The first time the phrase ‘Age before beauty’ was documented in the written English language was in 1873 in Scribner’s Monthly, a magazine published in America at the time. It refers to giving priority to an older person when entering a room or holding a door open. The phrase also aptly applies to the process of ageing certain cuts of meat, provided it’s done correctly. To really appreciate the full beauty of Boomplaats’ organic grass-fed beef, it should be aged.
What is this talk of wet and dry ageing all about? With ageing, the natural enzymes in the meat break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef.
Here are the differences between wet-aged and dry-aged beef.
Wet-aged beef is beef that has been aged in a vacuum-sealed bag to retain its moisture. This is the main method of ageing beef today. It is popular because there is no moisture, and therefore no weight lost.
Arrange with your butcher to have your steaks wet-aged. He will need to extract them as soon as the carcass arrives, and then vacuum pack them. You can age the vacuum packed steaks yourself at home for 7 to 21 days, depending on the tenderness required. The storage temperature should be between 1 and 3 degrees Celsius.
Please do not try to vacuum pack and wet-age steaks that you’ve selected from the butchery’s display fridge. You’ll never know how long they’ve been maturing and vacuum packing them might not prevent them from going bad. Steaks in the display unit should always be prepared within a day or two of purchase.
Dry-aged beef has been hung or placed on a rack for several weeks. Primal (large, distinct sections) or sub-primal cuts (such as strip loins, rib eyes, and sirloin) can be dry-aged.
This process results in considerable weight loss (up to 1/3 of total weight) in the form of water evaporation, and therefore makes the meat more expensive. Because of this, dry-aged beef is seldom available outside of steak restaurants and boutique butcher shops.
In addition to obtaining tender meat, the main effect of dry-ageing is the concentration and saturation of the natural flavour as moisture is evaporated from the muscle, increasing the flavour and taste.
Dry-ageing is the best form of ageing and, although possible, we would not recommend dry-ageing your meat at home as the process requires specific temperature, humidity and air circulation requirements. If you can find a butcher to dry-age your primal or sub-primal cuts for you, you will be pleasantly surprised at the final result.
If you’ve ever aged your own meat, let us know how you did it and how you like your meat aged best.