The Art And History Of Dry Aging
Dry aging is the process of aging meat over a period of time in an environment with just the right temperature and humidity levels. The process of dry aging has been around for centuries but was originally used as a method of preservation and would have been done using caves due to them having the ideal environment for dry aging.
Today, dry aging is no longer needed as a method of preservation. The invention of fridges and freezers and packaging has meant there are other, more efficient ways to preserve meat. Despite this, many meat lovers can appreciate the dry aging technique which is now a delicacy due to the time and risk involved with the process. The reason why dry aging is still so popular is due to its unique ability to naturally amplify the flavours in meat. In this article we explore some frequently asked questions about dry aging.
Back To Where It All Began
It’s hard to put an exact date on when dry aging was first developed, although it is believed that the process dates back to as far as the hunter gatherer period of time when humans would ferment meat and fish as a method of preservation. Back then, common ways to ferment meat was to bury it under the ground, however it is assumed that caves would have been used to dry age due to their cool temperatures and perfect humidity levels which is an essential for fermentation. As time developed and humans evolved, it is thought that people may have begun to use cellars which are generally also an ideal temperature and humidity for dry aging.
By the 1950s when refrigeration was first developed, dry aging was no longer necessary in order to preserve meat, this development in refrigeration only accelerated the industrial process. Refrigeration made it possible to transport perishable goods across the globe, however refrigeration never stopped dry aging, in fact it has allowed the process to become a delicacy.
What is dry aging?
For those of you who don’t know what dry aging actually is- it is the process of the controlled decomposition of meat. However, it is not as gruesome as it might sound. If you put your piece of meat in a controlled environment such as a fridge, cellar or cave you can transform its texture and flavor. The transformation takes place as enzymes break down, moisture is pulled out of the meat and the flavour is concentrated. This not only naturally amplifies the existing meaty taste, it actually makes the meat a whole lot more tender.
The process of dry aging is lengthy and often seen as high risk due to possibility of spoilage. In order to achieve the classical dry aged taste from beef it is recommended that you leave your meat to dry age for a minimum of 21 days. Although it really is a matter of preference, the most popular dry age time is around 30-40 days, this is described as the sweet spot because it is when you can really taste the distinctive flavors of dry aging which are often described as nutty. If you really want to experience the full unique flavours of dry aging, steaks can be aged even longer, at around 50 days and onwards you will be able to taste bold notes of blue cheese which some describe to be quite funky. Ultimately the process depends on the individual, the cut of the meat and your personal preference.
Dry aging today
Today, dry aging is seen as a delicacy due to the time and risks of spoilage associated with the process. It can be relatively costly to buy dry aged meat today, particularly when ordering it at a restaurant. One of the reasons dry aged meats are particularly expensive is because of the loss of product yield as a result of the dry aging process. As moisture is drawn out of the meat during dry aging, up to 30% of the weight can be lost consequently decreasing the product’s yield. However, this loss in weight is made up for by the concentrated flavour and succulent texture of the meat. Ultimately, the cost is dependent on the cut of meat, the weight and also the length of time it has been dry aged. It is possible to reduce the cost of dry aged meat by investing in a dry aged fridge which allows you to do it from the comfort of your own home.
If you are already a dry aged lover or feel you need to try it, you might be wondering if it is worth investing in a dry aging fridge. There are a variety of dry age fridges on the market at the moment, the most unique being the Steak Locker which is the world’s first and only smart dry aging fridge. The integrated smart technology gives the fridge additional benefits when it comes to dry aging which include the ability to track the progress of your meat whilst being able to monitor the temperature and humidity levels in your fridge at any time, anywhere using your phone. This is all done through specially designed smart technology and the integration of a smart app that connects to the fridge.
Dry aging at home
If you don’t want to invest in a dry aging fridge, it is possible to use a normal fridge for dry aging. However, using a fridge specifically designed for dry aging minimises the risks associated with dry aging. This ensures the fridge is the right temperature and humidity. It’s important to consider if you were to use your normal fridge, constantly accessing it would affect these levels and could cause the meat to spoil. Furthermore, investing in a separate dry age fridge helps to prevent the risk of the cross contamination of flavours. This can happen if you use a normal fridge with other produce in and could lead to your milk taking like dry aged beef or worse your dry aged beef tasting like gone off milk. We would always recommend using a fridge separate from your normal fridge if you want to dry aged meat, it doesn’t necessarily have to be a ‘dry aging fridge’.