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Stuckey

Dry-aged beef

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I've never eaten dry-aged beef before, so I decided to splurge a bit and bought myself a nice 2-inch thick dry-aged T-bone steak, a bit more than a pound in weight. The butcher told me that it's been aged for around 7 weeks, but I understand normally dry-aged beef is aged for up to 28 days, so I'm really not sure if it's actually been aged 7 weeks.

I don't really know what to expect. I've read people say that dry-aged beef is rich and buttery tender, and others say that it tastes musty. I'm guessing the taste is not for everyone, and it's certainly not as widely-appealing as the average wet-aged beef that most people are used to.

The T-bone that I bought was cut to order for me. Parts of the steak are red, and other parts are dark grey in color. The steak doesn't smell rancid or have any other off smells, but I'm a bit apprehensive about eating beef that's grey, almost purple. Is this normal for dry-aged beef and safe to eat, or should I cut those parts off?

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I used to go to a butcher in Denver that sold dry-aged steaks at a premium over the non-aged beef. One day, just for an experiment, we got a less-aged prime rib and the nastiest-looking piece of dry-aged around. Looked damn near rancid. We did a taste-test. No contest -- the nasty-looking steak kicked the other steak's butt.

Expect it to taste good. Just eat and enjoy.

By the way, according to the butcher, a steak isn't really dry-aged unless you have to "shave" it -- slice the mold that's grown on the outside of the beef while it hangs in the meat locker. This is described in the brilliant essay "All You can Hold for Five Bucks" collected in Joseph Mitchell's Up in the Old Hotel (recommended both by Tony Bourdain and me, perfect for a last-minute Christmas gift for the food aficionado or New Yorker in your life) and excerpted here.

Classical beefsteak meat is carved off the shell, a section of the hindquarter of a steer: it is called "short loin without the fillet." To order a cut of it, a housewife would ask for a thick Delmonico. "You don't always get it at a beefsteak," Mr. Wertheimer said. "Sometimes they give you bull fillets. They're no good. Not enough juice in them, and they cook out black." While I watched, Mr. Wertheimer took a shell off a hook in his icebox and laid it on a big, maple block. It had been hung for eight weeks and was blanketed with blue mold. The mold was an inch thick. He cut off the mold. Then he boned the shell and cut it into six chunks. Then he sliced off all the fat. Little strips of lean ran through the discarded fat, and he deftly carved them out and made a mound of them on the block. "These trimmings, along with the tails of the steaks, will be ground up and served as appetizers," he said.

I'm on the pavement

Thinking about the government.

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When it comes to food, too much information is not a good thing for most people. Certainly a discussion about how long a piece of meat has been hanging is not the way to win over novice gastronomes. I pity them if they saw a market in France where the chickens or guinea fowl were hanging by the neck with feet on. Little do they know that the hens feet are even fine to go in a stock for their contribution of gelatin. Lets not talk about the hoofs in the consomme either.

At any rate, the flesh so aged will be very dark, firm, and exude a very pleasant aroma when freshly cut and trimmed. (pleasant for me anyway) If dry aged beef shoul be served to the unexpecting, a comment that the meat is borderline or gone, is not uncommon. Have fun and enjoy. This is a LUXURY.

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I don't really know what to expect. I've read people say that dry-aged beef is rich and buttery tender, and others say that it tastes musty. I'm guessing the taste is not for everyone, and it's certainly not as widely-appealing as the average wet-aged beef that most people are used to.

Dry aging affects texture and flavor.

Texture: on the one hand, because the cellular structure of the meat breaks down during aging (both dry and wet aging), the meat becomes more tender. On the other hand, with dry aging (as opposed to wet aging), you also have a lot of moisture loss. So the meat becomes, essentially, firmer. As a result, a dry-aged steak is both firmer and more tender than an unaged steak. The texture, ideally, is a little bit like refrigerator-temperature butter.

Flavor: the moisture loss alone leads to a concentration of flavor, so whatever flavors are in the meat are effectively amplified. The aging process itself also causes flavor development. It's not exactly easy to describe these flavors; they sort of have to be experienced. Some people react to their first aged steaks by thinking the meat has gone off, but it hasn't. Those funky, mature flavors are good, like the flavors of good cheeses and the like.

The T-bone that I bought was cut to order for me. Parts of the steak are red, and other parts are dark grey in color.

That's normal. Don't worry about it. It just means the steak wasn't gassed and shrink-wrapped like they do with supermarket steaks. Supermarket steaks will stay red and beautiful even after they're rancid. Butcher steaks will develop gray areas while they're still quite fresh.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Just want to add a note of reassurance. I am no connoisseur of meat but a complete convert to dry aged beef. I'd be surprised if you found the taste not to your liking. In my experience it is a mellow rather than strong effect. Also - don't worry about it being grey. For bacteria to live my understanding (I will wait for the flood of posts to correct me!) is that moisture must be present, remove/reduce the moisture and you significantly reduce the risk of eating something that is 'off'.

If I recall correctly Heston Blumenthal once did an article in one of the UK papers about how to dry age your own meat at home in the fridge - will try and find it

ETA - and here it is!

Heston DIY

Don't know if it's strictly 'dry ageing' though maybe just ageing

Enjoy - I am envious!


Edited by Romaney O'Malley (log)

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By the way, according to the butcher, a steak isn't really dry-aged unless you have to "shave" it -- slice the mold that's grown on the outside of the beef while it hangs in the meat locker.

That's why they age full primal cuts, and not individual steaks. By the time it's cut into a steak, all the nastiness should be gone (part of the reason you pay so much per pound is the amount of meat lost to desication and spoilage).

7 weeks is a long time; I'm used to 3 or 4 weeks. Some of the very expensive butchers go 6 or more (like Lobels in NYC). I've heard that the extra time leads to very pronounced changes in flavor. Please let us know how it is.


Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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I've never eaten dry-aged beef before, so I decided to splurge a bit and bought myself a nice 2-inch thick dry-aged T-bone steak, a bit more than a pound in weight. The butcher told me that it's been aged for around 7 weeks, but I understand normally dry-aged beef is aged for up to 28 days, so I'm really not sure if it's actually been aged 7 weeks.

I don't really know what to expect. I've read people say that dry-aged beef is rich and buttery tender, and others say that it tastes musty. I'm guessing the taste is not for everyone, and it's certainly not as widely-appealing as the average wet-aged beef that most people are used to.

The T-bone that I bought was cut to order for me. Parts of the steak are red, and other parts are dark grey in color. The steak doesn't smell rancid or have any other off smells, but I'm a bit apprehensive about eating beef that's grey, almost purple. Is this normal for dry-aged beef and safe to eat, or should I cut those parts off?

You will have to cook and taste and determine of you like it. Just because a butcher sells you 'dry aged' beef, doesn't mean the butcher knows what he is doing and the steak is going to be good. I don't think you mentioned the USDA grade.

It's an iterative process, you purchase a steak, cook and make decision. Most of the time when I try a new source that someone tells me about its not what I want.

I stick to one purveyor of USDA Prime dry aged and one purveryor of Waygu/kobe beef but that was after years of searching.

For USDA Choice, the local Pick n Save does as good a job as anyone at decent prices.-Dick

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Thanks to everyone for your advice and reassurance!

I cooked up this beauty on the weekend:

gallery_20195_4713_164180.jpg

I cooked it on my Big Green Egg and used the TRex method (sear the steak, then remove from the heat and let it rest for 20 minutes while the Egg settles down to around 350F, then about 4 minutes a side to medium-rare).

gallery_20195_4713_43295.jpg

I was very pleased. In fact, it probably WAS the best steak I had ever eaten! I had simply rubbed it with Maldon salt, pepper, and extra virgin olive oil right before cooking, and I squeezed some fresh lemon juice over it before eating.

It definitely was NOT musty tasting in any way. No off flavours, either. It was very tender, but not as strong in flavour as I had expected. Just like Romaney had indicated, it was quite mellow, but in a good way!

I have to admit though, although it was a very good steak, I don't know if it was so good because it was dry-aged, or because it was just a very high quality steak to begin with. I've only recently started paying a lot more for premium meat from a gourmet butcher, so maybe I just hadn't had a decent T-bone before. I think to truly experience the difference between a dry-aged steak and one that hasn't been dry-aged is to do a side-by-side comparison.

Oh, and since I'm in Australia, I don't believe we have different grades of beef as there are in the States. I'm not sure whether my steak would've been considered a Prime cut or Choice.

Thanks again, everyone! Oh, and Merry Christmas! :biggrin:


Edited by Stuckey (log)

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long dry aging (6-8 weeks) is critical to the taste of a good steak in my book... it improves a good prime steak immeasurably, and does amazing things for a choice steak as well. in fact id take a choice dry aged steak over a prime wet aged one any day.

almost all aging in the uk is dry aging (or hanging, as its called there). ive never seen cryovaced wet aging meat in the uk. it doesnt mean its totally not don, but i believe you are more likely to find unaged steaks than wet aged ones.

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Vogue magazine's food critic Jeffrey Steingarten writes an in-depth article about USDA beef grading and dry/wet aging in his book It Must've Been Something I ate. I'd suggest purchasing and then reading the entire book for this information alone.

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I just returned from Las Vegas. While there, I had an opportunity to have some aged steaks. Some REALLY aged steaks. They were MUCH older than what is being talked about here in this topic. The steaks I had were aged eight months. For good measure, a steak that was a mere 60 days was served just as a way to compare. You can see my write up of that meal (complete with some photos) over in the Las Vegas dining topic. Just follow the link.. (You'll need to scroll down a bit to get past some reports on other meals I had in Las Vegas)

What is the upper limit on aged beef? Reading through this topic anda few others on this subject, it seems like 30-60 days is considered to be a good amount of aging. Based on my experience this past weekend, their was a significant difference between the 8 month steaks and the 60 day steak. The 60 day steak was terrific, but the 8 month stuff was something very different. How far can this be pushed?

Who else is doing this in the United States? From our conversations with the staff at Carnevino, they said they weren't aware of anyone doing anything like this. Has anyone seen anything like this in other restaurants or butcher shops?


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I would have thought that by 8 months time it would be like prosciutto (or basturma I should say for the case of beef) - very dried out?

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I would have thought that by 8 months time it would be like prosciutto (or basturma I should say for the case of beef) - very dried out?

My dried beef (Viande ded Grisons) is ready in six months. There is a difference however, in that my pieces were brine injected. This should accelerate the drying process as the flesh character has been altered. Fresh flesh obviously behaves differently from meat prepared for curing

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I would have thought that by 8 months time it would be like prosciutto (or basturma I should say for the case of beef) - very dried out?

It certainly had a ham like quality to it. Not juicy like a regular steak, of course. But it wasn't bone dry or anything like that.

The beef is dried in whole primal cuts, not individual cut steaks. There is a good deal of waste


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I don't know anyone else doing anything close to 8 months. Is this something that was a favor from the chef to the diner, or do they keep a regular stock of 8 month aged beef?

The closest thing I can think of is David Burke's Primehouse in Chicago...but I think they cap out at 80 days or so.

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I don't know anyone else doing anything close to 8 months.  Is this something that was a favor from the chef to the diner, or do they keep a regular stock of 8 month aged beef?

The closest thing I can think of is David Burke's Primehouse in Chicago...but I think they cap out at 80 days or so.

From what we were told, it's something they do regularly.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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to see my photo spread of both the meat locker at Batali's Carnevino in Vegas, and the steaks enjoyed by me and Mr. Meeker, go to www.eatinglv.com. To answer one of the questions, they have an entire program in place to age beef between 6-8 months and serve it as a "riserva" steaks (very expensive -- $65-$100/inch(!) -- meaning a porterhouse will run around $200 (but is more than enough for three people.

To my taste buds -- they are the best steaks I've ever had.

John Curtas

www.eatinglv.com

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I'd be curious about the rationale behind six month or longer aging. I don't know if the enzymes keep doing their thing at a continuous rate. Or if they end up doing something else at some point. The drying process will continue indefinitely, however, which means a huge amount of meat will desiccate and have to be thrown out.

My butcher custom ages meat for me. He's done everything from the more pedestrian four and five week stints all the way up to ten weeks. After eight weeks, the differences are minimal and inconsistent. In fact, for reasons I don't understand, the most intense aged flavor I've ever experienced came from a six week aged strip steak.

I suspect methodology (temperature, humidity, ventilation) has a lot to do with it, and I know for sure that my butcher is no lab technician.

At any rate, a meaningful comparison would require two pieces of meat that as identical as possible in all ways except the duration of aging. I haven't had a chance to try this.


Notes from the underbelly

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What I can say is there was a pretty distinct difference between the 8 month aged steaks and the 60 day (8 weeks) aged steak. Not just flavor, but texture as well. Of course, you make a fair point that the starting point could play a big difference. If I recall correctly, they said they were pretty choosy in selecting the primals to age (or keep aging) for a really long period of time.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I'd be curious to know if they were aged under the same conditions. For that matter, I'd just like to know what conditions they used for the 8 month meat.

Even with aging times a quarter as long, it's a tricky balancing act: if the humidity is too low, the meat completely dries out ... you get a subprimal sized piece of jerkey. If the humidity is too high, you get a petry dish. If the temperature is too low, the enzymes don't do their job. If it's too high, you get a petry dish.

Some people keep the meat under UV light, to slow down microbial action on the surface. I don't know if this is enough to keep the meat from spoiling on the inside.


Notes from the underbelly

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From the photographs posted by John Curtas, I'm guessing they're all aged in the same room, but they are probably selecting as they go, cutting primals that look like they're going to decline and letting the ones that look like they can take a few more weeks without going bad continue to age. It is probably hard to predict which ones will start molding first, as is the case with salami and other cured meats.

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From the photographs posted by John Curtas, I'm guessing they're all aged in the same room, but they are probably selecting as they go, cutting primals that look like they're going to decline and letting the ones that look like they can take a few more weeks without going bad continue to age.  It is probably hard to predict which ones will start molding first, as is the case with salami and other cured meats.

This is what they do. Or at least, what the chef told us while at the restaurant. I didn't see the meat in the aging room. That's actually done in a separate location and not within the restuant itself.

It certainly wouldn't surprise me if there was a lot of additional waste where they took a primal too far and had to toss it. That will certainly contibute to the high prices for these steaks.


Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"
jmeeker@eGullet.org

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I just picked up a steak that was aged for 8-10 weeks... it's about 14 oz, but there's a little more for me to trim before it's ready.

Given just how old it is, the butcher suggested soaking in warm water for a while to rehydrate parts of it. I thought I'd see if anyone has experience cooking one this dry before I do anything!

Not a great photo of it, but gives you an idea of what I'm working with:

steak.png


Edited by davidkeay (log)

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I just picked up a steak that was aged for 8-10 weeks... it's about 14 oz, but there's a little more for me to trim before it's ready.

Given just how old it is, the butcher suggested soaking in warm water for a while to rehydrate parts of it. I thought I'd see if anyone has experience cooking one this dry before I do anything!

Not a great photo of it, but gives you an idea of what I'm working with:

ID cut out the eye..or the center..and cook it separate...that PIece....Would be better broken down..I think


Its good to have Morels

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That's how I was starting to think about it. The eye looks pretty usable as is. The rest, I'm not sure. I wonder if it could be sliced very thin like cured meat and eaten that way, despite the lack of salt.

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