Dry Aging
Resources > Culinary Terms > D > Dry Aging

Are you a Smart Kitchen™ Chef?

Try it FREE or take a TOUR to explore Smart Kitchen!
+ -

 

In Dry Aging, meat on the bone is stored in a temperature controlled (between 34°-38°F {1.1° C – 3.3° C} ) and humidity controlled (ambient humidity level between 50% & 75%) environment, gradually losing water weight and developing a beef-jerky-textured rind, which is carved away before display.

Production

When Dry Aged, two things happen to the meat: First, evaporation removes moisture from the muscle creating a greater concentration of beefy flavor and taste. Second, the meat’s natural enzymes in the blood, and benign bacteria, break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle, tenderizing it. To retain the blood and achieve the best result meat should be aged on the bone and not in individual cuts. Most, but not all, of the tenderizing activity occurs in the first 10 to 14 days.

In a good piece of Dry-Aged beef, the surrounding fat won’t be smooth and white, but instead grainy, dry and off-white. The well Dry-Aged beef should not have only one or two big pockets of fat, but rather should be webbed through with thin strands of fat, similar to the veins in a piece of marble.

Aging times vary: some butchers believe two weeks is enough while others age cuts 3 weeks or more to concentrate flavor to a deep nutty intensity. Some high quality restaurants age their meat for 28 days or more. Longer Dry Aging adds to the shrinkage and trim loss due to the drying and surface mold.  Jeffrey Steingarten in his book “It Must Have Been Something I Ate” experimented with Dry Aging and found that for his palate 60 day Dry-Aged Beef was the best tasting and most tender.  

Dry Aging, especially for 60 days, is a time consuming and expensive process that is still essential for the absolute best results. Beef purveyors who Dry Age can expect to lose as much as 15-20% of their yield (by weight) to moisture loss, shrinkage and trimming while the meat’s flavors Concentrate in the expensive refrigeration-intensive process. 

A Dry-Aged steak is firm, yet tender at the same time, with a nutty, robust, richly beefy flavor.

Up until the 1960’s, Dry-Aged beef was the norm, but with the advent of vacuum packaging along with increased efficiencies in beef processing and transportation, we lost the Dry-Aging process which requires time, refrigeration, specialized facilities, expert knowledge and a relatively large inventory of high quality beef.

Today, you can find Dry-Aged beef in High Quality Butcher Stores and top-line steakhouses but it is almost unheard of at even the most expensive supermarket meat departments because very few supermarkets source their meat from anyone other than one of the large national meat producers who find Wet Aging cost-effective. If you do find it, Dry-Aged Beef is on average 25% more expensive than Wet-Aged Beef. 

Some butchers, like Merle Ellis, who wrote “Cutting it Up in the Kitchen,” have written about How to Dry Age at Home, but at Smart Kitchen, we don’t recommend it, especially for the novice.