Is Dry Aged Worth It’s Weight and Worth The Wait?
So, what is dry-aged beef? Why is it so pricey? Is it really better than fresh beef? The answers to the most burning questions about dry aged beef are all right here.
In this comprehensive beginner’s guide to dry aged beef, we will break down the dry ageing process, common dry ageing terms, the best beef for dry ageing, and where to buy the best dry aged beef. By the time you’ve finished reading, you’ll be ready to take your grilling game to the next level.
The Dry Ageing Process
To break it down in the most simple of terms, dry ageing is essentially a controlled decomposition of meat. Yes, we’re talking about decay. Don’t let that scare you off, though. The dry ageing process causes moisture to be drawn out of the meat, resulting in a stronger and deeper beef flavour. It also forces the natural enzymes in the beef to break down the connective tissues in the meat, resulting in a much more tender product.
How Does It Work?
Dry ageing works by hanging whole carcasses or slabs of beef upside down in a carefully controlled room with expensive equipment that keeps the environment at precise temperature and humidity levels. As the moisture releases from the meat in the dry ageing process, the beef shrinks significantly in size. Aside from being superior in flavour and tenderness, this is one of the reasons that dry aged beef is more expensive.
The dry ageing process causes two important things to happen: enzyme breakdown and water loss. The former is what gives the beef its exceptionally tender texture, while the former is what intensifies the flavour. You can find beef on the market that has been dry aged for anywhere from 7 to 120 days, but we firmly believe that 28 days is the optimal amount of time to produce the best dry aged beef. In our experience, this is the time necessary to create the most flavourful end product.
How Does Dry Aged Beef Not Spoil?
If the dry ageing environment is too humid, not humid enough, too hot, or too cold—it could spoil. This is why dry ageing needs to be such a precise process. Additionally, bacteria thrive on moisture and can’t survive without it. So, in addition to maintaining a stable environment, the last key to preventing spoilage is steady air flow. Ventilation prevents bacteria from forming on the meat throughout the dry ageing process, keeping it entirely safe to eat. The outer layer of the beef turns to a dark, dry exterior which is trimmed off before cooking, leaving behind the tender and delectable insides.
Dry Age vs. Wet Age vs. Matured: What Do They All Mean?
So now you understand how the dry ageing process works, but what are these other terms? ‘Wet age’ and ‘matured’ are tossed around frequently when discussing the beef ageing process, but how do they differ from dry ageing? To put it simply, one is an alternative form of ageing and the other is simply another word for aged beef.
This is the most common ageing process because it’s both faster and more cost-efficient than dry ageing. Wet ageing involves vacuum sealing the beef in its own juices, a mix of myoglobin and water. This process is entirely hands-off and typically takes between 4 and 10 days. The resulting product is tender, but lacking in the rich depth of flavour that the dry ageing process is known to produce. Because it’s aged in its own juices, wet aged beef is also known to have a slightly metallic taste. Keep in mind, you get what you pay for.
Matured beef is a term used to describe any beef that has gone through an ageing process, whether it was dry or wet aged. More often than not, if beef has been dry aged then it will specifically denote that, rather than just using the term ‘matured.’ This is simply an all-encompassing term to explain meat that has been aged in some way.
Does Grass Fed Matter?
You’ve probably heard the term, ‘you are what you eat.’ Well, this applies to the animals you eat as well. Grain-fed cows are fed diets of corn and soy. Many companies that use grain-fed diets are also known to pump their cows with antibiotics and growth hormones. The food a cow eats has a significant impact on its nutrient composition, which in turn affects both its flavour profile and the health benefits it provides. Grass-fed cows, in most cases, are fed more natural diets and are typically free of antibiotics and growth hormones.
That isn’t to say that all grain-fed beef is bad—quite the opposite, actually! All it means is that you should read the labels on any beef product you buy to ensure that it fits the standard you’re looking for. There are many companies who sell high quality grain-fed beef without any antibiotics or growth hormones. For example, here at That Fat Cow we are very serious about the humane treatment of animals. We take great care to ensure that all of the beef we source comes from farms where cows are treated 100% humanely, fed vegetarian diets, and are never given antibiotics or hormones. Healthy cows are tasty cows!
Why is Dry Aged Beef Better?
If quality is something that matters to you (and it should), then it’s no question that dry aged beef is better than fresh cut beef. It’s richer in flavour and more tender in texture. If you want a slab of beef that cuts like butter, one with melt in your mouth flavours that will impress all your friends, then you’re going to want dry aged beef.
However, as is often the case, there is one exception to the rule. Because of the incredibly high fat content of wagyu beef, this is the one type of beef that should never be dry-aged. If you ever see a product advertising dry-aged wagyu, I would steer clear.
Where to Buy Dry Aged Beef
Here at That Fat Cow, all of our beef is carefully selected from only the best farms from around the world. We dry age our own grass-fed UK beef and source premier grain-finished steaks from the US, Chile, Australia, and Japan. The extraordinary quality of the beef is evident in every bite and is something we deeply pride ourselves on. We only sell grass-fed and humanely-raised beef, as this is the beef that produces the richest and deepest flavours. If you’re looking for the best dry aged halal beef in the UK, we’ve got you covered.
While you may have gotten decent beef from the supermarket or your local butcher in the past, it’s time to level up. You deserve nothing but the best, so take a look at our extensive product selection and get ready to kick your beef game up a notch.