The aged beef process is something that requires very specific temperature and humidity requirements, and can be dangerous if not done correctly. With the right information and tools, however, you can get the precise, delicious results you’ve always hoped for.
Dry aged steak offers another layer of complexity, in terms of processing time. A 4-pound, dry aged ribeye will take less time than 9 pounds of prime beef, for example.
Consider the influence of personal preferences for aged beef, as well. You’ll be able to track your progress, in terms of desiccated fat turning gray and the rinds of the side of the meat, but it takes a keen and educated eye to be certain of what you’re getting.
What the aged beef process is
The aged beef process is required to break down meat so that it’s tender enough to cook and consume. There are various methods, including those done by meat manufacturers, and those you can do at home.
Wet aged beef is where meat is packaged in plastic to prevent oxidation and fluid loss. The enzymes in the beef’s juices naturally tenderize the meat. Because moisture contains bacteria, it will eventually spoil when refrigerated for several months.
Dry aged beef uses oxidation and natural enzymes, resulting in more flavor. First, because moisture is being evaporated from the meat, flavors concentrate and produce a fuller flavor. You also get the tenderization benefits of bacterial aging, in terms of a more tender meat.
Many people will also use dry cured beef. Because there’s still moisture present, there’s a certain amount of mold growth on the ends of the meat, which complements the natural enzymes throughout your beef. The seconds with mold present are generally cut off and thrown out.
Dry aging beef at home
Many people will take wet aged beef that they purchase at the store, and dry age it for a few days to get some additional flavor. It’s worth mentioning that dry aging does lead to loss of meat, due to desiccation, mold and moisture loss.
For example, a set of USDA prime steaks that weigh 12 pounds in total, might end up with only 10 pounds of meat after dry aging. In general, you can expect to lose at least 10-15% of your beef when dry aging for more than a couple of weeks. Figure in another 8-10% loss for trimming.
You should consider using a dry aging fridge for exact temperature and humidity settings. A temperature of 35-37 degrees Fahrenheit is absolutely essential for safe results. Although you could accomplish this in your regular refrigerator, you also need a relative humidity level of about 80%.
Dry aged beef is a tricky and specialized process. During the first month of dry aging, you’ll notice that your meat is a lot tenderer. After a month, there will be a strong, unique flavor that you can smell the moment you open your fridge.
It’s recommended that you delve deeper into the subject for some expertise. Many methods use a particular sea salt in a glass dish, with meat on wire racks above.
Other methods use vacuum-sealed, dried meat for tenderness and flavor concentration, although this prevents the unique flavors of oxidation. It’s a great way to prevent the 8-10% loss for trimming out desiccated and moldy ends.
Using and cooking your dry aged beef
Cook your dry aged steak to about a medium rare or less. Any more well-done, and you’ll lose its flavor benefits and the meat lost from drying and trimming will be a waste.
You could also cure your beef before aging. This reduces moisture right off the hop, allowing natural enzymes and oxidation to do their work without the presence of mold. Again, this is a matter of preference and precise planning, so do your homework first!
You can also use a meat dehydrator to store your dry aged beef. This will reduce up to 95% of moisture, allowing you to vacuum seal and refrigerate your perfectly aged meat for months on end.
Using a jerky dehydrator is an excellent way to enjoy any kind of wet- and dry-aged beef!