You may have heard about aging steaks and are now wondering how it is possible and what one needs to do to ensure that the steak does not spoil during the process. There are two means of aging steak, and the first is the one we shall be focusing on – dry-aging, which adds remarkable flavor to steak, and the other, is wet-aging, which grocery stores employ.
To age steaks without spoiling them, you need to have a dedicated refrigerator, an electronic fan, a tray, a wire cooking rack, and enough time and patience to dedicate to the process. The best duration to age steak is between five and six weeks.
You will need to begin with a top-grade prime piece of meat, and you cannot age steaks individually; instead, you need to opt for a large rib roast with which to work.
If you have ever tasted an excellent aged steak, then there is no wonder that you are looking for a way to now go about doing it yourself. Now, unless you have a high-end butchery nearby or can afford to visit fancy steakhouses, you will not have aged steak very often, or will you?
This article will examine just how one goes about aging a steak without spoiling it.
The Two Different Ways Of Aging Steak
Steak is aged for a few days and several weeks (we shall get to how long you will need to allow your steaks to age in a while). But understand it can take so much time because the enzymes within the meat, which are naturally present, need to break down the muscle tissue of the steak, allowing for improved texture and flavor.
The enzymes in the flesh of an animal begin to break it down as soon as it is slain; this is a natural process that allows germs to accumulate and, thus, causes the meat to spoil.
This is not what we want from our aged steaks; instead, we will ensure the optimal conditions in which the present enzymes can age the meat in a controlled environment.
This shall ensure that the aging process is done safely. In addition, the natural breakdown of fats and glycogen will result in the culmination of amino acids, fatty acids, and sugars, which will all contribute to the meat developing a savory and complex flavoring.
Wet Aging Vs. Dry Aging
Most grocery stores or mainstream butchers who sell aged steaks will present you with a steak enclosed in plastic shrink-wrap, and the process they employ is known as wet-aging.
On the other hand, we have dry-aged steaks, which are allowed to be exposed to air, which resultantly causes dehydration, ensuring more excellent flavoring of the meat.
Wet-aging of steaks is when the store vacuum seals them, and this procedure ensures that the meat does not burn when placed in freezers.
Some people prefer wet-aged steaks; however, if you have tried a dry-aged steak, you probably fall into the category of people who would opt for a dry-aged steak.
Because all the oxygen is siphoned out during wet-aging, the oxygen that aids in the chemical changes that occur during dry-aging is not present. Therefore, obtaining the same taste is not possible.
The enzyme activity is minimal, and thus the wet-aged steak is left with a more “bloody” taste. Conversely, dry-aging of steaks leaves a richer and fuller tasting steak for the consumer.
So why do most grocery stores sell wet-aged steaks?
Well, it comes down to the simple fact that this process is far less expensive, and it also takes less time for the steaks to age than with dry-aging, which can take a minimum of 4 to 6 weeks.
Specialized equipment and lockers are needed, and grocers are unwilling to extend themselves to these degrees.
Is It Possible To Age Steak At Home?
It is more than possible to dry-age your steak at home; however, it is far more difficult and complex than some online guides would have you believe.
So know that it is possible, but you will need specific equipment, and there are some fundamental guidelines you will need to follow to obtain that prime-aged steak you seek.
There are some misconceptions about dry-aging your steak, and one of them is that you can simply line it with a paper towel or cheesecloth and leave it in your fridge for several days.
While this is a possible method to follow and will result in a certain degree of dehydration of the steak, it will not age them as you hope.
As mentioned, we shall discuss the timelines that you are looking at to age your steak correctly, but as a benchmark, some would say that the minimum is to allow the enzymes to tenderize the fibers for between 14 and 21 days. A week in a fridge will not give you the same results; instead, you will need to dedicate time, equipment, and a sizeable primal steak cut to do this.
You will need to begin with a top-grade prime piece of meat, and you cannot age steaks individually; instead, you need to opt for something like a large rib roast to work with.
Additionally, you want to go for a cut with a thick cap of fat on the exterior so that that section only loses fat and there will be less meat cut away when you near the end of the process.
What Equipment Will You Need To Age Your Steak?
The first thing you need to get started is a dedicated refrigerator solely for dry aging meat. You cannot age your meat in a fridge filled with other food products, and where the temperature cannot be set at a constant set of variables, such as the moisture levels.
You will also require a tray and a wire cooking rack (a small electric fan may help).
How To Dry-Age Steak At Home
Setting up your equipment for the dry-aging process is not overly complicated but must be done correctly; follow the steps below to see what you need to do.
- Firstly, you need to select your dedicated fridge and then, if possible, set a small electric fan inside to have a continuous airflow. Place the tray inside and position it under the wire rack so that it can collect the moisture that drips off from the meat. Elevate the wire rack to ensure airflow on all sides of the beef.
- Secondly, you want to place your cut of meat on the wire rack; the next part is simple… you wait. You can check on your steak occasionally, but do not do it too often as you do not want to alter the environment of the dry-aging process.
- Finally, remove it from the fridge once the cut has aged for your preferred amount of time. The meat’s exterior will dry, and it may have even developed mold on the surface. It would be best if you cut this and all exterior fat off. Once done, you are ready to cut the meat into the individual steaks.
How Long Should You Age Your Steak For?
The time you allow your steak to age is entirely up to you, but here is what to expect over various periods.
- Two weeks or less: There is little change noticeable after you have cooked the steaks, even if there is a dryness to the exterior after removing it from the fridge.
- 3 to 4 weeks: The steak is noticeably more tender, and this is what you could expect to be served at most steak houses, so you should enjoy it, but the flavor has not altered much from if you had not aged it.
- 5 to 6 weeks: This seems to be the sweet spot for dry-aging your steak. There are definitive changes to the flavoring, and the steaks’ overall moisture and juiciness are undoubtedly noticeable.
- 7 to 8 weeks: This is an extensive period to age your steak, and although some may enjoy the flavor, most people tend to find the steak overwhelming for their taste buds. Finding a restaurant serving steaks aged for this long is also improbable.
Aging steaks at home is not complicated, but it takes time and effort. It is a tricky and challenging task to maintain and control the levels of airflow, humidity, and temperature, especially when you lack professional equipment.
This means that the aging process is likely to be less precise than with professional dry-aging; however, this does not mean it is impossible. You can get quite good at dry-aging steak at home with practice and plenty of patience.
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