- 9 December, 2010
With my husband itching to get at the beef hanging in the barn, I thought I would do a bit or research in regard to aging beef. We have hear all about how you want to age your beef. Aged beef is in all of the fancy restaurants. Aged beef certainly fetches top dollar. But so do a lot of other things and I want to be sure that we’re just not following what amounts to a “buzz-word.”Through the aging process meat will become more tender as the enzymes break down the muscle and more flavorful as water is lost from the meat thereby concentrating the flavor and increasing its intensity. This is particularly important with grass-fed beef since it would be leaner than commercial beef. That is why some choose to grain-finish their beef. In addition to flavor, beef needs the fat layer to prevent spoilage during the traditional dry aging process. Thankfully, we were surprised by the generous layers of fat we found on our bull. There are two types of aging – dry and wet. Dry aging is how aging has been traditionally done by hanging the meat in an area with air flow where the temperature and humidity are controlled. Meat is butchered in the cooler season to accommodate this process without the need for expensive systems. We actually waited too long and are heating the area where our beef is hanging since the daytime temperatures are in the mid-twenties and are dropping down into the teens at night. Forties are ideal. Wet aging is done in a vacuum sealed bag at temperatures in the mid-thirties for 1-4 weeks, increasing tenderness, but not improving the flavor. This is how most commercial beef is aged- beef as we know it. It is an obviously the preferable method for commercial producers because it retains the water that is lost during the dry aging process. (Dry aging will also produce a layer of jerky-like beef on the outside -reminds me of how cheese has a rind- that needs to be removed making for even more loss.) Both methods will tenderize the meat, but each flavors the meat in a different way. Dry aged beef can be described as gamier, while wet aged as bloodier. Frankly, I don’t know which I’d prefer. Having never had anything except a supermarket steak, I must admit, I’m apprehensive about “gamier” beef. But we wet aged venison before (not on purpose- we went out of town for a couple days and forgot to stick my husband’s deer in the freezer first!) and it was awful!! Bloody is a very good word.)Since dry aged beef is supposed to hang from 1-3 weeks, we’re going to process the cuts a quarter at a time over a week beginning on Saturday. Since it’s just my husband and myself working, and we do have mostly very little children, contemplating doing it all at once is far too daunting a task. Especially when you consider, we have NO idea what we’re doing yet. That will put us right in the early to middle area of the time frame and hopefully we won’t have to adjust to the flavor too much and that we won’t significantly compromise the tenderness aspect.All of this information left me very curious as to what the aging process would accomplish if applied to venison and I’ll be sharing what I found soon.