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What is the Process of Aging Steak?

Aged steak is more tender and flavorful compared to the normal steak you purchase at your local store. The main reason behind this effect is that aging enables enzymes to break down complex connective tissues in steak, and allows water to evaporate away.

It might sound a bit weird to some people, but when it comes to beef, fresher is not always better. In fact, good steak should be aged for a few days before conception. What does this process entail and what is its effect on the quality of meat?

There are two main methods of aging steak – dry aging and wet aging. This article will have a look at both of them, and will give an in-depth analysis of how these processes take place.

Dry Aging

Although there are people that prefer wet-aged steak, most people opt for the one that has been dry-aged. This is because only small enzymatic changes happen when wet aging, leading to minimal changes. This means that wet-aged beef will have a more metaling and bloody taste. On the other hand, dry aged steak will have a richer, fuller, and more complex flavor.

How to Dry Age Steak

Here are steps you need to follow to dry age steak from home:

Make Your Refrigerator Ready

The first thing you will need to do is make your refrigerator ready for dry aging. You will have to limit changes in humidity and temperature levels on your refrigerator. It is critical to keep your steak at the right humidity and temperature levels to ensure an effective aging process. Having a separate freezer for this purpose is highly recommended.

Nevertheless, if you do not have access to another refrigerator, you can still use your regular one. However, you will need to clean out all possible contaminants because meat absorbs strong odors and flavors from the surrounding. Therefore, foods like fish, garlic, and cheese should not be stored in the same refrigerator with aging meat.

Preparing the Meat for Dry Aging

The first thing you need to do here is select high quality a large and high quality cut of meat. You want your steak to be the kind that implements quick cooking methods such as rib steak, and New York Strips. Try to avoid small cuts as much as possible, because dry aging causes a lot of moisture loss, causing these pieces to shrink in size.

The other thing you have to do when preparing the meat is to examine its color before storing. The color helps you know the tenderness of the steak, and assists you to determine the exact time the aging process should last. Light beef should be aged for more than 7 days, while darker beef should not be dry-aged for more than a week.

The final thing you have to do is unwrap and thoroughly rinse the steak. Make the meat dry by patting it with paper towels, and then wrap it in cheesecloth.

Dry Age Your Steak

The final step of dry aging entails placing your steak in your refrigerator for the designated period. You can place your meat on a tray or place it directly onto a rack of your freezer. After the first day, remember to rewrap your steak to eliminate fibers left behind by the paper towel covering. After this, you can go ahead and age your steak for the period you had determined based on its coloring. During the aging process, you will realize that the steak develops an unpleasant smell. This could have a negative effect on other foods in your refrigerator. That is why we recommend that you have a designated freezer for dry aging.

After the end of your dry aging period, you can now remove the steak to cook it. Before preparing your meal, you should consider shaving off the dry exterior parts, which are most likely not edible. Underneath this hard surface, you will find the tender and flavorful steak. You can cut this meat into small portions, cook, and enjoy.

Wet Aging

Wet aging is one of the most common methods used to age steak. Wet aging entails vacuum sealing steaks, which is a similar method used when freezing meat to prevent freezer burn. Since wet aging requires little time, less equipment, and does not cause loss of product, it is cheaper and easier to find.

How to Wet Age Steak

To wet age steak, start by choosing a prime cut of beef, like tenderloin or filet. Afterward, enclose the meat in plastic using your vacuum sealer. Place this sealed plastic bag in the coldest part of your refrigerator, which is usually at the bottom shelf. The aim of using a sealed plastic bag is to prevent the steak from absorbing odors from the surrounding. Doing this also allows the steak to age in its own blood and natural juices. Leave the steak in the refrigerator for not more than 7 days. When ready to cook, remove it and cut it into small pieces. It is good to note that this type of aging can impart a sour or metallic flavor to your meat.

Great things come to those who wait. This is true in life, and in steak. Aging meat offers a great payoff in terms of enhanced tenderness and flavor. This article has provided a deep analysis of the two main methods of aging steak – dry aging and wet aging. The process aging process for the two is quite different. Wet aging does not require a lot of equipment or time. On the other hand, dry aging requires controlled refrigerators and takes longer. Many people prefer dry aging because it gives meat an extra depth of flavor. Nevertheless, dry-aged steak is quite expensive, mostly due to the equipment used and the long time taken. On the other hand, wet-aged steak is a bit inexpensive but not as tasty as dry-aged one. Whichever type of aging you decide to go with, you can be sure that aged steak is much better than fresh steak.

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What is the Process and Purpose of Aging Beef?

It might seem counterintuitive, but when it comes to beef, fresher is not always better. In fact, all quality beef should be aged anywhere from a few days up to a few weeks before consumption. What is this process and how does it affect the quality of the meat?

The main reason why beef should be aged is to make it more tender. During the aging process the connective tissue in the muscles of the beef will begin to break down leaving you with a much more desirable texture and enhanced beef flavor.

Wet-aging vs. Dry-aging

There are two ways beef can be aged. The more common option today is wet-aging, which is what most supermarket meat counters use. In this process, meat is wrapped in either plastic cling wrap, or vacuum sealed in plastic where it ages in refrigeration for several days to a few weeks. The benefits to wet-aging are that is cost efficient and easy for mass consumption.

The second means of aging beef is dry-aging. This is the process that high quality steakhouses and butchers use. Beef is hung in a giant refrigerator where it stays for several weeks. Since the meat is exposed to air during this process, much of the water in the meat evaporates leaving a more concentrated beef flavor.

Dry-aging will enhance both the flavor and texture of meat, but the process is much more costly than wet-aging. Beef must be stored at near freezing temperatures for up to several weeks. Additionally, because water evaporates from the meat during dry-aging, up to 30% of the weight of the cut will be lost in the process. Finally, dry-aging leaves a dried crust on the meat which must be removed, meaning that the original cut of meat is even further reduced in weight.

All of these considerations make dry-aged beef much more expensive than wet-aged cuts, but as any steak enthusiast will assure you, the cost is worth it.

How to Choose a Quality Steakhouse

So, you’ve decided you want to splurge on an expensive steak dinner out. What should you look for in choosing a quality steakhouse?

1. Look for high quality cuts of beet

In the USDA grading system, Prime is the highest quality you can get. USDA Prime beef is the most suitable for dry-aging because it has more marbling and evenly distributed fat than other grades of beef. The USDA Prime grading is so selective, that it represents only about 2% of the country’s beef production. Since USDA Prime Beef is in relatively short supply, it is almost exclusively found in high-end steak houses, but is definitely worth the price tag for a special occasion! There are also many high quality cuts of beef (Japanese Kobe, for example) which are commonly considered by be even higher quality than USDA Prime.

2. Dry-aging in House

If you’re in the market for a special steak experience, dry-aging is the only way to go. Feel free to ask a waiter how long different cuts of meat have been aged for. You’re bound to get the best flavor and texture out of your meat when the steakhouse has taken pride in perfecting this process for their customers.

3. Ambiance and Service

It might not have anything to do with the taste of the steak, but if you’re going to shell out big bucks for a nice steak dinner, you want everything to be perfect. There are traditional steakhouses with white tablecloths and waiters dressed to the nines, and there are more contemporary options with minimalistic dining rooms and creative side dishes. Think about what you and your party would most enjoy and do some research online to find the right fit.