A properly dry aged steak can give layers of flavor depth to an already delicious sub primal cut of beef such as a prime rib or a top butt (sirloin). Dry aging steak at home is a process that should be left for the refined chef who has trained their palate and can sense the subtle differences between the scent of a well-aged steak and a spoiled one. For the experienced chef or the curious observer, learning how to dry age steak safely is a rewarding experience. Discovering the process of a properly aged steak is both fascinating to the intellect and pleasing to the belly.
This is a process for the patient chef who loves to discover how to cultivate and refine flavors. A home brewer, coffee roaster, herb gardener are all culinary craftsmen whose personality profile can parallel to that of the home dry ager.
Dry aging is a lengthy refrigeration process that draws out liquid from the meat which concentrates the flavor and builds a thin layer of healthy, slightly moldy bacteria which is similar to blue cheese.
The process of aging adds depth of flavor by concentrating the natural, beefy flavors of the steak and incorporating enzymes which give the meat nutty and bold elements. Fair warning though as a well-aged steak is not for everyone. If you are someone who enjoys food and drinks that lean towards the acquired taste category, then you will probably (eventually) enjoy the strong, pungent profile of dry aged beef.
Aged meat will lose liquid and dramatically shrink in size, so it is best to leave sub primal cuts the way they are and avoid slicing them into steaks and filets until after the aging process is complete. The following sub primal cuts are optimal for dry aging as they contain a fair amount of marbling:
Choosing to dry age steak at home takes a dedicated commitment to procuring the proper equipment and overseeing the aging process from beginning to end. The dry ager also has to be aware of unforeseen circumstances that can potentially spoil their meat. The refrigerator might have been contaminated by foreign substances entering the unit, or a part may fail. But if you are up to the challenge, the resulting flavor and tenderness of the steak can be a rewarding culinary experience.
It is of upmost importance to use a dedicated fridge for dry aging. This means that the fridge will be used for dry aging beef, and only dry aging beef. Dry aging different types of foods together in the same fridge intermingles those flavors and that can ruin the natural flavors of the steak that the dry aging process is meant to enhance. Dry aging in a non-dedicated refrigerator can also affect moisture levels.
In addition to a dedicated fridge, in order to have proper air flow, a small electric fan should be installed inside the fridge. Aging meat with this setup also requires a wire rack to place the meat on and a drip pan or cookie sheet to catch the drippings.
It is recommended that in order to achieve optimal tenderness, beef should be aged for at least 14 days. Beyond that, is entirely up the chef’s flavor preferences. The longer meat is aged, the more of the nutty, funky, blue cheese like tang the meat will have. Be sure not to age it too long though as black mold can develop if the steak is aged too long or improperly.
These are the different phase of dry aged beef and their different characteristics:
During this stage, the collagen has just begun to break down. The characteristic flavors and tenderness dry aging is known for has not yet developed during this stage. If someone is going to go through the process of the proper set up and procuring an expensive cut of meat, it is best to let steak age well beyond this stage.
Aging steak to 30 days is the most requested length. By this time, the steak is very tender and has notes of buttery flavors. Closer to 45 days and beyond is when a white crust starts to develop. The crust which is made of mold and salt, will get more pronounced as the steak ages on.
The crust forms around the meat and is like a cheese rind. Steaks aged this long are not for the faint of heart as the moldy flavor is very pungent and overpowering.
As stated previously, a dedicated refrigerator is crucial for dry aging steaks safely at home. Installing a fan is also important so there is proper air flow throughout.
Temperature should be set between 32°F and 40°F.
For proper airflow, the meat should be sitting on a bare rack and a fan should be installed inside the refrigerator. Airflow will also help control humidity levels which should be between 65% to 86%. A tray full of rock salt, or a salt block can be placed on a rack below the meat to help reduce humidity as well. For those that live in a humid climate, humidity levels should be kept lower than 80%.
A roast with rib bones should simply cut in between the bones to form steaks. All of the crust that has formed on the edges of the steaks should be trimmed off as well. If the roast is boneless, then cuts should be made of equal width to form the steaks.
Lightly colored mold that forms around the meat is natural during the dry aging process. However, if the mold is dark or black, it’s a sign your meat has spoiled. It is better to be safe than sorry and toss the meat versus trying to trim it off. Black mold is extremely dangerous if consumed accidentally.
After trimming the crusty exterior, the meat should be a deep red color. However, if it is dark, slimy and has a greenish tint, the meat has probably spoiled.
Louisiana Grills are the perfect tool to grill steaks that have been carefully refined through the aging process. Most pellet grills are simply unable to reach temperature levels that are optimal to perform the classic reverse sear, but thanks to LG’s flame broiler plate technology, anyone can master a deliciously charred crust.