Everything You Need To Know About Dry-Aged Beef
You have probably heard the term “Dry-Aged” before. No, it’s not growing old in the desert, but actually a term you probably associate with a big price tag at your favorite steakhouse or those expensive steaks at the butcher. I don’t want to incite panic, but when you buy something “Dry-Aged” you’re eating old meat. There’s a good reason for this, an excellent one, in fact. Here is everything you need to know about dry-aged beef.
Why would you eat it?
Okay, you’re reading this thinking that aged beef sounds pretty gross. I mean, you’ve probably gotten some “fresh” meat home, only to open the package a day later to a horrible stench. Dry-aged beef is not like that at all. It is a carefully controlled treatment that will improve the taste and tenderness of beef. Technically all beef is aged a little bit; either through a process of wet or dry aging. All grocery store beef is at least, seven to ten days old. Meat that hasn’t been aged at least this long has a distinctly bland and metallic flavor. Dry-aged steaks, when done properly, produce an indescribable flavor. Like eating steak in high definition.
Wet aging is when meat is vacuum-sealed and literally sits in its own juices (a combination of water and myoglobin by the way). This is a cheaper and faster process than dry-aging.
Aged but not faux-rotten
What is dry-aging anyway? When you look at it scientifically, dry aging is very controlled decomposition achieved through exposing untreated beef to very precise temperatures and humidity. This treatment is done with larger cuts of meat before being cut into steaks or roasts. This is due to a loss of overall meat volume because the outer layers of beef need to be carefully cut away. They have become more like shoe leather, often growing a little mold. It’s okay - it’s safe! All of that gross stuff is cut away when the meat has reached ideal aging, leaving a more flavorful and tender piece of beef.
How is steak dry-aged?
Large cuts of beef are placed into specialized cabinets or even rooms, kept at a specific temperature and humidity. Air is constantly being circulated around to prevent the growth of anything bad, while enzymes in the meat’s cells break down the protein, fats, and glycogen. This breakdown forms loads of amino and fatty acids, on, in particular,r is very important to the flavor being achieved through the dry-aging process – glutamate. Glutamate, if you recall, is integral to Umami, and is found in soy sauce and parmesan cheese. That’s not the only thing happening. As these enzymes are doing their thing, bacteria is doing its thing too. Bacteria breaks down the muscle fibers and connective tissues, oxidizing fat, and loosening up the collagen, leaving only tenderness behind.
Making taste buds, not taste enemies
This whole process takes place over the course of 28 to 120 days. There’s a sweet spot in there of about 30 to 40 days, where the maximum tenderness has been reached and the ideal development of flavor has begun. Not too much, but not too little. This high definition beef flavor has been described as super-beefy, nutty, cheesy, and/or gamey. Uber-connoisseurs extoll the virtues and complex flavors found in extreme dry aging (anything over 60 days). This is more of an acquired taste akin to enjoying pungent cheeses and comes with a similar price tag. Thorough testing has proven that there is no increase in tenderness after the 28-day mark, which is the minimum time for maximum tenderness.
Chewing the fat
Dry-aged beef is delicious. Find out for yourself, you may never go back to “regular” beef again. Not sure how to grill up a dry-aged steak for maximum deliciousness? Keep watching our social channels like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for more awesome articles and ideas.