Friday, May 17, 2013

Dry Aged Steaks

I was reading about dry aged beef the other day and determined that I'd probably never had a dry aged steak before. To dry age beef, the meat is placed in a refrigerator unit and stored for a number of weeks at near freezing temperatures. This process is supposed to change the beef in a number of ways. First, moisture evaporates and concentrates the taste in the meat. Second, The natural enzymes in the meat break down the connective tissue in the muscle and makes the meat more tender. Third, mold grows on the surface of the meat and forms an external crust (similar to what mold does to cheese). The mold is trimmed off the meat before it is sold, but it tenderizes and increases the flavor of the meat. 

The Food Lab's Complete Guide to Dry-Aging Beef at Home  has some very informative conclusions about dry aged beef as a result of experiments they've run. First, they found that meat aged 14 days or less had no change in taste and no change in tenderness. Second, meat aged 14 to 28 days had no major change in flavor but did get more tender, particularly as it  got out toward the longer end of the time frame. This showed that moisture lost during the aging process does not change the flavor of the meat because most of the weight loss occurs during the first 21 days. Third, meat aged from 28 to 45 days starts to have significant flavor change. "Some real funkiness starts to manifest itself. At 45 days there are distinct notes of blue or cheddar cheese and the meat is considerably moister and juicier. Most tasters preferred 45 day-aged steaks to all others." Fourth, meat aged 45 to 60 days has "extremely intense flavors emerge." Some taste testers really liked the flavor, but for most, more than a bite or two was too much.  It appears that the flavor change is a result of the enzymes breaking down the muscle and the bacteria acting on the surface of the meat. Because most of the outer portions of the meat are trimmed away, the most change occurs in meat with the bone still attached where the oxidized fat and affected meat are still retained to some degree. 

I decided I wanted to try some dry aged beef, but it is hard to find. A butcher at Gerrard's Market in Redlands, the high-end super market, told me that they do not carry dry aged beef. They used to, but the beef cost three times as much as the same cut of non-aged beef and much of it went to waste as they could not sell it. He named an Orange County store that probably sells it (and I do not recall the name).  Otherwise, you can usually only find it in high-end steak houses. 

I ordered two one pound dry aged ribeyes for Mother's Day from Exotic Meat Market (the place where I get much of my wild game). Anshu Pathak, the proprietor did not have any ribeyes in stock, so he sent me two one pound 30 day dry aged New York steaks (which I tend not to like as well as I like the marbling in the ribeye). 
Dry Aged New York Steaks
Then I found a couple of beautiful one pound ribeyes at Trader Joe's and decided to buy and cook them as a comparison. 
Trader Joe's Ribeyes
The ribeyes were really beautiful and much more than I would normally pay for ribeyes. However, the dry aged New York steaks were still three times as much as the ribeyes. The New York steaks had much less marbling and were much thicker. 
Side-by-side comparison
I rubbed olive oil on each of the steaks and sprinkled on a generous helping of Himalayan pink salt. I over-cooked the New York steaks a bit, as I was running back and forth between the table and the grill. 
Cooked Dry Aged New York Steaks
I would have liked them a little more rare. 
The dry aged New York steaks were tender and they had a nice flavor. But I still liked the ribeyes better. The ribeyes were more moist and had more flavor. 
Cooked Ribeyes
Comparing a ribeye to a New York steak is a little like comparing an apple to an orange, but if I can get a ribeye I like better for a third of the price, why get the aged New York? I would still like to try a dry aged ribeye and see if I can tell a difference. But I would particularly like to get one aged about 45  days.

Updated: March 2014

I finally got an opportunity to try a dry aged ribeye, from the same source.
Dry aged ribeye
Has pretty good marbling.
I prepared it the same and cooked it the same way. It cooked very unevenly. When I cut off the first few pieces of meat I thought I'd way overcooked it. 
Dry aged ribeye after grilling.
The first few pieces were so well cooked I thought I'd ruined it.
Then I started to get pink meat and by the end wondered if I'd under cooked it. 
Just a little further in it was very pink.
Toward the bone it was almost raw.
Despite the look of the marbling, the dry aged ribeye is not as fatty as the normal ribeye, but fattier than the dry aged New York. I was not a fan of the flavor. There was nothing about the taste that drew me to it. In fact, I didn't finish it all. Why spend so much on a steak that you don't like. I'm sure if I ate it more I could get acculturated to the taste - but why for something so expensive? I would still like to try a dry aged steak that was aged 45 days or so - I believe these steaks were dry aged for 3 to 4 weeks. I would also like to try them sous vide to avoid the uneven cooking I experienced. In the interim, we tasted both a dry aged New York and a dry aged ribeye at Flemings around Christmas time. They were very expensive steaks, over $50.00 each, but I had a relative that worked there and got a discount. They were okay, I liked them better than the ones I cooked at home. But why? My home-grilled ribeyes above were better than any of them and they were substantially cheaper. 

1 comment:

  1. Thats not a dry aged Ribeye! Thats a tBone or porterhouse! Its a new york and filet... You still have never tasted a dry aged ribeye!