Dry Aged Beef vs. Wet Aged and “Why do you hang your meat?” Two questions I get regularly, let me see if I can give you a quick, but concise answer.
Dry Aged beef is when a primal cut is placed in a cool, dry, often salt lined room, where healthy bacteria and molds are thriving and latching on to fresh meat. The meat goes in full of water and in turn has a bright ruby red color to the tissue. As the meat sits in this room, the air flow is acting as a dryer. The moisture in the meat is evaporating and the natural enzymes in the meat are changing the meat's appearance and tenderness. Many believe the sweet spot if you will for dry aged beef is between 28 and 34 days. I shoot for 28 days knowing that we will often hold that primal for another 4-6 days. When the meat comes out of the drying room it will have a noticeable amount of mold on the exterior. The meat will be firmer to the touch and much lighter. Somewhere between 30% of the water weight has been evaporated and in the meantime the enzymes in the meat have gone to work breaking down the muscle and tenderizing the meat. I like to say Dry aged meat has a distinctive toasted hazelnut flavor, buttery and nutty but with an edge of bleu cheese. We offer several levels of Dry Aged Beef; 14 day, 28 and 45… The level of Funk, ie. bleu cheesiness intensifies with each incremental time left to dry age…
Wet Aged beef is when a primal cut is kept in the cryovac packaging that the packing house used to package and transport the primal cuts. This packaging is designed to keep air out, while allowing the meat to release some of its water weight. The longer you keep it in the cryovac the more it will purge water over time. In a similar, but totally different way you are aging the beef and allowing it to naturally tenderize. Unlike dry aging however you will not get that same funkiness in flavor. I like to say a wet aged steak has a green almond, fresh butter and mild cooked spinach profile. The benefits of wet aging are a more tender steak with less bleed out on your plate. This is a steak that eats bright, rich and delicious.
So, why do we hang our meat? Outside of looking way cool, we like to allow the wet aged primals to air dry, both setting the color and stopping the wet aged beef to continue to bleed once in our display case. And did I mention it looks way cool, but it does have a purpose.
Over the past few weeks I have been trying to fulfill special requests and the market has been a little challenging for some of what I consider normal specialty items. As a Chef, I have often and easily been able to add game into a menu with a quick phone call to one of my purveyors. That has been a little less the case recently; Supply chain issues, I guess… the song, Where have all the Cowboys gone, rings in my head… That said, it was a windfall of wild game this week… Elk chops and tenderloin are in house, not a tremendous amount, so come by early or call and preorder and we can slap your name on some. We have venison back straps and wild boar shoulders, all in limited quantity and all beautiful. Both venison and elk are a sweet, clean meat that are both lean with a mild game flavor and bright grassy notes. All of them are pasture raised on ranches that practice excellent animal husbandry and all the best practices for slaughter and processing. Grab a boar shoulder to smoke or braise and you won't be disappointed.