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DRY AGING VS. WET AGING

DRY AGING VS. WET AGING

This is a frequent question that we encounter. What is the difference? Which one is better? What meat cuts are ideal? Here is our take on this topic.

BACKGROUND

Every kind of red meat (especially beef) needs to be aged to tenderize the muscle in order to be palatable. For centuries, and prior to refrigeration, beef was aged by hanging whole primal cuts in aging rooms, which often led to inconsistent results and even spoilage. This was a “risky” practice that would not be acceptable by today’s standards.

This was even the case when refrigeration came into play: Many butchers, chefs and meat aficionados that would attempt aging in conventional reach in or walk in refrigerators would face the challenges of inconsistent or less-than-optimal results: mold, high weight loss and even product spoilage. Many would give up.

With the invention of the vacuum packing machines, the meat industry massively adopted the wet aging technique for cost efficiency reasons. Shortly after slaughter, meat is cut and portioned, then vacuum sealed in plastic, allowing companies to increase profits since the wet-aging process takes place during transit from the processing plant to the meat department or restaurant. Meat would tenderize enough to satisfy customers expectations and weight loss would be minimal.

WET AGING

WET AGING

VS.

DRY AGING

DRY AGING

Process

Process

  • Meat is cut, portioned, vacuum sealed and transported to the store or restaurant following a cold chain.

  • Vacuum sealed meat is not exposed to air and therefore not able to “breathe”.

  • The weight loss is very low, because the meat ages in its own juices trapped in the plastic bag

  • Lactic acid in meat juice starts enzymatic breakdown increasing tenderness.

  • After the animal is slaughtered, rigor mortis occurs (approx. 24h).

  • Later, after approx. 2-3 days of cooling down, the partially cutting down of the carcasses takes place.

  • Primal cuts are hung or laid out on racks in a controlled refrigerated room, with proper humidity levels and air flow.

  • Natural enzymes breaking down the components of the muscle fibers and collagens.

  • Enzymatic processes, mainly: The existing glycogen will be broken down to lactic acid

  • Crust layer develops, this slows down evaporation process and protects the inner meat.

  • Enzyme and protein activity continues flavor and tenderness development until it reaches the desired maturation time.

Duration

Duration

14-18 days in average, partially up to 6-8 weeks.

Typical dry aging cycles are 21, 28 and 45 days.

Weight loss

Weight loss

Marginal

8-10% (with DRYAGER™)

Flavor

Flavor

Taste is dominated by distinct metallic and sour notes. Low complexity.

Buttery and nutty, meaty, and robust, with a sustained piquancy. High complexity.

Where to find

Where to find

Vastly available in supermarkets and foodservice establishments.

Upscale restaurant and steakhouses and artisan butcher shops.

BEST CUTS OF EACH

Low fat lean cuts can benefit from wet aging, since they tend to dry out faster when dry aging:

  • Fillet mignon
  • Flat-iron steak
  • Flank steak

Cuts that benefit most from dry-aging are large muscle and subprimal cuts with a good marbling on the bone, as layers of fat and bones prevent them from over-drying.

  • Thick, marbled cuts, like from chuck, rib, loin (roastbeef)
  • Bone-in ribeye
  • Bone-in strip

CONCLUSION

While wet aging is a more lucrative venture to the meat producers supplying the mass markets, there are no shortcuts to achieving the highest levels of flavor, tenderness, and overall culinary experience.
Wet aged meat processing will continue to dominate the grocery and foodservice market and to be vastly available. However, a growing number of discerning chefs, butchers, home cooks and meat aficionados are happily bringing back to their homes, kitchens and dining tables the craft of dry aging. We love to be a part of that.

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