10 how do you age a steak without it going bad Ideas


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y Age Beef and Steak at Home — A Step-by-Step Guide

In this post I answer all your questions on how to dry age beef and steaks yourself at home.

Wine, cheese, steak. All good things that age beautifully, where the passage of time only makes them richer, more complex, and weak-at-the-knees delicious. But in the case of meat, we all know time can make bad stuff happen too, like mold and bacteria.

So how does dry-aging achieve that superior, deeply tender and delicious steak, without going bad? And why would you want to make it yourself?

Right off the bat, here’s one easy motivator for you: $100. Yup, that’s what you can expect to spend in a good steakhouse for a top-notch dry-aged steak. And — you guessed it — it’s way cheaper when you do it yourself at home.

So read on to find out what exactly dry-aging is, how it’s done and how easy it is to make beautifully aged steak in your own kitchen.

We’ll lay out some simple no-brainers why you’d want to do this yourself and walk you through the process, step-by-step. In fact, by the time, you’re at the end of this post, you’ll be grabbing your wallet and heading out the door to get yourself a good hunk o’ cow, so you can get started!

What is Dry-Aging?

Lots of beef joints in a dry againg cabinet with himalayan salt blocks in the rear

You may already be familiar with the superior taste of dry-aged beef and steak, that high-end menu choice in restaurants that will put a pretty dent in your wallet. But how does it get to be this way?

There are four secrets to dry aging: temperature, humidity, air-speed and time.

Stringent attention to these factors using special climate-controlled rooms for anything from a couple of weeks to several months will result in specific biological breakdown of the meat and concentration of the flavor. Mmm-hmm. Can you spell U-M-A-M-I?

Why do We Dry-Age Meat?

Think about this: did you ever throw a piece of beef in a pan or even on the grill that hadn’t been well dried with paper towels and watched it sizzle and steam? It’s not a pretty sight. Wet meat will not brown and sear (the Maillard reaction) and give that beautiful mahogany crunchy exterior we all love.

So if wet is the enemy, then the flip side is that dry is the goal. And if drying meat with paper towels makes a difference, imagine how much better for the sear and crust if it’s dried longer and more thoroughly through dry-aging!

So OK, the crust gets better. But dry-aging also means moisture loss — up to 30% of the original weight of the meat — and this helps enrich and deepen the flavor of the meat.

Note that the moisture loss is from the outer layers of fat that are exposed to the air, with limited loss of the good stuff underneath.

During aging, the meat will also undergo enzymatic breakdown, which sounds like a bad thing but is actually awesome because it results in the tenderization of tough muscle fibers and gnarly connective tissue.

Deep flavor, tender bite, seared crunchy crust. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling hungry! But hold that thought, let’s take a minute to look at the science behind dry aging.

What Happens When We Dry-Age Meat? — The Nitty-Gritty Science

Close up of a dry-aged rib of beef in a dry aging cabinet
You can clearly see the ‘pellicle’ and crust that has formed on this dry-aged rib of beef.

OK, I know some of us are just interested in sinking our teeth into a beautiful slab of aged steak. But I think it’s always interesting to know the science behind it.

What exactly is going on inside these drying hunks of cow that transforms the texture and flavor so radically?

How Enzymes Affect Meat

Once meat is no longer alive, it will start to break down. This can go one of two ways. Bacteria and rotting. Er, no thanks. Or precise control of humidity, temperature and air movement to ensure it ages safely.

In optimal conditions, natural enzymes present in the meat will work to break down fats and glycogen into tasty amino acids, sugars, and fatty acids, helping the meat gradually develop a new complexity of flavors.

In fact, one amino acid created through dry-aging is glutamate — as in monosodium glutamate (MSG) — which we all know is a powerful flavor. And in this case, it’s all natural.

How Bacteria Affect Meat

Don’t go all squirmy on me now. Our guts are full of good bacteria! They’re all over our skin and everything we touch. Good bacteria keep us healthy, fighting off bad bacteria, boosting our immune system and help our digestion.

With dry aging beef, bacteria are your friend, working to reduce the toughness of muscle fibers and connective tissue, and convert chewy collagen into buttery-smooth tender steak.

Bacteria also oxidize the outer layer of fat surrounding the meat to increase tenderness. The important thing is to welcome only the good bacteria, and keep away the bad (more on that below.)

For the whole hog on dry-aging beef, check out this video of the professional (as opposed to the at-home) process. The science is the same, and it’s fascinating.