Dry Aged Meat: How to Prep Delicious Steaks at Home
Have you ever thought about dry aging beef at home? If you love a tender, flavorful steak–and would rather whip one up on your own BBQ grill than have it prepared at an expensive restaurant–dry aging is definitely something you will want to incorporate into your repertoire of cooking techniques.
Here are some tips and steps to dry aging at home:
– Be sure to purchase a thick piece of meat, ideally, one that is Choice or Prime. Some experts recommend dry aging only large cuts (such as a ribeye roast, a New York Strip loin or a section of ribs), with the fat cap still intact. These can be sliced into separate portions later. The main reason for this is because the dry aging process calls for the outer layers of the steak to be trimmed off prior to cooking. The amount of meat that gets trimmed off could be as much as 25-percent. That means that a thin piece of meat will get even thinner (and, consequently, difficult to cook to anything less than well) before it hits the grill. Other professionals don’t see an issue with dry aging individual steaks, but typically recommend that the process last just a few days. If you’re taking this route, a Porterhouse may be a good choice.
– Plan ahead and prepare a spot for the steak. Typically the coolest place is on the back of the bottom shelf. But keep in mind that this space will be occupied for anywhere from several days to several weeks. A separate, smaller refrigerator that is used solely for the dry aging purpose (and will not be opened often because nothing else is kept there) is ideal.
– Once you have the steaks at home unwrap them and pat dry. At this point you could wrap the steak in a cheesecloth or a paper towel so that it is not completely exposed to the atmosphere in your fridge, which could have everything from eggs and butter to cold cuts to onions and broccoli. Some steak-lovers skip this step. If you opt for this method, be sure to rewrap the meat in a new paper towel or a fresh cheesecloth after 24 hours, and somewhat regularly after that. Do not be alarmed to see that the old paper towel or cloth looks soiled, as it will have gathered juices. Whether you go with the cloth or keep the meat bare, head to that spot you have cleared out in the refrigerator and place the steak there, on a rack or grate and in a pan.
– Now comes the fun part: deciding how long to let your steaks dry age! The minimum number of days professionals suggest is four days. At that point, natural enzymes are just starting to break down the connective tissue of the meat, so some mild tenderization is possible. The tenderization continues for a week, two weeks, three weeks. Once you hit about 18 days or so is when you can expect another change to begin, as the funky flavors associated with dry aging–which some describe as nutty and more beefy–start to develop. These flavors become more prominent and pungent the longer a steak is dry aged. For some people, that means 60 days. If this is your first time dry aging and you are unsure how strong you want your flavors, aim for somewhere between two-and-a-half weeks and a month. From there, based on your taste preferences, you can better gauge the proper length of time for future steaks.
– The next step is waiting. Once you reach your desired length of time, you are just about ready to cook your beef! Remove the meat from the refrigerator and trim off the outside edges. You can tell where to cut because this meat will have changed color significantly and hardened. Keep in mind, there should be a good amount of trimming, especially if you have dry aged for a long period of time. This is also when you would cut the beef into individual steaks if you are working with a larger piece of meat.
– Allow the meat to rest for about an hour, or however long it takes to reach room temperature. Then fire up the BBQ grill, the oven or whatever equipment you are using and enjoy the delicious beef you have spent lots time and energy preparing.
There are lots of ways to tenderize meat, including manually tenderizing, marinating or coating with Kosher salt for an hour or so (depending on the thickness of the beef) before grilling. Which do you prefer? Share your tips and tricks for delicious steaks here.
About the author: Ashley Tarr is a blogger contributing to Eastern Jungle Gym and Best in Backyards.