The majority of steaks available in the restaurants today are considered wet-aged. In other words, it’s a cut that has been vacuumed in a certain marinade for several hours before serving. A steak that has undergone dry aging,on the other hand, is the real gourmet gem and a steak-lovers’ top choice. Dry aged beef accumulates outstanding tenderness due to the process of natural fermentation. Namely, premium steak cuts are kept under the specific and precise conditions, which break down the connective tissues of meat. These biochemical reactions make a cut lose moisture and darken its color. As a result, dry aging intensifies the taste of meat and tenderizes a steak dramatically. The longer the beef is aged, the more exquisite the flavor and aroma become.
A more primitive process of beef aging has been around for centuries. Back in pre-refrigerator times, people utilized a similar method to preserve the freshness of food. Large quantities of meat were covered in spices and stored in cold, dark spaces.
Nowadays, dry beef aging is considered to be a rather sophisticated way to attain a high quality meat product. It requires time, modern equipment for storage and measurement, and, of course, the expertise of steak chefs. The main attribute of dry aging is evaporation of fat tissue, which is why only certain cuts are dry aged – rib-eye, short loin and other marble beef steaks. The percentage of premium meat does not exceed 10-12% per carcass. This is why dry aged meat is such a delicacy and a top gourmet preference.
The process of beef aging is sophisticated and time-consuming. In order to achieve outstanding texture, aroma and tenderness, the beef is kept in a particularly distinct refrigeration units. In those units, the temperature is sustained at around 32° F and the humidity varies from 70-85% with a proper air circulation. While the cuts are stored in the refrigeration units, their moisture is gradually evaporated. After 30 days, the meat is losing the third of its original mass. The process consumes several weeks: the minimum conventional time is 21 days and the maximum can reach up to 120 days! The longer a steak is aged, the more it accumulates a distinct crust of evaporated salt on the surface, brownish coloration and extraordinary aftertaste of cheese and nuts. Most connoisseurs prefer a 30-day dry-aged steak.