Dry aging is a method of aging beef and steaks in particular. It differs from wet aging, which involves aging the meat in its own juices. Dry aging is actually the old method of aging steaks. It is not as popular among butchers since there is a considerable amount of weight lost as the meat ages, which makes the cost per pound even higher. The high cost of dry aged meat means that it is usually only found in very upscale restaurants. Want to skip the restaurant and learn how to dry age steak at home? Let’s review a simple process using simply your refrigerator.
Benefits of dry-aging steaks
Dry aging steak improves it in two ways: it makes them more tender and it improves their flavor. The tenderness comes from the fact that there are natural enzymes in the meat that will start to break down the connective tissues as the meat dehydrates over time.
It is important to keep in mind that you only get the main benefits of dry aged meat if the meat is well marbled. In other words, you need a cut with fat that runs all through the muscle.
Dry aging improves flavor
Along with tenderizing fibers and connective tissue, dry aging makes the flavor of steak more complex and deeper. The fact that the steak loses much of its water makes the other flavors more intense. Dry aged steak has a more concentrated beef flavor when compared to a steak that has not been dry aged.
The process of dry aging steak
Before you try dry aging steak, it is important to note at the outset that there is a certain amount of risk involved. If dry aging will work for you, you should be comfortable throwing the steak out if things go awry.
For effective dry aging, you will need an environment where you can control both temperature and humidity. It is possible to do both to a certain extent in the crisper drawer of a refrigerator, but an entire dedicated refrigerator would be even better. Some dry aging experts suggest getting a mini-fridge specifically for the purpose of dry aging steaks.
The traditional method of dry aging meat involves hanging it, which allows the meat to get maximum exposure to air and therefore dry out equally on all sides. This may not possible in your crisper drawer; however, you can approximate hanging with the use of a stainless-steel rack or a rack made of any other nonreactive material.
You will also want to choose the right piece of meat. The thicker the meat, the better. Opt for a steak that is at least an inch thick, but even thicker is preferable.
Sanitize your crisper drawer, place the rack inside it and place the meat on the rack. Nothing else should go into the drawer, but the meat that you are aging. Keep the drawer closed for no less than 14 days.
What to avoid if you dry age your steaks
Temperature fluctuations are the main thing to avoid, which is why you need to dedicate a space to aging your steak. Too high a temperature will cause your steak to spoil, too low and it will freeze. Strive for an environment between 34 degrees Fahrenheit and 38 degrees.
Another reason for a dedicated space is to control humidity. The humidity within a refrigerator changes whenever it is opened and air from the outside gets inside. Outside air brings moisture and moisture can cause mold to grow on your steak.