Dry aging meat is currently something that everyone talks about, from the novice weekend “BBQ’er” to Michelin-star chefs. The thought of creating a dish with such a unique, flavorful ingredient that has taken years to reach the very point of perfection can be an inspiration to those who really understand the dry age process.
Dry aging is the process of resting superior cuts of beef in a controlled environment to improve flavor and texture with aging. A strictly controlled environment of precise moisture levels prevents the meat from spoiling. The controlled atmosphere draws out moisture, therefore concentrating the beef flavor. Dry-aged meat is also more tender than fresh beef due to the natural enzymes and fungal crust. During aging, the beef's natural enzymes break down the connective tissue, making the beef tissue soft and tender. The crust of fungus growing outside of the aging meat (scraped off before cooking) also tenderizes the meat while adding a corn-like flavor.
“7 days: Collagen has just begun to break down, but the steak won’t have the flavor or texture qualities that you look for in a dry-aged steak. Steak is not sold as “aged” at this stage. The meat is still fairly bright, but it will darken as it ages and dries.
21 days: The steak loses 10 percent of its weight in the first 3 weeks through evaporation. The water seeps out the front and the back of the meat, but the fat and bone on the steak's sides make the sides waterproof. Because meat shrinks, the steak will become more concave as it ages. Although the fat doesn’t shrink, it does darken in the aging process.
30 days: This is the most commonly requested age in steaks. The steak has developed the flavor and texture qualities associated with dry-aged meat: it is very tender, with a flavor best described as a mix of buttered popcorn and rare roast beef. At this point, the steak has lost 15 percent of its total weight.
45 days: The steak has a little bit more fun than the one aged 30 days. You’ll start noticing white striations in the meat, which is a mixture of mold and salt. The steak has lost only a fraction of more weight, and the flavor of the fat changes before the meat does, so it’s important not to trim off all the fat before you cook it.
90 days: The white crust develops even more. This crust protects the meat the same way a rind does with cheese. The exterior crust is shaved off the meat before it is sold.
120 days: Only a handful of very high-end restaurants buy a steak that has been aged this long. The steak has lost 35 percent of its original weight. A steak aged this long has a very funky flavor and is also very expensive, so it’s for someone who really appreciates an unusually intense beef flavor.”
The meat will spoil above 40°F (4°C) but will freeze below 32°F (0°C). The ideal temperature for aging is 36°F (2.2°C) throughout the aging process.
Because the dry age process causes the meat to lose significant moisture, dry age steaks will become dry due to over-cooking. Keep your steaks medium-rare. Don’t worry about excess blood, as most of this has already been lost in the dry age process.
• Select the cut for the eating experience you are hoping to achieve. Any cut can be aged. If you're grilling, go with a striploin, T-bone, or prime ribeye.
• The grade of steak will be important to the eating experience. Certified Angus Beef ages really well and provides a terrific eating experience. Gradings from low to high would include select, choice, and prime grade cuts.
• Once your home, if you wish to age your steak further, pat it down with a dry paper towel and rest on a wire rack between 2 to 5 days. This would further help dry age the steak and amplify flavors.
When ready to cook, let the steak sit unrefrigerated until room temperature.
Season as desired, and you are ready to grill.