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What Is Dry Aged Beef?

Dry-aging is a method of processing meat where beef carcasses or primal cuts are hanged and aged in a controlled environment with low humidity. This allows the muscle fibers to break down and develop flavors. 

Aging is an ancient technique used to preserve foods. During this time, the meat gains flavor and becomes more tender. Dry-aged meats tend to have a deeper flavor and are usually more expensive than other forms of aged meat.

Dry-aging has become very popular over the last decade. In fact, some restaurants even serve dry-aged steaks at their tables.

This method of preparing meat was originally developed in Europe. Today, it’s becoming more common in the United States.

What Exactly Is Dry-Aging?

Dry-aging steak is an age-old technique used to tenderize tough cuts of meat like rib-eye steaks.

If you’ve ever had a dry-aged steak, you probably noticed its deep flavor, but it’s not always easy to understand how it happens.

Dry-aging involves letting raw meat hang out in the air just above freezing for anywhere from two weeks to three months, allowing natural enzymes to break down proteins due to it being exposed to oxygen. 

Dry-aged beef is an example of what happens when you expose meat to air. You get a lot of oxidation, which breaks down the muscle fibers and creates a unique and delicious taste.

How Does Dry-Aging Alter The Texture And Taste of Beef?

Moisture naturally evaporates from meats when cooked at high temperatures. When meat cooks at lower temperatures, the meat retains more moisture and its flavors become less intense.

For example, cooking steak well-done takes away the juices that help give steaks flavor. To keep the meat moist, cook it at medium-rare or medium.

But chemical reactions can also affect the flavor. During the aging period, certain flavors and aromas become more prominent.

Some flavor compounds and molecules in the meat undergo a chemical change that will increase their concentration while reducing those of others.

Muscle cells are made of many kinds of molecules, including proteins that help the muscle cells contract, and molecules called nucleic acids that fuel the contraction process.

During dry-aging, these large, flavorless compounds are broken down into smaller ones, creating a more complex flavor profile.

When you cook something, you break down the molecules into smaller pieces, and when you dry-age meat, you also break down the molecules into small pieces. These small particles then become more accessible to our taste buds.

What Are The Very Best Cuts Of Dry-Aged Beef?

Dry aging is a method of preserving foods by exposing them to low humidity and temperature conditions. This means it is cold and has a low but controlled moisture content level in the air. 

Aged beef contains more flavor compounds than fresh beef. Dry-aged beef has a distinctive taste profile, with notes of leather, coffee, and smoke.

Dry-aged beef is often served medium rare, but can also be cooked until well done. Dry aged Rib-Eye is one of the best cuts to try, especially if you are new to the method.

When Is The Ideal Time To Dry Age Your Beef?

Dry-aging beef is often done in large stainless steel chambers or walk-in coolers.

These coolers have a temperature range of about -3 °C to 5 °C (-5 °F to 10 °F) and are designed to maintain those specific conditions for long periods of time.

Beef is placed inside the cooler and left there until it reaches the desired degree of tenderness. The longer the beef ages, the more flavor develops.

As time goes on, the meat gets drier and drier. At first, when it’s fresh, it smells like beef. But after about a month, it starts smelling funky.

That’s because bacteria start eating away at the proteins in the meat. As the meat ages, it becomes drier. And the longer it takes to age, the funkier the taste becomes. This is why you have to cut away the outer part before cooking.

How Come Dry-Aged Beef Is More Expensive?

Dry-aging is like an extended cooking method. It takes weeks or even months to age the meat properly. There is a lot of loss of moisture during this process.

You need to keep the temperature at below 40 degrees Fahrenheit (but above freezing) and 65% humidity. If you don’t do that, then you will end up losing half the weight of the meat.

Dry-aging also requires a lot of space.

As the meat loses moisture, the weight decreases. You’ll also have to cut away the outer part of the meat as that is inedible, reducing the yield even more. This pushes up the price, as most beef is sold by weight.

What Is The Difference Between Dry-Aging And Wet-Aging?

Wet-aging refers to meat that has been stored in plastic bags, is much quicker to produce, does not have an intense flavor, and is generally cheaper.

The process is quite similar however, as enzymes break down the meat, and make it more tender. The advances in refrigeration and plastics made it a possibility, and many wet-aged steaks are only aged for a minimum amount of time – days or a few weeks at most.

Dry-aging refers to aging beef, pork, lamb, chicken, turkey, and other meats in containers, just above freezing to stop the growth of bacteria, break down the meat, and to add flavor.

Dry-aging allows the meat to breathe, which helps preserve its texture, flavor, and juiciness. While dry-aging is more expensive than wet-aging, it results in meat that is more tender and flavorful.

Dry aging isn’t the only way to age beef. Wet-aging will give you much of the flavor and mouthfeel of a dry-aged steak, but it isn’t as intensive. It is a good compromise if you are looking for something more affordable.

Final Thoughts

Dry aged steaks are a great experience to enjoy. It is more expensive than wet-aged steaks, so keep that in mind when planning for your next dinner.



Richard is the founder of SteakBuff. He manages the team of expert writers on the site and is a foodie who loves eating steaks

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