Meat eaters tend to fall into two categories — those who love their dry-aged beef and those who don’t. Dry-aged beef can be an acquired taste. However, if you’re a true protein aficionado, you probably can’t resist occasionally ordering a dry-aged steak off the menu.
Dry-aged beef isn’t something you have to enjoy in a restaurant. In addition to buying it, you can learn how to dry age beef at home. It’s a delicate, long process that produces some fantastic meat you’ll be proud to serve up during holidays or special occasions.
What makes beef dry? The easiest way to explain the process is that dry-aging beef is a lot like aging cheese. In both cases, cultures get added and the ingredient is allowed to ferment for weeks or months.
The meat you usually buy at your supermarket has been wet-aged or vacuum-packed and refrigerated. Wet aging works because it reduces waste. However, some meat lovers complain that wet-aged beef takes on a metallic flavor instead of the funky, earthy complexity of a dry-aged cut of beef.
At this point, you’re probably on board with dry aging beef in your house. But if you’re game to go all-in with aging steaks at home, we encourage you to avoid winging it, as tempting as it may be. You need a refrigerator with wire racks dedicated to the process. The refrigerator can’t contain anything other than your dry-aged beef. Many people invest in wine refrigerators because they take up less room and have cool glass doors so you can keep an eye on your aging meat.
Next, you need to add some kind of fan to your refrigerator to provide constant air circulation. As your meat ages at a consistent temperature of between 36-39 degrees Fahrenheit, you want oxygen to constantly surround the star of your show.
Finally, you need a great cut of meat — a hunk of something such as a loin roast that you will cut apart after it ages. Don’t skimp on quality, and make sure you rinse it and pat it completely dry. If possible, see if you can get a piece of meat that is already dry aged as a culture “starter” in your fridge. The bacteria already in the dry-aged beef will activate your refrigerator and turn it into the perfect location for dry aging meats.
Place the meat directly on the wire rack with a pan below to catch any moisture droplets. Then, keep the fridge and fan running and wait. You may not see much of a change until about four to six weeks later. At that point, some mold may develop, not to mention unusual smells. That’s okay. Keep aging until you reach at least the two-month mark.
After dry aging your beef at home, you can take it out of the fridge when it’s purple or dark. Set up your kitchen so you can dedicate time to cut off all the excess mold, dehydrated tough outer skin and anything else that shouldn’t be there. Don’t worry if the meat inside has become a deeper color.
After you trim the meat, cut it into steaks. You’ll probably end up with much less meat than you started with, but it’s going to be awesome. Try your favorite smoker grill recipe and enjoy the kudos from everyone who relishes a steak with a nutty taste and tender texture.
Note that dry-aging meat is difficult to do correctly. Please consult a professional before attempting to do this at home.
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