how long do you dry age beef

For the enzymes to properly start breaking down the aged meat, the minimum dry-aging time is 14 days. However, it takes about 21 days for the meat to begin to develop the complex flavors you’re after. Most experts agree that the optimal timeframe is somewhere around 28-30 days of dry-aging.

If you’ve ever tasted a thick prime steak dry-aged 4 to 6 weeks (and reverse seared), you’ve come pretty close to heaven on earth. One of the best dry-aged beef purveyors we know is Chicago Steak Company. We asked Chicago Steak CEO Matt Crowley to share his thoughts on the difference between dry- and wet-aged beef and how to dry-age beef at home.

If you’ve bought a steak from a grocery store, there’s a good chance you’ve purchased a wet-aged steak. Unlike dry-aging, which is centuries old, wet-aging is a relatively new technique, invented in the 1950s.

Wet-aging involves vacuum sealing steaks—the same method used to prevent freezer burn when freezing meat. Though some people prefer wet-aged steaks, most Americans prefer dry-aged beef. Without oxygen, the chemical changes that need to occur for dry-aged taste just aren’t possible. While a small amount of enzymatic changes can happen in wet-aged beef, the overall change is minimal. This leaves wet-aged steaks with a more metallic, “bloody” taste, while dry-aged steaks have richer, fuller-bodied, and more complex umami flavors.

Wet-aging is popular with many grocery stores because it is a far less expensive process than dry-aging. While dry-aging typically takes 4-6 weeks, requires specialized aging lockers, and causes product loss due to trimming and evaporation, wet-aging takes less time, less equipment, and causes no loss of product. As a result, wet-aged beef is easier to find and cheaper to buy.

What You Need to Dry-Age Beef

If you want to dry-age beef at home, you’ll need to start out with a large cut of top-grade, USDA Prime beef. Dry-aging needs to be done before a roast is cut into individual steaks, so go with something like a large rib roast, three ribs minimum. Also, be sure to buy a cut that still has a thick cap of fat on its exterior. This way, that side will only lose fat when you trim the exterior at the end of the aging process.

You’ll then need the following equipment: a dedicated refrigerator, a small fan, a tray, and a wire cooking rack.

Note: Do not age beef in a fridge with other foods, as your beef will pick up flavors from those foods and vice versa. Dry-aging in a multi-use fridge will also throw off moisture levels. The need for a dedicated fridge is the biggest challenge and added cost to at-home dry-aging.

Misconceptions About Dry Aging

While it’s possible to dry-age beef at home, it is far more difficult and involved than some guides (including several online) would lead you to believe.

One popular misconception is that you can dry-age steaks by lining them with cheesecloth or paper towel, then leaving them in your fridge for four to seven days. While this method dehydrates steaks (which can heighten flavor intensity), it does not properly age them. Beef needs to be aged for at least 14 days for enzymes to properly tenderize fibers, and needs to be aged for at least 21 days for complex flavors to develop. One week in a fridge—cheesecloth or no cheesecloth—won’t make that happen.

Instead, dry-aging takes dedicated equipment, time, and large, primal cuts.

If you are keen to take the intensity of flavors to the next level why not try 90 day aged steak. At this point bold blue cheese notes will be even stronger and a white crust will have developed around the meat to protect it. This outer crust will be removed before the meat is sold.

The longer you leave your beef to age in the dry age refrigerator, the more intense the flavor will become. At 120 days onwards the meat will have lost at least 35% of its original weight and will taste truly unique which many describe to have a funky edge. Beef is rarely aged for this long and is only sold at a few high-end restaurants. This is because the risk of spoilage is higher, the time it has taken to age and of course its completely unique dry aged flavor.

When it comes to dry aging, one of the most commonly asked questions we get here at SteakLocker is ‘how long can you dry age beef?’ Ultimately, the length of time you dry age beef in the SteakLocker is dependent on personal preference. The short answer of how long to dry age beef is 21 – 120 days, the sweet spot for dry aging beef is generally considered to be around 30-45 days. Let’s break it down by days:

After around 21 days the meat will have lost around 10% of its original weight as a result of evaporation as the moisture is slowly drawn out of the beef. Although the meat will have lost weight, the flavor will have become more concentrated and intense which many people describe as having a subtle nutty taste. At this stage, the fat of the meat will not have shrunk yet however you may notice that the beef has started to darken.

During the first 7 days in the meat aging fridge, the main structural protein of the beef will have started to break down. However, at this stage in the process it is only early days, this means the beef is still bright in color and would not be officially classified as ‘aged’ when sold. This is due to the fact that it will not have had enough time to begin developing the unique flavors and texture typical of dry aged beef.

For the enzymes to properly start breaking down the aged meat, the minimum dry-aging time is 14 days. However, it takes about 21 days for the meat to begin to develop the complex flavors you’re after. Most experts agree that the optimal timeframe is somewhere around 28-30 days of dry-aging.

FAQ

How do you dry age beef without it going bad?

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.

How do you age beef in the fridge?

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.

Does dry aging beef make it more tender?

The dry-aging process allows the meat’s natural enzymes to break down the connective tissue, resulting in a more tender steak. The process also causes the meat’s moisture to evaporate, intensifying the beefy flavour and creating a unique taste and texture.

Why is beef aged 28 days?

It’s a process that not only helps the steak develop flavor, but also makes it far more tender than it would be completely fresh.

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