The process of ‘dry-aging’ meat can be traced back thousands of years. Before refrigeration, dry-aging was one of the few methods available to keep meat from spoiling; the others being smoking, brining & pickling. Dry-aging is a time honoured technique that both tenderises and enhances the flavour of meat.
Traditionally the process was implemented in in cellars, caves or a room that was cold and with fairly stable humidity levels. Today beef is almost always aged in rooms or cabinets specifically engineered to obtain the optimum results; like our own state-of-the-art Dry Aging Suite at Boy’N’Cow.
Basically, the process of dry-aging requires that the meat be placed into a controlled open-air environment that will allow it to go through a number of transformations. The meat is exposed to air, allowing some of the moisture to be extracted and the natural enzymes in the beef help to slowly break down the muscle fibres and connective tissue within, which in effect tenderises the meat. The surface of the beef dries and discolours forming a crust that protects the meat inside, which remains moist and red.
During the dry-aging process, the meat is also exposed to other environmental impacts. Various moulds and yeasts which are ever present in the air, permeate the meat and pleasantly influence the final flavour profile. The longer that the meat is allowed to sit in the dry-aging room, the stronger the flavours will develop.
All meat can benefit from some amount of aging. Commonly, meat that is available at butchers or supermarkets for purchase has been wet-aged; the meat has been sealed in a bag or container, which allows it to retain almost all of its moisture. Some of the natural transformation that happens to beef over time, occurs irrespective of whether the meat is dry or wet aged. The main difference is in the final flavour profiles that develop with dry-aging.
As beef dry-ages, two changes happen:
- Moisture is extracted from the meat. The lean muscle sections shrink around the fats in the meat (fat portions retain more moisture than lean muscle) and the fats become more pronounced and result in more overall flavour.
- Natural bacteria and mould forms on the meat and produces a robust flavour profile that is both pleasant and highly sort after; it is very rich and intense, almost cheese-like, and if you look closely, veins similar to those found in blue cheese are visible.
Consistency is key to achieving the best results; limiting the decomposition so that the meat ages well but does not spoil or become rotten. The three key factors to achieving this are:
- Air Flow – this aids in the formation of the crust to develop
- Humidity Control – this slows down the extraction of moisture and helps keep the natural juices intact
- Temperature Control – this prevents the meat from spoiling
The meat is further protected by the bones and fat, which is the reason that we choose high quality large cuts of meat that have high marbling (visible fat streaks within the muscles) and with the bones still attached. Whilst any meat can theoretically be dry-aged, at Boy’N’Cow we choose specific cuts, such as a grain-fed bone-in ribeye, porterhouse and striploin.
At the end of the dry-aging process, the crust is removed, leaving a beautifully aged, dark-red piece of meat. To start reaping the benefits of dry-aging, results begin to be achieved at around the 15-day mark, but at Boy’N’Cow our meat is dry-aged for at least 28 days.
Is it worth the price?
With the launch of the Boy’N’Cow in-house dry-ageing service, we are happy to offer the same price as buying wet-aged meat – So YES!
How to cook dry aged beef at home – recipe available here