Dry-aged beef for steak lovers is known primarily for its better tenderness, richer flavor, and high price. In this post, we’ll discuss the fascinating dry aging process and explain why a dry-aged steak is such a luxurious indulgence.
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What Is Dry-Aging?
Dry Aging is a specialized technique that involves exposing large cuts of beef to oxygen in a controlled environment for a few weeks to several months. When done correctly, the process alters the flavor and tenderness of the cut. For this to happen, it is crucial to have proper temperature and moisture control.
How Does Dry Aging Work?
The balance between airflow, temperature, and humidity allows processes such as Oxidation, Enzymatic breakdown, and Bacterial activity to be activated. These naturally-occurring processes change the taste and texture of the meat, making it more tender.
The key to the process is to hang each piece of meat so that air can reach every surface. In this manner, the mold creates a fine even layer across the surface. Like with fine cheeses, the mold is perfectly harmless to humans. In fact, the mold that forms on dry-aged beef dehydrates the meat and improves its flavor. The more water the mold removes, the better it grows, and the more concentrated the meat’s flavor becomes.
Once the process is complete, it is essential to properly trim any surfaces exposed to the air. At this point, it is worth mentioning that individually cut steaks should not be aged. Why? Because a steak cut will shrink in size in the aging process. Then you will be left with a small piece of meat after final trimming. For this reason, it is recommended to age only large pieces of meat (like rib subprimal).
Dry-Aged Steak vs. Regular
Dry Aged steak is more tender and has more rich flavor than unaged, regular steak. A fresh steak’s connective tissue and muscle fibers are intact and tough. The dry-aging process breaks down those connective tissues, which results in more tender meat. This process also removes moisture from the steak, which helps improve its flavor.
Fresh, regular steak tastes delicious; however, it is always tougher and chewier than aged steak (no matter which cut you choose).
How Does Dry-Aged Beef Not Spoil?
It is extremely important to maintain ideal conditions. Meat cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures—the meat ages in a controlled environment with consistent conditions.
The primary protective factor in the dry-aging process is that air runs over every surface of the beef. The exterior, therefore, dries out and crusts over. The crust seals the meat, preventing any external bacteria from gaining access. Further, the humid conditions ensure that the water in the meat evaporates slowly, adding a measure of control and preventing spoilage.
In conclusion, aged beef will not spoil if you maintain stable conditions. The three most important aspects of the aging process are adequate low temperature, proper airflow, and moisture control. Careful control of the environment ensures that natural enzymes do not spoil the meat.
Summary: Is Dry-Aged Beef Worth It?
You need to understand that not all aged beef is created equal. A lot depends on the type of cut and the length of aging. Generally, aging beef makes it softer and richer in flavor. For sure, dry-aged beef is not overrated. If you consider yourself a steak lover, you need to try a high-grade aged steak and ask yourself if it’s worth it.
FAQ on Dry Aging Beef
Why is it called Dry Aging?
Dry Aging refers to exposing the meat to oxygen in a controlled environment. In such an environment, the water evaporates from the meat, so it matures dry. The process takes place in a specially designed dry aging cabinet where all relevant aspects of the environment, such as airflow, humidity, temperature, and bacteria levels, are monitored.
Why is dry-aged beef better?
The dry aging whole process alters the flavor and texture of the meat. Dry-aged steak has a much more tender texture and a richer, beefier flavor. The meat is so delicate that it almost melts in the mouth. Little to no sauce, seasoning, or toppings are necessary.
Is dry-aged steak safe?
Dry-aged steak is 100% safe because it is created in a strictly controlled environment. If you have any doubts, buy aged beef only from verified sources.
Why Is Dry-Aged Beef More Expensive?
Fresh meat loses much of its water weight during the aging process; once the process is complete, the mold must be trimmed off, thus losing more meat. Considering the amount of work that goes into producing this meat and the wasted meat the process produces, it’s easy to justify the extra expense.
It’s possible to lose half of the original weight due to Aging before factoring in all the business costs.
Does dry-aged steak taste different?
A lot depends on how long the steak was aged. Typically, the flavor of dry-aged steak is entirely different from a standard steak. It is rich and much more intense with a very beefy flavor.
What does dry-aged beef smell like?
Dry-aged beef smells different than fresh beef. The longer you age beef, the different smells you will experience. Generally, aged meat smells strongly beefy. Some say a nutty smell. For cuts aged much longer, the smell is similar to blue cheese.
How To Store Dry-Aged Beef?
The best option for storing dry-aged beef is to freeze it. Cut the meat into individual steaks, vacuum pack them, and put them in the freezer. This method will preserve the best texture of the meat and prevent it from freezer burn.
How long does dry-aged beef last in the freezer?
Dry-aged beef can be kept in the freezer for about six months without significant negative effects and, most importantly, without affecting the flavor. You may notice small changes in the texture of the meat.