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The 42 day dry aged experience


paulraphael
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In another thread I raved about Jeffrey's Meat on the Lower East Side in Manhattan. One of their best perks is that they'll dry age meat to your specifications. It's a free service; you'll pay for the pre-aged weight of the meat and will expect to lose weight and volume the longer it goes.

I haven't had a chance to take them up on this yet, but at any given time they usually have a few subprimals that have been aged like meat was meant to be aged. Yesterday I saw some six week NY strip steaks, and couldn't resist.

To put it in perspective, my other favorite butchers age up to 21 days. A friend who works at Craft says their meat gets custom aged for them for 35 days. Lobel's in NYC ages some of their meat for 42 days, for more than double the price I paid. But for just a bit more than what I paid, Jeffrey's sometimes has 8 week aged beef (sadly, none yesterday).

And if you're patient enough to have them do it for you, and have a big enough order for it to be worth it, they'll go longer. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall says in The River Cottage Meat book that he's gone as long as nine weeks, and liked it. He describes this as hanging time no butcher would risk, but I'm sure Jeffrey would age meat for a decade if you bought him a beer.

Anyway, on to the steaks:

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The raw shell steaks coming up to room temp.

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Thinly sliced hen of the woods mushroom for the sauce

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Searing in grapeseed oil that's about to combust

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Basting with brown butter

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Sauce with beef coulis, maitake mushroom, and thyme, finished with butter

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Out of focus but delicious.

No pics of the plated meal. We were too hungry.

The steaks were the best tasting I've ever had, easily. The cooked flavor was forshadowed by the smell of the raw meat--sweet, nutty, and almost buttery. The texture was tender, but with a satisfying resistance to the tooth. Unfortunately, the steaks weren't cut perfectly evenly; they ranged from 1-1/4" to 1-1/2". I cooked the thick parts rare but the thiner parts became medium rare and were decidely less succulent.

The flavor of the meat not only stood up to the earthy/beefy intensity of the sauce, but harmonized with it wonderfully. The meat was great on its own. With the sauce it picked up added dimensions without losing any of its unique character.

The meat had a kind of volatile aromatic character that reminded me of truffles. It gave a sense of potent, exotic vapors that filled my head with flavor, lingered for a long time after the meal, and made me feel a bit drunk.

Not a bad buzz for $22 a pound.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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Beautiful. Do you know how thick the steaks were when originally cut?

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

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Beautiful. Do you know how thick the steaks were when originally cut?

I measured them before cooking them; not when they were first cut. Now that you ask, I realize they were probably cut straight but shrunk unevenly. Jeffrey cut them on the bandsaw ... a machine with few charms, but straight cutting is one of them.

Notes from the underbelly

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Those look great - very nice job getting a crust on there while keeping to what looks like a perfect medium rare.

Just FYI: I've had 60+ day dry aged steak at both Primehouse and Craftsteak, and both were exquisite. I'd personally recommend Primehouse if they have it (not on the menu, was a daily special) as the meat had a distinctive sourness to it that I felt was simply sensational. It had become so condensed that each little sliver felt like a massive slice once I put it in my mouth cause so much moisture had left the meat. The craftsteak was less sour and sensational, but more meaty. I actually didn't want to go further (they offered a 72 day one as well), and future orders there hung around the 50 day mark for me. Just tonight I had a 4 week steak at BLT Prime and find that anything under 42 days really doesn't do it for me anymore, even though it's vastly more flavorful than bloody fresh meat of course.

As for the butcher, I read your last report and was happy to have read it. In between waiting for a table at Shopsins I did a quick tour around the market and didn't see anything in his window cases that suggested the goodness that he might have tucked away in the meat locker. In fact nothing struck me as special at all. So good to know.

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Holy wow, 60 and 72 days. I've never heard of anything like that. I wonder if they have to do anything special (control the temperature differently, age only whole primals, etc. etc.)

You usually get less dehydration and trim loss percent using larger pieces. The longer the aging time, the greater this benefit would be. But despite this, most dry-aging these days is sub-primal, probably for ease of handling.

Other than that, the process is pretty much standard no matter how long you dry-age: 32-36F, around 80-90% humidity (aging does work at lower humidity, but your weight loss would be appalling over a long aging time), lots of air flow and careful bacteria control (UV light is your friend).

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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Colicchio gets his steaks custom-aged from DeBragga & Spitler in the Meatpacking District in NYC. When I attended the Food TV Food & Wine Festival last month, I was fortunate to learn all about their operation. Read about it starting here.

Chris Amirault

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Holy wow, 60 and 72 days. I've never heard of anything like that. I wonder if they have to do anything special (control the temperature differently, age only whole primals, etc. etc.)

You usually get less dehydration and trim loss percent using larger pieces. The longer the aging time, the greater this benefit would be. But despite this, most dry-aging these days is sub-primal, probably for ease of handling.

Other than that, the process is pretty much standard no matter how long you dry-age: 32-36F, around 80-90% humidity (aging does work at lower humidity, but your weight loss would be appalling over a long aging time), lots of air flow and careful bacteria control (UV light is your friend).

David Burke ages beef up to 80 days in a specially constructed room made out of Himalayan salt blocks.

John Sconzo, M.D. aka "docsconz"

"Remember that a very good sardine is always preferable to a not that good lobster."

- Ferran Adria on eGullet 12/16/2004.

Docsconz - Musings on Food and Life

Slow Food Saratoga Region - Co-Founder

Twitter - @docsconz

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With dry aging, does more equal better, or is there a "sweet spot" where the flavor and texture peak?

Some people only like a certain amount of mineraly funkiness to a steak, or none at all. For those who love that taste and aroma, the best steak is the one that's aged as much as possible before it rots. For others, a more moderate amount of aging is preferable -- I think that's most people; in fact most people probably prefer the "fresh" taste of wet aged.

David Burke ages beef up to 80 days in a specially constructed room made out of Himalayan salt blocks.

Who doesn't?

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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With dry aging, does more equal better, or is there a "sweet spot" where the flavor and texture peak?

My butcher ages for 35 days and that's just about pushing the envelope for me in terms of peak flavour. I prefer the 28 days that our local Whole Foods does.

Marlene

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Practice. Do it over. Get it right.

Mostly, I want people to be as happy eating my food as I am cooking it.

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Some people only like a certain amount of mineraly funkiness to a steak, or none at all. For those who love that taste and aroma, the best steak is the one that's aged as much as possible before it rots. For others, a more moderate amount of aging is preferable -- I think that's most people; in fact most people probably prefer the "fresh" taste of wet aged. 

The steaks I've bought most often are aged 21 days. Compared with wet aged beef they have a more beefy flavor, and are a bit more tender. I've tasted some of that mineral flavor you mention in some cuts (like the rib) but not others.

I have yet to serve this to anyone who doesn't find it superior to wet aged meat.

The 42 day steak took on much more of a distinctive aged quality. The nutty, sweet, buttery flavors dominated ... but there wasn't any of that funkiness or gaminess people mention in this particular sample. Only two of us were able to compare, but we both thought it was incomparably better than both the 21 day dry aged and any wet aged steak we've had.

I won't even buy steak that's been aged in a cryovac (with the exception of cuts like hanger, where you often don't have a choice). It's just not worth it to me. I'll save up and have the dry aged stuff half as often.

Notes from the underbelly

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David Burke ages beef up to 80 days in a specially constructed room made out of Himalayan salt blocks.

This might be a trend... there's a photo of another pink-Himalayan-salt-block dry-aging room at the Council Oak restaurant in Tampa in this article: http://www.fesmag.com/article/CA6549987.html

Salt makes some sense because not many bacteria are going to live on it... but the pink Himalayan thing is a bit silly.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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With dry aging, does more equal better, or is there a "sweet spot" where the flavor and texture peak?

This is a question of perception, so the sweet spot will differ according to taste (some people like funky cheese; some don't). But many studies I've seen say that for typical consumers, it's around 14-28 days - which, unsurprisingly, was what a lot of good beef was aged for before the era of the vac-bag. Beyond that, you're getting slower change and are appealing to a smaller group of consumers who are after a specialty product.

The "number of days" thing has become an end in itself. "More days dry-aged = better" is now upscale steakhouse marketing gospel, so the focus is on aging as long as the customer wants with the least weight loss, rather than focusing on the result.

That's not to say that there's not great long-dry-aged beef; but that there's probably also less-aged stuff that would do as good in a blind test. I once did a small blind taste test (wet vs dry vs minimal age) with some very high-quality beef, and the results were surprisingly inconclusive. I'd like to try that again on a bigger sample.

Those of you who want to read further may find this summary from the US National Cattleman's Ass'n a good starting point; it cites many of the studies done recently:

http://www.beefresearch.org/CMDocs/BeefRes...20of%20Beef.pdf

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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I once did a small blind taste test (wet vs dry vs minimal age) with some very high-quality beef, and the results were surprisingly inconclusive.

There have also been a number of contradictory study results (as noted in the document you've linked to). Up until pretty recently, I'd have dismissed all support for wet aging as uninformed, however a meal at Table 31 -- a steakhouse in Philadelphia -- demonstrated that a lot can be accomplished with wet aging.

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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There have also been a number of contradictory study results (as noted in the document you've linked to). Up until pretty recently, I'd have dismissed all support for wet aging as uninformed, however a meal at Table 31 -- a steakhouse in Philadelphia -- demonstrated that a lot can be accomplished with wet aging.

The key studies cited in that paper strike me as too limited in scope to allow any broad conclusions. This is the study that showed a preference for wet aged over dry aged steaks. It tells us that 46% percent of the subjects prefered wet aged and 28% prefered dry aged. But we don't know much about the steaks in question, besides the cut and grade. And much more significantly, we don't know much about the test subjects, other than that they were from Denver and Chicago, and that they were "consumers."

What results would you expect if you asked a similar population to compare a craft beer to Buddweiser? I think it would be much more of a litmus test of the population than a serious taste test of the beer.

Steve, since your meal at the steakhouse offered no direct comparisons (the same cut from the same beef cooked the same but aged differently), it really only allows one conclusion: that wet aging CAN allow for good tasting results. But it doesn't tell us anything about how that steak might have tasted if dry aged.

My personal experience (unreliable for all the same reasons) tells me it's no contest. Prime beef that's well dry aged tastes different (and better) to me than beef that isn't. My experience with beef that's aged a long time is very limited, but so far it suggests that the differences are drastic. And I could imagine that they wouldn't be to everyone's taste.

Edited by paulraphael (log)

Notes from the underbelly

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A few years ago I was dry ageing beef loins using various methods..I did several wet ages up to 60 days. I was not overly impressed with the wet aged method.

I also did dry ages up to 45 days, and found them to be much better.

The one age that I did, that was the strangest , was a leg of lamb that I did for at least 50 days, (I forgot about it). I cut the Dark outer layer off and cut it into bright red, inch thick steaks and grilled it. It was spectacular!

Bud

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Having tasted both side-by-side at that DeBragga & Spitler meat event linked above, I can say that wet- and dry-aged are very different products, akin to aged cheddar vs aged blue cheese. They both have a complexity of flavor that's not there in the unaged products, but the dry-aged stuff has funk that wet-aged stuff seems to lack. Indeed, the dry-aged funk had, to my taste, a very blue cheese, mushroom umami that I loved and that others there found distasteful, even unbeeflike.

Chris Amirault

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There is a local area butcher in Plano that claims to do 6 week dry aged prime beef. I wonder if I should suck up the cost and buy one or two steaks to try it out.

Do you cook a dry aged steak that differently than a "conventional" steak? I have never cooked a dry aged steak like that before.

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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There is a local area butcher in Plano that claims to do 6 week dry aged prime beef.  I wonder if I should suck up the cost and buy one or two steaks to try it out.

Do you cook a dry aged steak that differently than a "conventional" steak? I have never cooked a dry aged steak like that before.

Nope, same way as normal. Dry-aged has less moisture, but it doesn't affect the process that much.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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hi,

In my experience with home dry aged steaks, you have to be very careful to watch your steaks.  It is very easy to overshoot that sweet spot of medium- rare.

Tim

by that, do you mean home cooked dry aged steaks you buy from a local butcher or do you mean steaks you actually dry age yourself at home?

Jeff Meeker, aka "jsmeeker"

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Is there a difference in the steaks that would benefit from this sort of extreme aging? More/less marbling (I have this nagging feeling that some of the incredibly marbled cuts I have seen on some of the 'meat porn' pics on egullet might not work so well, but can't really explain why!), feed, breeds etc?

I love animals.

They are delicious.

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Is there a difference in the steaks that would benefit from this sort of extreme aging? More/less marbling (I have this nagging feeling that some of the incredibly marbled cuts I have seen on some of the 'meat porn' pics on egullet might not work so well, but can't really explain why!), feed, breeds etc?

Reasonably well-marbled (by US standards) primals or sub-primals suitable for grilling benefit the most from aging. In the US, that means Choice and Prime grade strip loins and ribs. Lamb also benefits.

Very lean beef (including filet) and primals that usually need to be moist-cooked (like chuck) don't benefit as much and are rarely dry-aged.

While feed and breed influence flavour, the benefits of aging would be similar for all.

There isn't much point in prolonged dry-aging extremely well-marbled Japanese-style beef because it's already very tender, and given how expensive it is, the cost of losing 25% of it to dehydration and trim would be severe. Another reason this doesn't happen might be that Japanese prefer 'fresher' tasting beef as opposed to the somewhat 'high' aroma of dry-aged (most Americans probably feel the same way these days), and this stuff is mainly sold to the Japanese market.

Hong Kong Dave

O que nao mata engorda.

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