A butcher’s guide to dry aged meat: what is it and what are its benefits?
- Credit: Archant
Ever been to a restaurant or shop and wondered what a dry aged steak was – and why it came with a higher price tag than fresh meat?
We spoke to James George from Select Butchery to find out more about dry aging and how to make sure you’re getting the best quality cut.
What is dry aging?
Dry aging is a carefully controlled decaying process, which, as grisly as it sounds, actually helps to enhance the flavour and tenderness of the meat. It’s usually beef that goes through this process, although other meats such as pork and lamb can also be aged.
The process involves hanging cuts of beef in an environment with a specific temperature and humidity level to draw out excess moisture and reduce bacterial growth. “This allows the connective tissues to break down over longer periods of time, making the meat really tender and giving it more depth of flavour,” explains James.
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Beef can be left to age for anywhere between 14 to 60 days – the longer you age it for, the more intense the flavour will be. “We recommend around 35 days but if you are feeling adventurous then you could try longer – but it’s not for the faint hearted,” adds James.
Is dry aged meat safe?
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Yes. The dry aging process takes place in a controlled environment to reduce contamination and bacterial growth. After the meat has been aged for the appropriate time, the outer surfaces are trimmed away to further ensure it is safe to eat.
How does it affect the quality of the meat?
Dry aged steaks are generally considered the crème de le crème among meat lovers. Wet aged beef (which involves vacuum-sealing the meat in a plastic bag) is matured over a much shorter period, so the flavour and tenderness isn’t as developed in comparison to a dry aged meat. “In this case, I believe it’s true to say that the best things come to those who wait,” says James.
Dry aged steak tends to be more expensive than wet aged for a couple of reasons: firstly, because the process requires specialist equipment and takes a longer time, and secondly because there is often much less meat left after it has lost moisture and the surface has been trimmed.
What cuts are the best?
Prime cuts with the bone in that have a good covering of fat and are well marbled will produce the best results. “Popular dry aged cuts of steak include T-bone, rib eye, fillet and sirloin,” says James, “but I also recommend trying Côte de boeuf, Chateaubriand and the increasingly popular Tomahawk steaks.”
How do I store dry aged beef?
Ideally, you’ll want to cook dry aged beef on the day of purchase. You can also freeze the steak, but try to avoid letting it sit in the fridge for days as this can interfere with the aging process.
Where can I buy dry aged meat?
For the biggest range and highest quality, you can’t beat your local butcher shop. Butchers are meat experts and can advise you on the best cuts and even how to prepare a dry aged steak for the best results. “Our butchers have trained for years to develop their skills so they can provide a high standard of service,” says James. “We love the relationships we have with our customers and suppliers alike. You don’t get that with a larger supermarket chain.”
Another benefit of going to your local butchers is that they can tell you exactly where your meat comes from. “We’re regularly in touch with our suppliers around the UK so we know exactly where and how their livestock is reared and fed. It means we can be confident that we provide the best quality produce to our customers,” says James.
Select Butchery offers a range of high quality, sustainably sourced dry aged cuts available to buy from their shop. You can also buy meat online via their app and benefit from the butcher’s delivery service if you live within a five-mile radius of the shop.
“We also offer a bespoke butcher service for customers who want something a bit special,” adds James. “We’ll cut, trim and pack to each customer’s specification.”