Dry-Aged Beef – The Basics
What is dry aging? Beef needs aging, when fresh it’s tough and the full range of flavours haven’t developed yet, so it needs a few weeks to improve. Nowadays most beef is wet aged as it’s an easy and cost effective way to age the beef. Wet aging is where the beef has been kept in plastic and aged from a few days to a few weeks in bags. For some leaner cuts like a tenderloin it can actually be beneficial, but before the invention of cryovac bags beef was just hung up in a cool area. Modern butchers who dry-age beef now use aging rooms/ fridges with specific climate conditions to get the best results.
When dry-aging the moisture slowly evaporates and intensifies the flavour. While the enzymes in the beef go to work and break down the muscle fibres and produce a tender piece of meat. Depending on the cut of meat, this takes about 21-28 days, with the large steak areas like the rib needing the longest.
When dry-aging it’s important that the carcass is fresh, with the trend of small aging fridges in restaurants, it’s a common mistake by chefs to open a bag of wet-aged meat and then place it in a dry aging cabinet for a while and call it dry-aged. With wet aging the beef has already soaked up some of the juices when sitting in a bag for a few weeks. This can give the beef an overly iron taint, or even hints of plastic.
When done correctly it produces an excellent piece of beef, but it does come at a cost compared to wet aging. The weight loss and additional trim involved adds up, especially on an expensive cut and the cost of holding the beef for a month or more is high, so expect to pay a premium for beef that’s been aged correctly, but it’s certainly worth it.
Here at Sloane’s we dry age all our beef, starting with aging as half carcasses, then cut at different times to get the best from each area. Some parts are aged just 14 days, others 21 days then our steak areas a minimum of 28 days.