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Dry-Aging Meat


johnb
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I usually get meat at Eastern Market (since I work @ a vendor there on Saturday mornings), but always am excited by the selection at Wegman's, too.

Does anyone else like to leave his or her beef (or venison or elk or antelope or horse or moose or [insert red meat]) in the fridge for several days until in turns dark, dark, red?  I think it tastes fantastic that way.

What you're doing is dry-aging your meat. Better to do it yourself than pay somebody else (Wegman's has dry-aged beef, to name one source---they have their own facility to do it). I have successfully dry-aged rib roast on various occasions, and yes it greatly improves the final result--now you'll know where that particular flavor you've had in that really good meat you has at some expensive steakhouse came from. I imagine it is especially useful for game meats, where the amout of fat is less and the aging helps in the tenderizing process (what happens is rhat some little buggers are eating in there and spitting out nice enzimes)--same thing with the English practice of "hanging" their game birds for several days before cooking and eating.

Alton Brown did a show on the process once and his directions for home aging are good if a bit fussy.

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So.. dry aged beef.

Moisture evaporates from the muscles, leading to a greater concentration of beef flavor. Enzymes break down the connective tissue and produce more tender beef.

Sounds good, tastes good.

Can it be done at home with supermarket beef?

Heard of Google? Check out ask the meat man.

Bottom line, not really.

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Heard of Google? Check out ask the meat man.

Bottom line, not really.

While I usually respect the "Ask the Meatman" info, this piece on dry aging beef is pretty weak. Dry aging as he describes it will only give you a small part of the benefits of dry aging. Whole Foods uses specially designed refigeration units to dry age the beef. They are designed to operate at clost to 40 degrees (health department requirement) and with minimal air movement. This allows a bacteriological and mold environment to develop which coats and affects the flavor profile of the meats. This flora and fauna are what gives properly dry aged meats their special character. In New York City, you can see many a dry aging chamber with wooden racks (Citerella, Ottomanelli's, Gallaghers all have beautiful chambers with feathered cuts of beef all tagged with the start of aging date). The wooden racks, like those in old fashioned prosciutto aging buildings, provide an more hospitible environment for the little beasties to do their work.

Your refrigerator with its rapidly blowing air and using the coldest spot would just allow for rapid evaporation, not the full process. Plus you wouldn't want your refrigerator full of the milds and bacteria as everything else in there would take on a dry aged beef aroma. Yum!!!.... dry aged beef flavored milk in my coffee! So you can put out anout $22,000, not to mention the cost of running the remote refrigeration lines and other elements of installation for a small dry aged beef chamber in your kitchen (They look great but they need about 4 full ribs in them minimum to maintain the atmosphere and that would be about 3 pounds a day of dry aged steak) or you can just pony up at WFM SIlver Spring or Georgetown or Old Town (the ones I know that have the dry aged chambers, there may be more). Also the WFMs that have them often put other things than classic steaks in their chambers: lamb rack, lamb breast, veal rack etc. Ask the butcher if they have anything unusual coming up. Be sure to ask for the team leader or assistant team leader about this, or the cutter who is running the aging program.

Last add, if the store dowes not have an aging chamber yet offers dry aged steaks, they are getting the dry aged from Metropolitan, their vendor. Metro has a dry age room at the warehouse but it is a far cry from the specialized units at the WFM's. Because Metro is a USDA(or is it FDA???) inspected facility, they are required to keep it cold and with quickly moving air. These "off site" dry aged steaks are good, but nothing like the ones from the specialized chambers.

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Heard of Google? Check out ask the meat man.

Bottom line, not really.

from that article: "Wrap the meat in immaculately clean, large, plain white cotton dish towels and place it on the bottom shelf of the refrigerator - which is the coldest spot."

this might be answered elsewhere, but I've heard conflicting reports as to what is the "coldest part" of the fridge. I understand that cold air is heavier and thus gravity tends to make the bottom of the fridge the coldest, but my mother (a nutritionist) had told me that the top shelf, just near the place where the cold freezer air enters the main compartment, is the coldest in most fridges.

I suppose I should just leave a thermometer in each spot and check them to see, but does anybody have any insight into this discrepancy? Mom has been wrong before, but I get the impression that this is a much more fridge-model dependent thing than the normal literature would make it out to be.

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my mother (a nutritionist) had told me that the top shelf, just near the place where the cold freezer air enters the main compartment, is the coldest in most fridges.

Mom has been wrong before, but I get the impression that this is a much more fridge-model dependent thing than the normal literature would make it out to be.

Repeat after me, Mom is never wrong, especially when she is! :)

However there are a lot of factors that make for what is the coldest spot. The moving air enters at a supply point in your fridge and this is indeed where the coldest moving air will be. But the question is where is the colded thermal mass. In my wine cellar, the ambient air temperature is pretty much the same top to bottom as my system in way over engineered- the air handler in the cellar moves about 3 times the air needed for my cellar to maintain the temp. But the bottles closest to the gorund are the coldest. If you put a instand read thermometer thru a wine cork and then use the cork to close a bottle of water, you get an accurate reading of the temp of the item being stored. Having done this, I know that there si a 2-3 degree swing from top of rack to bottom, nothing major. So if you toss a refrigerator thermometer in your fridge, it will probably read colder int he supply stream than elsewhere. But what you need to do it use the thermometer in a bottle of water test to find out where in your fridge is the codest spot.

COnfounding factors in a given fridge incluse where the compressor and fans are located, the aterials and designs of the shelves, what is typically kept on each shelf, the quality and amount of insulation etc. How often the door of your fridge is opened will also have an effect as well.

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Why do you say "not really? The article you link explains how to dry age at home. I've done it sucessfully with tenderloin, strip and rib eyes. You have to buy the meat whole and cut it up, I buy USDA Choice at Costco.

When I say not really, it is not that simple to do, as Dean stated. I also agree that it is a weak piece in that there is no discussion on the trimming.

BTW, do you do this in your regular fridge at home or one that is dedicated for this? How long do you age it? A few days or couple of weeks?

When I have done this, in a professional kitchen the odor seemed somewhat strong to want this to be in a home fridge.

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When I have done this, in a professional kitchen the odor seemed somewhat strong to want this to be in a home fridge.

The odor is from the mold and bacteria. Using Mr. Ellis' technique (Merle Ellis is a fantastic font of meat knowlege, one of the best in the business!) will minimize the mold and bacteria and the use of the dish cloths (I would use unbleached diapers) will minimize the leakage of the blood so there will be little odor from its breakdown. While I have never done this method personally, it mimics that of the off site dry aging sold at WFM, but will produce a less moldy product so it is not as "aged". This intermediate style of agina, really neither wet or dried, maybe it sould be called refrigeration aged beef, is a step up but not a huge step. Its pretty damn tasty but not close to the real thing.

Having said that, there are lots of incredible beef products where dry aging in not apporpiate. Chianina beef, the Italian breed for white cow used for Fiorentina, should not be dry aged. The fresher the better (actually three days after butchering is ideal according to the butcher in Via Mazzini in Montalcino). Kobe beef does not need dry aging. Most grass fed beef is so good fresh that its not clear what dry aging imparts.

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When I say not really, it is not that simple to do, as Dean stated. I also agree that it is a weak piece in that there is no discussion on the trimming.

BTW, do you do this in your regular fridge at home or one that is dedicated for this? How long do you age it? A few days or couple of weeks?

When I have done this, in a professional kitchen the odor seemed somewhat strong to want this to be in a home fridge.

A couple of points first: home dry aging vs commercial==no comparison. I see home "dry aging" as really "moisture reduction", which has is merits. Secondly, as for the cost of puchasing "dry aged" from a butcher and cooking at home, I think the benefit vs cost is open for debate. I personally think the increased cost of buying it is not worth it.

Trimming is key, I trim the fat carefully. I use an accelerated moisture reduction by using kosher salt, and "dry" in my home fridge for 3-4 days.

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I would like to chime in on the dry age issue. Most of the coolers used to dry age beef are designed for that purpose or modified walk-in coolers. The process involves a careful mix of time, temperature and humidity. One must remember that you are making the protein rot under controlled environments. Any primal cut can be dry aged but bone in product is thought to be the best. And of course the high price of product is directly related to the mystique of “Dry Age Beef” and the fact the there is a huge amount of waste. Some think that dry aged product tastes funky, while others just prefer wet ageing of about 21 days from kill date. Ultimately it’s about what type of flavor you prefer. I have always found it more about the quality of the product and who is preparing it.

George

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I suppose I should just leave a thermometer in each spot and check them to see, but does anybody have any insight into this discrepancy? Mom has been wrong before, but I get the impression that this is a much more fridge-model dependent thing than the normal literature would make it out to be.
You may already have a thermometer which will register this temperature accurately at home, but if not, they aren't expensive, and may be useful. We have one that digitally records both temp and humidity that I use in the winter to decide when to turn the humidifier on. Size maybe 2x3 inches, cost less than $20.

I suspect that what you'll find is that the hardest variable to control for is how many times the refrigerator is opened and closed during any given time period.

We tried dry aging at home in the spare fridge, which reliably keeps an internal temp from 37 to 40, but never planned far enough in advance to do for more than a couple of days. I did note some improvement in flavor and in texture but we don't eat enough beef to make the effort cost-effective, except for special occasions.

Trimming is key, I trim the fat carefully. I use an accelerated moisture reduction by using kosher salt, and "dry" in my home fridge for 3-4 days.
Haven't tried the salt yet, do you just rub the meat or let it sit on a bed of salt?
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I would like to chime in on the dry age issue. Most of the coolers used to dry age beef are designed for that purpose or modified walk-in coolers. The process involves a careful mix of time, temperature and humidity. One must remember that you are making the protein rot under controlled environments. Any primal cut can be dry aged but bone in product is thought to be the best. And of course the high price of product is directly related to the mystique of “Dry Age Beef” and the fact the there is a huge amount of waste. Some think that dry aged product tastes funky, while others just prefer wet ageing of about 21 days from kill date. Ultimately it’s about what type of flavor you prefer. I have always found it more about the quality of the product and who is preparing it.

George

I've been looking for a safe way to dry age beef at home, and was fascinated by the range of suggestions on this thread. Indeed, if you can afford the traditionally dry-aged, special cooler stuff, it's great. But who can afford mail order steaks or, even, Whole Foods?

The Ask-the-Meatman method seemed a bit to iffy/scary for me--and stinking up the refrigerator was also none too appealing.

Has anyone here heard of or tried Drybagsteak.com bags? Apparently, they allow you to age in a regular fridge in a vacuum but get really truly dry-aged steak. I found this on the web during my search and read the article they linked to. Seems like a study was published in which they compared the steak aged in this special moisture-releasing bag side-by-side with traditionally dry-aged steak.

I'd sure appreciate hearing if anyone else has checked this out. They're a little pricey, but I'd give 'em a try if I had a couple folks to compare notes with.

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