The art of dry aging beef: What it is and why it matters
What does dry aging mean?
You’ve probably seen restaurants and butchers brag about their dry-aged beef and how long it has been dry-aged for to make it the absolute best beef around. If you have had the chance to taste dry-aged beef for yourself you will already know the differences that set it apart from normal beef, but what makes it so good? In this article we will be looking at the dry-aging process in more detail so you can see how it elevates beef to a new level and its importance in preparing quality meat.
What does dry aging mean?
The process of dry aging basically means the beef is left in a controlled environment for an extended period of time (at least a few weeks). This allows the moisture in the meat to dry out and enzymes start to break down with the long exposure to oxygen. It’s not a nice way to think of it but the meat is effectively decaying, and you might be thinking how can that taste good? Well, the process is highly controlled by knowledgeable people to reach the sweet spot when the meat is at the perfect point of dry aging.
The title of this article describes the process as art and that’s what it is really, getting the balance right of everything that is required to create dry aged beef is an art form and a science experiment all rolled into one. Dry aging didn’t come into the spotlight as a way of preparing beef in restaurants and butchers until fairly recently, but the idea behind it dates back thousands of years. Long before refrigeration and the other precise technologies we use to dry-age meat today our ancestors would use chambers or caves as a way of keeping their meat fresh enough to eat.
What effect does dry aging have on meat?
Dry aging causes noticeable changes to both the flavour and texture of beef that make it much more valued and considered as a premium type of meat. The main difference that dry-aged beef will have compared to other meat is in its tenderness. As mentioned above when the meat is exposed to oxygen for a long period of time the enzymes and tissue in the muscle start to break down. This means the beef will become much more tender in its texture, even more so than a fresh steak.
Another key effect that dry aging has on meat is in how it tastes. The difference in flavour comes from the normal and healthy bacteria that develops on the meat, in a similar way to cheese. It creates a unique taste that is unlike any other type of meat, which makes it popular with those who enjoy the deep, rich, and aged flavours. A big part of why the texture and taste changes during dry aging is due to the amount of moisture it loses. Temperature and humidity are highly controlled, meaning a piece of meat can lose around a third of its water volume.
Can you dry age meat at home?
Given the precise nature of the conditions required to prepare dry-aged beef it wouldn’t really be practical to try it at home. You could attempt a similar approach, but the likelihood is that unless you can dedicate an entire fridge with nothing else in it at the exact right temperature and conditions required, you would not be able to recreate the exact flavours and textures that make a professionally prepared dry-aged piece of meat so special. This is why the process is so important to the meat industry, we wouldn’t be able to enjoy the tenderness and rich flavours of dry-aged beef without the process as it is today.
If you’re looking for high quality, fresh and delicious meats at affordable prices, The Village Butcher has got you covered. Whether you’re cooking for two people or ten, we’ve got a wide selection of meats that will suit your needs. Why go all the way to the shops for your meat when you can have it delivered right to your door? Browse our collection of recipes for meal inspiration.