One of the things we are most proud and excited to offer at the Son of a Butcher is our line of dry aged beef. We will be aging in house in our custom-built tank. The popularity of dry aged beef has been on the rise in recent years. But for those who might not be in the know, here are some facts about the techniques and processes that make this product so special.
Dry aging beef goes back thousands of years to a time before refrigeration when meat would be stored in underground chambers, cellars and caves where cooler temperatures would prevent spoilage. When people discovered that exposure to air for a long enough time caused the meat to become more tender and flavorful, it put dry aging on a path to become a time-honored tradition even after refrigeration became commonplace.
Proper dry aging depends on controlling three factors: Air Flow, Humidity and Temperature.
Air Flow – Proper air flow around the beef allows for moisture to be released. Most beef is around 75% water, so releasing some of that water concentrates flavor. Also, the fat will retain more moisture than the lean muscle. As the lean portion shrinks while the fat stays the same, flavor increases. Another element of the process involves allowing natural bacteria and enzymes to break down the beef so that it becomes more tender. Many of these bacteria require oxygen to grow. Lastly, the air flow allows the meat to form a crust on the outside which keeps the inside moist and red.
Humidity – The humidity is important for allowing the growth of desirable yeast and bacteria while slowing the rate of moisture leaving the meat. Ideally, water is allowed to leave while retaining the natural juices so the meat isn’t dry. Also, the bacteria break the larger molecules of the meat down into smaller, more flavorful ones.
Temperature – Holding at a proper temperature will stop the meat from spoiling. Between 34.7- and 35.6-degrees Fahrenheit is generally recognized as the standard window. In short, it can mean the difference between dry aging beef and allowing it to rot. The dry aging process takes time and can’t be rushed. The most common time frame is 30 days but this can be extended. In order to ensure a safe product at the end, proper holding temperature must be maintained throughout.
Some people express concern when they see the difference in price between dry aged beef and regular cuts. This difference is certainly not arbitrary or flippant. Due to the loss of moisture, it’s possible for a purveyor to lose up to 50% of the weight of any dry aged sub primal. In other words, you buy 10lbs of beef but after dry aging it you only have 5lbs to sell. This, in addition to the extra time, labor and equipment, requires a certain mark-up in order to make it a financially viable option.
If you have never tried dry aged steaks, we recommend starting small before you go all in as the rich and robust flavor profile can be a bit much for some people. We hope you will bring any questions you have after reading this to the Son of a Butcher so we can assist you in your search for wonderful, flavorful steaks.