Can you tell a good steak from a bad one just by looking at it? Is a fresher steak going to be more succulent than a dry aged steak? The government is adamant that you can tell a steak is going to be good just by looking at it. That is the reason why USDA meat graders assess the quality of beef carcasses by making an incision between the 12th and 13th rib. They look to see how much marbling to the meat there is. They then assign the meat a specific grade, thus high, prime, choice, select and so forth. This is why a well marbled steak is one which has an abundance of fat specks and streaks. Yes, perchance it costs more, but it’s well worth the higher price tag. But there is much more to a great steak than intramuscular fat alone. Aging better the steaks because freshly slaughtered cows meat is tough and quite stringy. When beef is aged, the process tenderizes the meat so much and aids in enhancing its true beefy flavours. Beef was traditionally hung in cold rooms because the natural enzymes would break down the muscle fibres. But dry aging is not cheap.
This is why it costs so much for a dry aged steak in restaurants etc. Most beef lovers are not aware that beef loses weight due to evaporation. It forms a mouldy crust which needs to be cut away from the beef. Back in the 70’s wet aging was the way to process meat. Entire cuts of beef were wrapped in cellophane and it was so much cheaper. But cost has no bearing on taste, beef connoisseurs the world over will tell you that dry aged beef is the best. Maturity does wonders for a good piece of beef. While one may tend to think that a steak which is fresh and bleeds well has spectacular qualities. You will think differently once you cut into a dry aged steak and compare the differences. When beef is left to dry out in a cold room, the enzymes will begin to mature the meat and turn it to a crimson hue. The out layers of the beef hardens and forms a protective barrier to the elements, unfortunately many people tend to think this ruins the quality of the meat.
But this is simply a temporary coat, inside the crust the juices and enzymes are working together to turn a simple piece of meat into a delicacy. Over a period of approximately 2 weeks, muscle tissues and sinew begin to break down. This tenderizes the meat inside its harden coat. The meat is now quite dry on the outside and very dark indeed. Due to dry aging it loses very little moisture and that has a major impact on the quality of the beef. Lift the beef to your nose, it smells sweet doesn’t it? Feel the meat, your hand will come away clean. All the moisture is still trapped inside that outer crust. Can’t wait to sink your teeth into this can you? All good things come to those who wait! The beef is taken from the cold room, the crust cut off and the pan heated in preparation for you long awaited feast. It’s almost like a celebration isn’t it? Maturity, patience and knowledge work hand in hand to give you the most delicious steak you have ever eaten. Good isn’t it? Ah you look like you have died and gone to heaven. Well worth the wait wasn’t it?
Dry aged steak are wonderful but sometimes quite hard to find at your local butcher store. High quality butcher stores will often have it but it’s almost impossible to find in any supermarket meat section. Most supermarkets purchase their meat from large national meat suppliers. The majority of these vacuum pack their meat in plastic, refrigerate it for a few days or weeks. This is called Cryovac-wrapping which is ‘wet-aging‘. It produces a soft, tender steak with very little shrinking. The flavour is relatively mind but far from bland. A dry aged steak differs in the fact that it is firmer but tender at the very same age. It will give off a nutty, rich beef taste. You can dry age steak at home if you wish to do so and this is relatively easy. Follow each step below exactly as written for the sake of health and safety.
1) Use nothing but top grades of beef to dry age successfully. Opt for a USDA Choice or USDA Prime, yield grade 1 or 2. These cuts have a thick layer of fat on the outer side of the beef in order to protect the meat from spoiling during the aging process. Choose nothing but one of these.
2)purchase a whole rib-eye of loin strop as you can not dry age individual steaks. Unwrap this and rinse it well in cold water, drain it well then pat it dry with clean paper towels.
3) Wrap the meat in white cotton dish towels which have been boiled in hot water then dried to ensure no bacteria sits upon them. Now place the meat on the bottom shelf of your refrigerators and replace the moisture soiled towels with wet ones twice a day. You will be changing towels for approximately 10 to 14 days.
4) After the requited aging period, you can lop of some steaks from each end. Now trim the fat off and the hard crust. Allow the rest to continue aging.
5) After 21 days ( if there’s any meat left) cut the remainder into steaks and wrap these individually in freezer proof, heavy duty plastic wrap. Now freeze these, your steaks will keep for several months now. Bon appetite!