how do you age beef at home

All you need to dry-age at home is your refrigerator, a wire rack, and a sheet pan. Refrigerators have an air circulation system to ensure freshness. By aging meat on an elevated wire rack, uncovered and near your refrigerator’s fan, air will circulate all around the meat, keeping it dry and cool.

What Kind Of Steak Can You Dry Age at Home?

This is pretty important. You SHOULD NOT age individually cut steaks . Technically speaking you CAN age individually cut steaks, but it’s a colossal waste, and you’re foolish for undertaking it. Your meat will shrink vastly in size as it loses water through the aging process. When you combine the amount of rind trimming that needs to occur along with the smaller size, you’ll be left with barely a sliver of a steak.

What you SHOULD be dry aging are subprimals – or larger whole muscles. For example, a strip loin shell (bone in), or a 107/109 rib (basically a giant slab of bone in ribeye). It doesn’t matter whether it is grain or grass fed – that’s just a case of personal preference. You want to look for meat that is on the bone, not because it tastes better, but because you can cut the bone away during trimming and not lose any meat. If you keep reading, I’ll explain why you cut the bone away, rather than cook the meat on the bone.

The quality of the meat also matters. You need to use meat with a minimum degree of marbling, Choice grade or higher, and steer clear from overly-lean cuts (like the Round). Lean or lower grade meat does not develop any significant intensification of flavor, because the marbling is slight. Fat equals flavor, and so the absence of fat means you’re lacking the taste foundation which you need to build on.

Feel free to do some experimenting with other cuts, like beef ribs, as long as you remember you WILL need to trim any rind off. For example, dry aging may not be suitable for a brisket, where the flat may already be too thin to cut away and sacrifice any further. In their own experiments, CAB also noticed that dry aged brisket did not absorb any smoke flavor, and thus determined that dry aging briskets for BBQ was a pointless exercise.

It is perhaps stating the obvious, but since this is an attempt at a complete guide: all dry aging should occur with unwrapped/unbagged meat, where the cuts are placed ‘naked’ into the fridge. Leaving meat in a vacuum bag is wet aging. To learn more about the difference between Wet and Dry Aging, read this article.

The Purpose of Aging

How does aging work?

how do you age beef at home

Good question! First, a brief rundown on why you might want to age meat. Conventional wisdom cites three specific goals of dry aging meat, all of which contribute toward improving its flavor or texture:

  • Moisture loss might be a major one. A dry-aged piece of beef can lose up to around 30% of its initial volume due to water loss, which concentrates its flavor. At least, thats the theory. But is it true? (Cue dramatic foreshadowing music.)
  • Tenderization occurs when enzymes naturally present in the meat act to break down some of the tougher muscle fibers and connective tissues. A well-aged steak should be noticeably more tender than a fresh steak. But is it?
  • Flavor change is caused by numerous processes, including enzymatic and bacterial action, along with the oxidation of fat and other fat-like molecules. Properly dry-aged meat will develop deeply beefy, nutty, and almost cheese-like aromas.

But is aged meat really better than fresh meat?

It depends. I had a panel of tasters test meat aged to various degrees and rank them by overall preference, tenderness, and funkiness. Almost everybody who tasted meat that had been aged for a couple of weeks—the period after which some degree of tenderization has occurred, but seriously funky flavor has yet to develop—preferred it to completely fresh meat.

On the other hand, folks were more mixed about meat aged longer than that. Many preferred the more complex, cheese-like flavors that developed with meat aged between 30 and 45 days. Some even liked the ultra-funky flavors that developed in 45- to 60-day-old meat. Where you lie on that spectrum is a matter of experience. I personally prefer meat aged to 60 days, though beyond that, it gets a little too strong for me.

Okay, Im sold. Why would I possibly want to do it at home when I can order it online or from my butcher?

Two reasons: first, bragging rights. How awesome is that dinner party gonna be where you tell your friends, “Like this beef? I aged it for eight weeks myself”?

Second, it saves you money. Lots of money. Aging meat takes time and space, and time and space cost money. This cost gets passed on to the consumer. Well-aged meat can cost anywhere from 50 to 100% more than an equivalent piece of fresh meat. At home, so long as youre willing to give up a corner of your fridge or you have an extra mini fridge, the extra costs are minimal.

You may have read that, in addition to the time and space required, much of the cost of aged meat comes down to the amount of meat that is wasted—that is, meat that dries out and needs to be trimmed. This is not as big a factor as youd think, and well find out why soon.

Can you do it? Yes. Is it simple? Yes, and no. Is it something you can do easily without a dedicated setup? Hell no.

There’s lots of questions surrounding dry aging in the home setting, and I’m gonna answer all of them here for you. On a weekly basis, particularly leading up to the Holiday prime rib season, I was getting emails from folks who weren’t even exactly sure what dry aging was, asking if they should do it to their roasts. The potential threat of ruined meat and upset stomachs was both high and alarming, so instead of saying “no, don’t do it!”, I instead decided to write this guide. I enlisted the help of Diana Clark, a meat scientist at Certified Angus Beef®, to ensure that this guide was more than just a personal opinion on how it should be done. The do’s and don’ts within are all based on professional scientific recommendations. Also thank you to Texas Beef Council and Dr Davey Griffin from Texas A&M for extra assistance in answering the hard questions.

Dry aging is an expensive process, both in equipment required and meat investment cost. It’s not something you can do (correctly) with a bag or plastic box, and you need to be prepared to cut away a fair chunk of the final product you worked so hard to create. Now, if you’re still on board after reading all that, here’s what you need to know:

All you need to dry-age at home is your refrigerator, a wire rack, and a sheet pan. Refrigerators have an air circulation system to ensure freshness. By aging meat on an elevated wire rack, uncovered and near your refrigerator’s fan, air will circulate all around the meat, keeping it dry and cool.


Can you age beef yourself?

If you have a spare mini-fridge and a little bit of patience, or if you go all out and buy a dry-aging fridge, you can dry-age meat yourself. You’ll ultimately spend way less money on your tender steak, and – even better – you’ll earn some serious bragging rights for dry-aging beef at home.

How long can you age beef in the refrigerator?

We recommend letting the cut rest for at least 28 days or up to 75 days. This is because the longer the beef ages, the more complex and intense flavours it develops, therefore the tastier it gets. At 28-35 days subtle mushroom and umami flavors develop, from 45-75 days bold blue cheese notes will develop.

How is beef aged without spoiling?

Using a dry-aging chamber, butchers and steakhouses can keep the beef free of harmful bacteria with cold, dry air circulation. Hanging the beef within the chamber, the entire surface of the meat is exposed to dry air that forms a protective crust. The lack of moisture makes it difficult for the beef to spoil.

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