DRY-AGED-BEEF: A TREND WITH TRADITION
Dry-aged beef is currently being talked about by everyone. Not only chefs and gourmets rave about the unique taste of dry-aged meat, but amateur chefs and enthusiast grillers as well. Many supermarket chains also now offer goods labeled “Dry-Aged”. Although this is seen as a new taste revolution, it is actually a traditional, tried and true craft.
WHY MEAT NEEDS TO MATURE
After the slaughter, biochemical processes acting on the meat begin to unfold. With the initial lack of oxygen to the meat, anaerobic glycolysis starts. This causes rigor mortis, which hardens the muscle tissue and only allows for a small amount of water retention. It is only after this phase that the enzymatic aging begins, which after 8 days is well underway with the muscle again beginning to soften. The length of the aging age-process is largely dependent on the sex, age and breed of the animal.
Meat can mature 8 more weeks under good conditions to intensify the flavor. Incidentally, poultry and pork have to go through this process as well, however they mature at a faster rate, 2-8 days is enough for the meat to become soft following rigor mortis. Poultry and pigs can produce dangerous bacteria such as salmonella, therefore for hygienic reasons, they must not mature for long periods.
THE ROOTS OF DRY-AGED BEEF
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 chamber, the red meat crossed by yellow fat. In the background, the curious look of the butcher’s wife. At that time the method was called simply “hang out”, because the meat was hung on the bone with a hook. The biggest problem was the erratic temperatures. Even beef can produce harmful bacteria during the maturation process if it is exposed to inconsistent temperatures. It is only through the development of engineered cooling, that this risk has been minimized. Until the 1970s meat was primarily aged using a dry method. With the invention of vacuum technology, the food industry changed and the ease and cost of wet-aging pushed dry-aging out of the mainstream market. Wet-aging ensures a faster maturation of the meat and has the advantage of less weight loss. As such, more meat could be sold and thus obtain a higher profit margin.
DRY-AGING VS. WET-AGING
A weight loss of up to 30% after four weeks in the standard, traditional dry-aging process is economically disadvantageous. However, with the DRYAGER™ cabinet, weight loss can be managed at about 7-8% while developing fantastic, deep flavor. While the meat is aged on the bone, the unique spicy aroma is developed by the enzyme activities. Under a dry, black outer layer that needs to be cut off after maturation, the nutty-buttery flavour and crumbly structure reveal themselves. The determining factor in flavor, texture and aroma is the length of time the product has been aging. The longer the meat hangs, the more intense the flavor. In the wet-aging under vacuum, there is less water loss. While the meat juices come out, the flesh remains in contact with the liquid. This will continue to develop lactic acid bacteria, which provide a slightly sourmetallic taste. For some meat lovers, this is desirable. When it comes to the tenderness of the meat fibers, dry-aging provides superior tenderness and fullness of flavor.
OTHER AGING METHODS
In acqua-aging, meat is aged in purified sparkling mineral water for 4-5 weeks. Although the process is straightforward, it’s succes is reliant on precise regulation and execution, as the process must occur under only the most hygienic circumstances. The mineral composition of the water also plays an important role. The correct ratio of meat, water, minerals and carbon dioxide dictates the success of the finished product. It is only at a sufficient concentration of carbonic acid and a balanced proportion of minerals, that the meat is optimally supplied with minerals and trace elements which give it buttery tenderness and a slightly minerally flavor.
The parchment method is actually an advanced form of wet aging under vacuum. Here the meat is wrapped in parchment paper before vacuum sealing. The parchment absorbs much of the meat’s juices, thus reducing the metallic-sour note.
Mould Aging In this aging method the meat is inoculated with especially selected mold cultures, which are intended to influence the ripening process. The mold is removed prior to consumption, and the meat has an even more intensely nutty flavor.
The French term can be directly translated as “high taste”. The term refers to aging in wild fur or feathers which creates a distinctive sweet, piquant flavor caused by the beginning stages of decay. This bygone aging method however, is no longer in practice commercially due to today’s food safety regulations and the falling out of favor of the Haut Goût flavor.
The easiest way to age meat that can also be carried out in a domestic refrigerator. Here the piece of meat is stored in a semi-permeable membrane bag (eg. a Lava A-Vac Dry-Aging bag) at 35.5-37.4°F. Juices are able to evaporate through the membrane of the bag, while the meat inside is protected from external influences. The aging in the dry-bag is akin to the dry-aging process of aerobic maturation. The disadvantage here: no bones can be in the meat during maturation.
A hundred year old technique in which the meat is coated in sections with beef fat. Thereby the meat is packed and can mature gradually and develop its delicate structure.
DRY-AGING IN THE DRYAGER™ UNIT
DRYAGER™ refrigerator cabinets ensure that the dry-aging process occurs in safe, hygienic conditions. It is suitable for small scale retail and commercial operations and even for the gourmet conscious household, thanks to its space-saving footprint. Together with a food laboratory and butchers, DRYAGER™ has developed all inclusive technology that allows for precise control of the maturing process.
The control elements of the DRYAGER™ fridge ensure a constant temperature, which is regulated in precise 0.1° increments. This makes it suitable for dry-aging fresh meat and for further aging cured meat and sausages.
The humidity is controlled by the integrated DX HumiControl AirReg system and is electronically controlled from 60 to 90% in 0.1% increments. Even with large variations in ambient temperatures, the perfect microclimate remains in the unit.
Despite its compact footprint, the DRYAGER™ refrigerator offers enough space to allow for even larger pieces of meat. The insulating glass door of the DRYAGER™ unit protects against UV rays and provides the possibility to visually inspect, assess and admire the aging process. Beyond the amazing product the DRYAGER™ unit produces, the DRYAGER™ unit itself is a showstopper.
TIPS & TRICKS
When conditions are as optimal as they are in the DRYAGER™ unit, a good steak can age to perfection without any difficulty. We will give you tips and tricks for the best steak from the DRYAGER™ kitchen.
Not every piece of meat needs 8 weeks to develop its flavor. A tender filet, off the bone, can be ready in about 7 days. On the other hand, the rib-eye can withstand an average of up to 28 days. Consider your cut and desired outcome when determining the timeline for maturation.
Happy Cows Make Good Meat
Anyone who wants to enjoy a good piece of meat, has to start with the quality of the beef itself. An animal kept in good conditions and that has not been slaughtered under stress, gives substantially more tender meat. The breed also influences the result making Angus and Wagyu favorites for steak lovers.
Spice it Up
The DRYAGER™ cabinet uses innovative technology and provides intelligently designed accessories to enhance the process. Thanks to the Saltair system designed with crystal salt blocks, the meat becomes spicy, a bit salty and unique in flavor after dry-aging.
How to Know It’s Good
Color and firmness are the best indications of readiness and maturation. Well matured, tender steak meat is reddish brown in color, and leaves an indentation after touching.