THE BASICS OF DRY AGED BEEF
It’s luxurious, it can be expensive when sourcing from third parties, and for some first-timers, the intense and complex flavors can take them by surprise. But for the best chefs, artisan butchers and meat aficionados dry aged beef is one of the ultimate culinary experiences.
BUT WHAT’S SO SPECIAL ABOUT DRY AGED BEEF?
In essence, dry aging is taking a piece of fresh meat and putting it in a controlled open-air environment, so it goes through an enzymatic and flavor transformation. By exposing the meat to air, moisture is pulled out while the natural enzymes in the beef break the muscles down slowly over time, making it more tender.
It is a time-honored technique that when properly done maximizes the meat's flavor intensity, complexity and tenderness. This process can range from 3 to 6 weeks depending on the desired flavor profile and tenderness.
Dry Aged Beef after 5 weeks
THE ROOTS OF DRY AGED BEEF
Dry aging is a process that goes back for centuries. Before the invention of refrigeration, dry aging (whether it was in a chamber, a cellar, or a cave) was one of the only methods of keeping meat fresh, other than smoking, brining or pickling.
A look into the history of the craft shows that dry aging is not a modern invention. Already in the 17th century, master painter Rembrandt, depicted a scene called “Slaughtered Ox”. An ox hangs in a dark butcher room, the red meat crossed by yellow fat. In the background, the curious look of the butcher’s wife.
The biggest issue with traditional meat aging was erratic temperatures, humidity levels and the absence of a sterile environment to prevent meat from spoiling due to the development of harmful bacteria and molds. It is only through the development of properly engineered cooling solutions, that this risk has been minimized.
KEYS TO PROPER AND SAFE DRY AGING
The key to dry aging is consistency — controlling the enzymatic breakdown so that the meat ages, not rots. It all comes down to four key factors:
The perfect air flow, not to fast and never too slow. Important to form the right crust.
Humidity control to slow down the migration of moisture and keep natural juices from escaping.
Accurate temperature control, to stop the meat from spoiling.
Air sterilization to avoid potentially harmful mold to propagate.
IS DRY AGED BEEF REALLY BETTER THAN THE ALTERNATIVES?
Those who enjoy meat are really starting to better understand the benefits of dry aged beef. When you first slice through a raw cut of of dry aged beef, you will probably notice a distinctively intense, rich smell. Once cooked, the molecules inside the beef begin to awaken with heat and that smell wafts up to our noses and senses. This is where dry aging takes a step beyond cooking just a regular steak.
And the taste? It is amazing! It is often described as a rich, nutty and beefy flavor, almost cheese-like.
HOW TO COOK DRY AGED BEEF
To cook a dry aged steak, prepare it just like you would a regular steak, but with dry aged beef, you do run the risk of over-seasoning so don’t go as heavy on the salt as you would a regular wet aged steak.
Once you start searing, don’t walk away from the pan. Dry aged steaks will cook faster because there is less moisture. Cook it a notch less than you would with a regular steak.
Bring your steak to room temperature for at least 30 minutes. Add a Bit of oil, salt and pepper. There you go.”
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