kind of salt. But salt is corrosive, so you do not want to use an aluminum pan. Stainless steel, glass, or porcelain pans are OK. The salt will absorb drips, moisture, and odors.
Now tuck in for a treat!
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Sealing The Meat In Umai Dry
We recommend sealing your UMAi Dry bag at a 45 degree angle due to the commonly narrow sealing bar on most heat sealers. Position the meat at a 45 degree angle to the sealer and grasp the opening of the bag in your hand to create some wrinkles for better airflow and then seal the corner. Since our UMAi Dry bags melt at a slightly higher temperature than other drying bags, seal the bag a 2nd time for 20 seconds. Wait until the material is cool to check the seal and make sure it is transparent.
Next, reposition the meat parallel to the heat seal and insert the VacMouse vacuum aid strip to allow air to be drawn out by the vacuum pump in the sealer. Massage the air out of the bag corners and meat crevices while the vacuum is running. UMAi Dry does not require an absolute vacuum, making it easier for meat crafters to learn how to make dry aged steak at home.
The purpose of vacuum sealing is simply to bring your UMAi Dry bag into contact with the meat to allow for efficient moisture release.
Add a label with your anticipated dry aging start and end date. We recommend dry aging steak for 21-45 days in your UMAi Dry bag.