The Ardent Epicure

An Ode to the Pleasures of Food

3:30 PM

Aged Steaks - Tender and Juicy

Posted by Truffle Shuffle

Aging Beef

Prime Rib Eye Steaks

For the second part of my series on steaks, I will discuss the process of aging the meat.
Many premium steaks you see will be "aged".  But what exactly does this mean?
If you take a steak and leave it on the counter for a couple of weeks, you are likely to come back to a disgusting mess.  However, when steaks are aged properly, like a fine cheese or wine, they develop an intense flavor, and a very tender quality that mark them apart from a regular steak.
Steaks can go through one of two different types of aging processes.  Both processes work by breaking down the connective tissues in the meat, and over time, causing the meat to become more tender than usual.

Dry Aging
This type of aging consists of of hanging the beef in a controlled environment for a certain amount of time.  This is done at a very low temperature in a cooler, and the meat is usually aged for three to four weeks or more. 
Dry-Aging Meat

Each steak may be dry aged separately, or in some high-end steakhouses or butcher shops, the entire carcass will be aged before the steaks are even cut.  This can make for a very visually-appealing display, but can be rather expensive.

Wet Aging
This type of aging consists of sealing the meat to retain the juices, and storing it for a few days, as opposed to the few weeks required by dry aging.  This is a very popular type of aging, due to the much lower amount of time needed.
Wet-Aging Meat

Due to the simplicity of this newer style of aging, many sellers of steak that bother to use a dry aging process will mark their steak as "dry aged," while you will hardly ever see a steak marked as "wet aged".  Therefore, if a steak is simply labeled as "aged," it is probably a fair assumption that it has been wet aged.

Dry vs. Wet Aging
Traditional dry-aged beef is considered to be the premium type of beef.  Since the steaks are not aged in a wet manner, the meat is very tender, and obtains deep, complex flavors, while wet-aged steaks may be more mushy.   For an intense flavor, dry-aging is the way to go.
Dry-aged steaks are more likely to be very expensive, but when it is possible to obtain them, they are definitely a treat.
 Rare Filet Mignon Steak

Putting Them to Rest
And what's this about steak "resting"?   Well, the steak has gone through a lot to get from the animal, to the processing plant, to the butcher, to your plate... It needs a good rest before you eat it!
Letting the steak rest is an important step in making sure you have a tender piece of meat.  To let your steak rest, allow it to sit at room temperature out in the open for about five to ten minutes after you cook it.  This will allow the steak to re-absorb some of the juices, and you will find that is ends up more tender and juicy than a steak that is served right off of the grill.
Also, letting your steak sit open in the refrigerator for a couple of days before use can help as well.

For some information on aging steaks at home, check out this page.

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