You read about 21-day and 35-day aged beef, but what does that really mean for you as a customer? Why is it more expensive meat? What benefits do you get with dry ageing meat?
Dry Ageing process
Hanging a carcass up and letting it dry out for several days and weeks is dry ageing. Here at Eat Great Meat, we hang beef for at least 21 days and up to 35 days. We tend to reserve the best quality meat for dry ageing. This also tends to be heritage breeds. We hang the meat from hooks in our large temperature-controlled room. The meat develops a thick crust over it, then after the desired period of days, we trim this crust off before preparing your cuts.
Some chefs have tried to emulate the process, using ground Koji ( a type of rice with bacteria in it) this mimics the process but only takes 24-72 hours. The results although good, are not quite the same.
What dry ageing does to meat
When aged properly, the dry ageing changes the constitution of the meat. It does this in two ways. Firstly, the muscle tissue moisture evaporates, creating a tighter grain plus there is a degree of desiccation, which concentrates the flavour and taste. Secondly, enzymes in the beef break down the connective tissue, giving you more tender meat.
We encourage a fungus to grow over the surface of the meat. It works alongside the natural enzymes in the meat, to tenderise and increase the beef flavour. This development of mould is from the family Thamnidium. We cut this all off before we divide the meat into your desired cuts.
We have to use high-quality meat for dry ageing, as the meat needs to withstand the hanging process. The meat needs to have strong muscle tissue. The fat to tissue ratio is important too, as this will ensure consistency in the flavour and juiciness of the meat. We also need to remember that the process shrinks the overall weight of the carcass, this explains why supermarkets do not often offer aged meat. It would cut into their overheads. You need space and time to complete the ageing, again this eats into profits. However, we feel that the end result is worth all this to provide the very best quality and flavour.
The meat was always dry-aged before the invention of vacuum packaging, to cover the meat, and increases in speed and delivery meant we lost the process. Traditionally, beef is hung from 7-120 days. Here at Eat Great Meat, we have butchered for over 8 generations and so, like to keep the process alive. Sometimes our forefathers knew what they were doing!
Benefits of eating aged meat
As the meat has aged and become tenderized, you benefit from a fuller flavour and the meat is easier to cut and chew. You get only the highest quality meat. The fat to meat ration concentration changes in aged meat, so you get lower fat and very lean protein-packed meat. The longer the beef is hung the juicier the steak, we reckon this only starts to occur after 14 days.