Why Is Dry Aged Beef So Special?

Heart-shaped dry-aged ribeye steaks on marble counter top.
Heart-shaped dry-aged ribeye steaks on marble counter top.

Dry-aged beef is a whole new world of savory meat for your pallet to discover. If you haven’t had a dry-aged beef steak, you don’t know what you’re missing! When a piece of meat has been placed through the dry-aging method, it has strategically become more tender and the flavors of the meat have become more concentrated. You may be wondering if this purchase is worth the bang for its buck. Here are some facts that will help you decide whether or not to pick up this choice piece of meat the next time you’re shopping at Bristol Farms (Spoilers, You’re going to want to try this meat.)

What Is The Dry-aging Process?

The dry-aging process begins in an enclosed temperature and humidity-controlled room where different cuts of meat are allowed to dry out. As the meat begins to dry, it will lose at least 10% of water depending on how long the cut of meat is being dried. Because of the water loss, the protein will appear to shrink in size while the fat and bones will remain the same size. Since the water is not interfering with the integrity of the flavor, the person who will eat the piece of dry-aged beef will savor a more intense taste of fatty and meaty richness. This richness only intensifies with the passing of time in the room. Although it is normal for the piece of meat to begin to grow mold, this is considered natural and not unhealthy as the parts that are hardened or covered in mold will be sliced off before sending it off to the kitchen or gourmet grocery store such as Bristol Farms.

Wet-aging Versus Dry-aging Process

Wet-aging is the most common form of packaging a piece of beef. This piece of meat is literally vacuum sealed into a package with water and its own juices. When you’re walking down the aisles of the meat section of most common grocery stores, you’ll usually see this type of packaging. Since it’s sitting in water, it gets an unappealing grayish color and won’t appear in its traditional red color until it’s been unpackaged and patted dry. The wet meat also won’t have the opportunity to develop the same flavor compounds as dry aged beef as the wateriness will dilute and even pull out the flavors through osmosis. Additionally, the water packed packaging will keep it from searing on the pan or developing the levels of taste and caramelization as it should.

With dry-aging, the water component, or rather lack thereof, is the key to a successful piece of meat that is jam-packed with layers of fat, salt, and savory goodness, and will definitely get that perfect golden-brown sear as it hits the hot pan. You’ll notice the beautiful redness of the meat right away and the creamy color of the marbled fat—details that are not offered to the eye when looking at a wet-aged steak.

Experience The Flavor Difference

Buying a top-of-the-line exquisite piece of meat like dry-aged beef at Bristol Farms is exciting! At the same time, however, you don’t want to take it home and not cook it to its true potential of deliciousness. Don’t be worried! Here are some tips on how to prepare your Bristol Farms dry-aged steak:

  1. As you take the steak out of its packaging, be sure to give it one last pat dry. In order to get a great sear on the meat, you must make sure that it is free of moisture. Moisture may occur as it is normal for the meat to change temperature from the moment you place it in your cart until you reach your home and place it in the refrigerator.
  2. In addition to patting it dry, let the steak rest outside of the fridge for an hour or so to decrease the temperature difference of the fridge and your preferred cooking method.
  3. When preparing to cook the steak, be sure to season the meat right before you’re going to cook it. Apply salt generously (if it looks like too much it’s probably just right) as when you go to sear the meat, some seasoning is likely to fall off and will get absorbed into the meat.
  4. Consider a less traditional methods to cook your dry aged beef as well. Sous vide is a great way to ensure the correct doneness and a good sear, and reverse searing where you cook the steak in the oven and then end on a final sear can also help retain juices.
  5. If you decide to go with the tried and true hot pan method. Place the steak on a very hot pan and sear on both sides. Remember! Don’t take the piece of meat off too quickly. You’ll see the browning begin at the sides of the piece of meat and you’ll know when to turn the piece over to sear on the other side.
  6. You can continue to cook the piece of meat on the stove top or you can place the pan into a pre-heated oven (make sure your pan is oven-proof). The times differ at this point, depending on your preference of temperature: blue, rare, medium-rare, medium, medium-well, or well-done.
  7. Lastly, right before you’ve reached the ideal temperature of your meat, take it off the heat and place it on a plate or board and allow it to rest. The resting time is about ten minutes. Two things are important to remember at this point! The first is that while it’s resting, the piece of meat will continue to cook for a bit as it’s still very hot, which is why you want to take it off the heat a little early. Secondly, you want the piece of meat to rest because it allows for the juices to disperse and settle throughout the meat—cutting into the steak before it’s been allowed to rest will cause the tasty juices to run out of the steak.