There is no such thing as a dry place. Even if you’re in the middle of nowhere and it’s been raining for days, there will be water somewhere nearby that can sustain life. This has led to some interesting evolutionary developments when it comes to survival: people who are smarter than other animals tend to survive longer because they’ll know where resources lie and how best to utilize them; but sometimes this intelligence doesn’t just help humans out-it also spreads disease more quickly across an entire population.
dry skin is a common problem. Many people have dry skin because of environmental factors, but it can also be caused by other things. In some cases, dry skin can lead to problems such as itching and peeling.
You’ve undoubtedly gone to a fine steakhouse that serves dry-aged steaks. But, if you’re anything like me, you probably passed on them because 1) dry-aged beef is more expensive, and 2) you had no idea what “dry-aged” meant in the first place.
You’ll know what happens to a steak when it’s dry-aged after today (and why an aged steak consequently costs more).
What Is Dry-Aged Beef, and What Does It Mean?
Fresh steak is what you usually eat. It’s crimson and wet, which gives it a lovely, juicy texture.
A dry-aged steak is one that has been aged before to consumption. Steaks that have been dry-aged for 7 to 120 days are available. The most usual dry-aging period for a steak is 30 days. Because you age the meat in circumstances that closely manage the amounts of moisture and germs, the meat does not rot throughout this period.
Moisture is taken out of the meat during the dry-aging process. As a result, the meat taste becomes even more beefy and tasty. Furthermore, the aging process enables the meat’s natural enzymes to break down the connective tissue, resulting in a more delicate product. This tenderization process is aided by a fungus crust that forms on the exterior of the meat as it matures, imparting a lovely corn-like taste to your beef (you scrape this fungal crust off before cooking).
Dry-aging is a controlled breakdown of meat that produces meat that is 1) more delicious and 2) more soft.
The more delicious and tender a piece of beef is, the longer it has been dry-aged.
Pat LaFrieda, a famous butcher and past podcast guest, explains how the taste and softness of a steak differs depending on how long it’s been dry-aged in his book Meat, which I’ve reduced and described below:
7 days: Collagen has just started to break down, but the steak will lack the taste and texture that a dry-aged steak should have. At this point, steak is not marketed as “aged.” The meat is still rather bright, but as it matures and dries, it will darken.
21 days: Evaporation causes the steak to lose 10% of its weight in the first three weeks. The water leaks out the front and rear of the meat, but the fat and bone on the steak’s sides keep the sides dry. Because flesh shrinks as it matures, the steak will become more concave. Although fat does not diminish as people age, it does darken.
30 days: The most popular age for steaks is 30 days. The steak has taken on the taste and texture characteristics associated with dry-aged meat: it’s very soft, with a flavor that’s a cross between buttered popcorn and rare roast beef. The steak has lost 15% of its original weight at this time.
The 45-day steak has a little more funk than the 30-day steak. You’ll see white striations in the flesh, which are caused by a combination of mold and salt. The steak has only lost a portion of its weight, and the taste of the fat changes before the flavor of the meat, so don’t remove all of the fat before cooking it.
After 90 days, the white crust has thickened considerably more. The meat is protected by this crust in the same manner as cheese is protected by a rind. Before the meat is sold, the outside crust is shaved off.
Only a few extremely high-end restaurants purchase beef that has been cured for 120 days. The steak has shrunk by 35% of its original size. A steak matured this long has a weird taste and is also highly pricey, so it’s for someone who enjoys a beef flavor that’s exceptionally robust.
I decided to try dry-aged beef for the first time a few months ago. While most grocery shops don’t sell it (because to the time and money costs; see below), Reasor’s, a local Tulsa supermarket chain, does. To compare the two, I purchased a steak that had been dry-aged for 30 days and a fresh steak.
On the left, fresh steak; on the right, dry-aged beef.
If you purchase dry-aged steak from the grocery store, you should cook it the same day. Allowing it to stay in your fridge for an extended period of time can throw the dry-aging process off. Allowing it to sit adds to its aging process, although under less-than-ideal circumstances.
The dry-aged steak had a beefier flavor and that little buttered popcorn quality that LaFrieda mentioned. It was also a lot more tender than the raw steak.
The dry-aged steak didn’t taste any better to me than the fresh meat; it simply tasted different. I’m not sure I’d go out of my way or spend more money for a dry-aged steak at a restaurant. But that’s just my opinion.
What Makes Dry-Aged Beef Expensive?
You’ll want to spend a few more bucks on a steak that has been dry-aged. Why?
Because achieving that condition takes time and necessitates the use of sophisticated temperature, humidity, and air-flow regulated freezers. The refrigerators must also be sanitary and free of microorganisms. The meat will deteriorate or not dry-age properly if the temperature or humidity is too high or too low.
Is it possible to dry-age beef at home?
Yes, but it needs a significant amount of effort.
There are books on the market that will teach you how to dry-age beef at home. Some sources indicate that wrapping the meat between layers of cheesecloth and letting it rest for a few days in your standard fridge would suffice. But, honestly, can you?
During my podcast conversation with Pat LaFrieda last year, I questioned him about it, and he said:
“It’s almost hard to do at home unless you have a refrigerator devoted to that purpose, and one in which you can read the refrigerator’s interior temperature and humidity.” The humidity must be kept under control. We have a number of devices in place to remove moisture from the air. At home, it’s quite tough… “Don’t waste your time.”
The dry-aging process will be disrupted by the fluctuating temperature and humidity in your fridge caused by opening and shutting the door often. This will lead to undesirable and hazardous bacterial development. Furthermore, the meat will most likely absorb flavors from your refrigerator. Most likely, you’ve eaten unwrapped butter that’s been lying in your fridge for a while. It tastes like… a refrigerator. It’s also disgusting. If you leave your meat in the fridge for many days or even weeks, it will most certainly taste like that.
If you’re going to dry-age meat at home, you’ll need to set up a separate refrigerator for it. A YouTube video of a person doing it may be seen here.
You’re better off purchasing beef from the grocery unless you want to make dry-aging beef a pastime (like home-brewing beer or roasting coffee beans).
For a primer on all things meat, listen to my podcast with Pat:
The “dry movie” is a survival film that was released in 2005. It stars Christian Bale and has been nominated for many awards.
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