O, what joy meat lovers experience when eating a well matured, correctly prepared steak. The flavors and earthiness bring even the most dormant taste sensations back to life.
Sour-tasting steak is an indication of the way the steak was aged. A sour taste, resembling sour cream or buttermilk, indicates that the steak was wet-aged. Dry-aged steak’s flavor profile includes nutty, earthy, beefy flavors. Different meat aging processes create other flavor profiles.
Why Does Wet-Aged Meat Have A Sour Taste?
To understand the sour taste in wet-aged meat, one must understand the wet-aging process compared to dry-aging, what cuts of meat are better suited for wet or dry aging and why different aging methods produce various tasting meats.
The Process Of Wet-Aging Steak
The wet aging of steaks kicks off by selecting the pieces of meat to be aged. Immediately after cutting the steaks, the beef is vacuum-sealed in plastic bags. The meat is then stored in freezers at low but not freezing temperatures.
There is a difference in opinion regarding how long wet-aged steaks should be aged. It seems that ten days is the minimum, but meat connoisseurs would argue that a period of between thirty-five and sixty days of maturing produces optimum taste.
What Causes Wet-Aged Meat To Taste Sour?
The process of wet-aging steak commences when the meat is vacuum-sealed in plastic bags to tenderize and develop the flavors. The vacuumed plastic bag does not allow any moisture to evaporate, causing the beef to age in its blood and water. Enzymes that naturally occur in meat add to the aging process by breaking down the flesh.
Aging meat refers to beef’s decaying process. Modern-day steak aging is done with utmost care and control to ensure the steaks produced are of the highest quality, meeting all safety and health standards.
The wet-aging process, which can last up to sixty days, creates an almost bloody/meatier flavor to the steak, accompanied by a sour taste resembling sour cream or buttermilk.
The slightly sour taste of wet-aged steak should not be confused with a decaying steak’s foul, rancid taste and smell.
What Meat Cuts Are Best For Wet-Aging And Why?
Different aging processes call for specific cuts of meat.
Popular steak cuts for wet-aged steaks include Filet Mignon, boneless Strip steak, Flat Iron steak, T-bone, Porterhouse, and bone-in Ribeye.
The above cuts suit wet aging because these cuts contain less fat or marbling. As a result, the wet aging process needs less time to complete than dry aging. As a result, meat for wet aging is processed and packed quicker than dry aging.
Steak cuts suitable for wet aging are also not protected by bone or fat against pre-mature decaying as with dry age cuts. Wet-aged steak cuts contain all their moisture since they are aged while vacuum-packed.
During the aging process, the steak ages in its moisture, which also means less weight loss during the aging process, which ensure more meat for your buck.
Do Dry-Aged Steak Taste Different To Wet Aged Steak?
Earthy and nutty are words used to describe the flavors of the dry-aged steak. These flavors develop during the aging process and deliver a meatier, more robust-tasting steak.
Therefore, the flavor profile of dry-aged steak is much different from that of wet-aged steak.
A dry-aged steak is very tender due to the long aging process. However, during the long aging process, the fibers in the meat become moist and more flavorful. Therefore, a third flavor that adds more depth to the flavor profile of dry-aged steak adds a blue cheese tartness.
The Process Of Dry Ageing Steak
Dry aging steak is a much longer process than wet aging steaks.
Dry aging steaks produce interesting challenges in keeping the meat fresh and well preserved while allowing the flavors to develop without decaying.
The process of dry-aging steaks begins shortly after slaughtering. Soon after, the steaks are cut and hung in a temperature and humidity regulated room for twenty-one to a hundred and twenty days.
During this time, the meat tenderizes, and the rich flavors that dry-aged steak is renowned for develop.
What Causes Dry Aged Meat’s Rich Flavor?
Hanging steaks in a humid and moisture-controlled room allow the meat’s natural enzymes to start breaking down the collagen. Collagen makes meat tough, and the more the collagen gets broken down, the more tender the meat becomes.
In other words, dry-aged meat is the controlled decaying of meat.
While hanging, the meat loses a lot of moisture, which causes a more concentrated flavor.
Consumers of dry-aged steak describe the taste as robust, earthy, and nutty. The sweet corn-like smell of dry-aged steak closely resembles that of cooked beer. However, the smell and taste of dry-aged steak are not to everyone’s liking.
What Meat Cuts Are Best For Dry-Aging And Why?
It is important to note that different cuts of meat also age differently.
The best steak cuts for dry aging are New York Strip, Ribeye, Sirloin, Rump, and Fillet.
This beef cuts age well when using the dry age method. These cuts contain more fat and marbling, which intensifies the flavor due to losing moisture. Natural enzymes and healthy bacteria decay the meat, hence the tenderness of the dry-aged steak.
Price Difference Between Wet Aged and Dry-Aged Steak
There are significant price differences between wet-aged and dry-aged steak.
Wet age steaks are vacuum-sealed in plastic bags and therefore do not lose their moisture. The contained moisture ensures that no weight is lost. In addition, the wet age process is a much quicker process than dry aging, thus lowering the cost compared to dry-aged steak.
On the other hand, dry-aging steak is a very time-consuming process. In addition, loss due to trimming and moisture loss after the process is completed results in far lower yields, adding to the increased price of dry-aged steak.
The debate around which steak aging method is best is as old as time itself. Research has shown that 90% of Americans prefer the wet-age method, producing steaks with more palatable flavors at affordable prices.
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