Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Dry-Aged Beef - Steak Nirvana

Like cheese, wine, and cheesy 80's movies, everything gets better with age. This holds true as well for beef - steak actually tastes better 5 days removed than if you went out, slaughtered your cow and cooked it fresh (something off of the shoulder, perhaps, braised in a white wine sauce). The reason is that natural enzymes continue to eat away at the muscle fibers after the beef is butchered, causing the steak to tenderize. There are two types of aging - dry and wet. Wet-aged steak is what you get in the supermarket - beef that's vacuum-packed in individual packages and sold 5-7 days after slaughter. Dry-aged steak is what you get at good butcher shops and restaurants - steak that's been hung and air-dried in controlled conditions, which allows for both the enzymatic tenderization as well as moisture loss, which concentrates flavor. Dry-aged steak becomes darker in color, richer in flavor, juicier and more tender - it's one of the big reasons why steak at a good steak restaurant taste better than what you can cook at home.

I bring this up because I've been reading a bit about dry-aging steak at home and I've been talking this over with my mother - we're going to give it a try in the mini-fridge at her house. I'll even be taking pictures.