" Today, I'm going to explain to you exactly how you can dry-age at home, how relatively simple it is, and how it can vastly improve the eating quality of your steaks and roasts until they are better than what you can buy at even the best gourmet supermarket." -- J. KENJI LOPEZ-ALT
Now, before you go and call up the National Committee of Good Science and send them to confiscate my calculator (by which I mean my head), let me first explain that I stand by 100% of what I wrote in that article: Given that you are starting with individual steaks, dry-aging at home is not feasible, despite what some otherwise reputable sources have said in the past. Blind tasting showed that between the first day and the seventh day of such aging, there was absolutely zero perceptible improvement in the eating quality of the steaks.
But we all know that individual steaks is not how meat is dry-aged by professionals, right? No, they start with whole sub-primals—large cuts of meat with bones and fat caps fully intact—and they age them, uncovered, in temperature-, humidity-, and air-speed-controlled rooms designed to allow them to age for weeks or months without rotting. The question is, can we do this ourselves at home?
I got my hands on 80 pounds of prime-grade, bone-in, fat-cap-intact beef ribs to get my answers.* Over the course of more than two months, I aged them in close to a dozen different ways in order to determine what works, what doesn't, and what matters. Here's what I found.
The Purpose of AgingHow does aging work?
Good question! First, a brief rundown on why you might want to age meat. Conventional wisdom cites three specific goals of dry-aging meat, all of which contribute toward improving its flavor or texture.
- Moisture loss might be a major one. A dry-aged piece of beef can lose up to around 30% of its initial volume due to water loss, which concentrates its flavor. At least, that's the theory. But is it true? (Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.)
- Tenderization occurs when enzymes naturally present in the meat act to break down some of the tougher muscle fibers and connective tissues. A well-aged steak should be noticeably more tender than a fresh steak. But is it?
- Flavor change is caused by numerous processes, including enzymatic and bacterial action, along with the oxidation of fat and other fat-like molecules. Properly dry-aged meat will develop deeply beefy, nutty, and almost cheese-like aromas.
But is aged meat really better than fresh meat?
It depends. I had a panel of tasters test meat aged to various degrees and rank them by overall preference, tenderness, and funkiness. Almost everybody who tasted meat that had been aged for a couple of weeks—the period after which some degree of tenderization has occurred, but seriously funky flavor has yet to develop—preferred it to completely fresh meat.
On the other hand, folks were more mixed about meat aged longer than that. Many preferred the more complex, cheese-like flavors that developed with meat aged between 30 and 45 days. Some even liked the ultra-funky flavors that developed in 45- to 60-day-old meat. Where you lie on that spectrum is a matter of experience. I personally prefer meat aged to 60 days, though beyond that, it gets a little too strong for me.
Okay, I'm sold. Why would I possibly want to do it at home when I can order it online or from my butcher?
Two reasons. First, bragging rights. How awesome is that dinner party gonna be where you tell your friends, "Like this beef? I aged it for eight weeks myself"?
Second, it saves you money. Lots of money. Aging meat takes time and space, and time and space cost money. This cost gets passed on to the consumer. Well-aged meat can cost anywhere from 50 to 100% more than an equivalent piece of fresh meat. At home, so long as you're willing to give up a corner of your fridge or you have an extra mini fridge, the extra costs are minimal.
You may have read that, in addition to the time and space required, much of the cost of aged meat comes down to the amount of meat that is wasted—that is, meat that dries out and needs to be trimmed. This is not as big a factor as you'd think, and we'll find out why soon.
Selecting Meat to Age
What cut of meat should I buy for aging?
To age meat properly, you need to choose a large piece that is best cooked with quick cooking methods. This makes the standard steakhouse cuts—the New York strip, the rib steak, and the porterhouse—the ideal cuts for aging. (See here for more information on the four high-end steaks you should know.) The easiest to find whole (and my personal favorite) is the rib steak, which is what you get when you cut a prime rib between the bone into individual steaks.
What's the minimum size I'll need to buy for proper aging? Can I age an individual steak?
Today's Tip : Using a Meat Thermometer is a very easy way of determining the exact temperature inside the meat. When doing it without a thermometer, a few degrees up an down can make a lot of difference to the cooking. Digital probe thermometers are the most convenient to use.
Get more tips & hacks here.....
Nope, unfortunately, you can't age individual steaks.You can wrap them in cheesecloth or paper towels, set them on a rack, and leave them in the fridge for about a week, but during that time, no detectable level of texture or flavor changes will take place. Try to age them even longer, and (assuming they don't start rotting)*, here's what you get:.. See Here