If you’ve ever had the pleasure of trying dry-aged beef, you know just how much of a game-changer it is. It has an incredible depth of flavor and makes your meat deliciously tender.
The bad news is, not everyone has a great butcher around the corner; therefore, purchasing dry-aged beef can come at a high cost.
Thankfully, I have dry-aged quite a few steaks in my time. I feel like I have finally perfected the dry-aging process - and I’m here to share that process with you today.
As long as you’ve got a refrigerator, you can dry-age meat at home.
- Dry-aging beef at home involves controlling temperature, humidity, and airflow, and requires a dedicated refrigerator.
- The process enhances the flavor and tenderness of the beef, with the best cuts for dry-aging being those with a large amount of fat content.
- The duration for dry-aging is subjective, but most people prefer their beef dry-aged for around 30 days.
What is Dry-Aging, and Why Do We Do it?
While dry-aging may seem new to you, it is a process that has been around for thousands of years.
Before the fridge was invented, people would use caves, chambers, and cellars for keeping fresh meat.
Dry-aging not only keeps the meat fresh but also enhances the flavor and tenderness of the beef.
Dry-aging is a process that involves taking a piece of meat, in this instance beef, and placing it into a controlled environment.
This open-air environment allows moisture to be pulled from the meat, letting the beef’s natural enzymes break down the muscles.
This breakdown makes the meat more tender.
When it comes to dry-aging meat, there are four factors you have to remember: airflow, temperature, humidity, and time.
There are 3 reasons why we dry-age beef:
- Crust: Moisture is our enemy. Wet meat doesn’t create a nice sear or crust, so the dryer the meat, the tastier it is. Dry-aged beef loses 30% of its initial volume thanks to water loss. 
- Flavor: Bacterial and enzymatic action are among the many processes that contribute to flavor change. When we age beef, we are aiming for rich beef, nutty, and cheese-like flavors.
- Tenderization: The enzymes in the beef help break down muscle fibers within the meat, resulting in a more tender and fresher cut.
Why Does Dry-Aged Meat Taste Better?
All fresh beef goes through an aging process, usually over several weeks, to allow the enzymes to break down the connective tissues within the meat.
However, the meat you will find in grocery stores is usually aged inside a plastic wrap, otherwise known as wet-aging.
Wet-aging is also the same method they use to prevent freezer burn.
As we know, dry-aging allows the meat to be exposed to open air, whereas wet-aging does not.
Dry-aged beef is more expensive than wet-aged beef; however, it is far tastier, in my opinion.
Wet-aged beef tends to taste more watery in comparison to the rich and succulent taste of beef that went through the dry-aging process.
Related: Where to Buy Dry-Aged Beef?
What Cut Should I Use?
As surprising as it may seem, the best cuts for dry-aging are usually those that are less expensive.
When you dry-age beef, it brings out a ton of hidden textures and flavors.
So, a cut that is seen as less flavorful will have the most impact. Plus, it keeps the whole process rather cost-effective.
If you are planning to dry-age steak, you may end up disappointed.
Wrapping individual steaks up in a paper towel and setting the steaks on the wire rack for a few weeks can seem like a great idea - until you realize there has been no change in the taste or texture of dry-aged steaks.
“Screw chocolate. A good steak is where it’s at.” ― A.D. Posey
You’ll want to choose a cut that has a large amount of fat content. The fat is the key to perfect dry-aged steak since it creates a fantastic flavor and aroma. It also protects the meat from drying out too much throughout the process.
The best cuts of beef to dry-age are:
- Boneless ribeye
- Sirloin (top butt)
- New York strip (strip loin)
- Rib steak
- Prime rib roast
The 3 Key Factors to Aging Meat
When you dry-age beef at home, there are a few things you need to keep in mind.
Remember that it could take a few attempts to get these conditions right.
To dry-age beef at home, you’ll need a special refrigerator. There are a few reasons for this:
- Since you’re going to use big cuts instead of individual steaks, you’ll need enough room for the airflow. A standard-sized fridge most likely won’t be big enough for this.
- While aged meat is delicious, it can transfer some unwanted odors onto other foods inside your fridge.
If you’re planning on making a lot of dried beef at home, I’d recommend getting a fridge that you will use only for this purpose.
You’ll have to pay close attention to the humidity inside of your fridge.
If the humidity is too low, your beef will dry out too quickly, and if it is too high, mold will start to grow.
Keep the humidity at around 60-80% inside your dedicated refrigerator when dry-aging beef at home.
To keep the humidity stable, place a pan of water in the bottom of your fridge, so it doesn’t dry out too quickly.
To prevent harmful bacteria from settling on your beef, you’ll want to keep a constant airflow.
This needs to be around all sides of your meat, and the surface contact needs to be as small as possible. I usually use a light refrigerator rack for this.
Trimming Dry-Aged Meat
Untrimmed dry-aged beef doesn’t look very appetizing. But remember, the good stuff is all underneath.
It is one of the reasons why you should get a cut of beef with a thick fat cap.
This fat cap protects the meat from becoming too dried out and cracked. Once the aging steak is ready, you’ll cut off the outer layer of the meat and be left with tender and delicious beef.
A trimmed steak will taste much better if you’ve left all the fat on before aging your meat.
Since you’ll be trimming your beef cut and you’ll lose 30% due to water drainage, you can expect some excess shrinkage.
It is another reason why you’ll want to pick up a larger cut.
What You Need to Dry-Age Meat at Home
You will need a few things for dry-aging beef at home. It is quite a simple process, and it doesn’t take much equipment.
- Fridge: As I mentioned before, it would be best to get a fridge dedicated to aged beef. It would be a good idea to get one with a glass door, so you can see how the meat is progressing without opening the fridge door. Also, try to find a fridge that is odor-free.
- Fan: Remember how important I said airflow was? Well, you can get a little fan to help you out. It promotes both cooking and humidity control.
- Rack: Never place your meat directly on the fridge shelf. Always keep it elevated on a rack. If you place it on the glass shelf, the meat won’t receive enough air, and it will begin to rot.
Time: As much as you want your meat aged quickly, it takes time. Don’t rush the process.
How to Dry-Age Beef at Home?
Once you have everything prepared, you’re ready to start the aging process:
- Set up your rack within the fridge, ensuring there is enough space for the air to ventilate.
- If you have a fan, put it inside the fridge. You can cut a hole for the wire of the fan and seal it back up.
- Pat dry your beef with paper towels and place it on the rack and turn on the fan. Close the door and keep it closed until you really need to open it. Opening the door too often will not only let the smells out, but it will disrupt the humidity and temperature inside the fridge.
- Wait for your desired amount of time. Most people enjoy their meat around the 30-day mark.
- Once you’ve dry-aged your beef, you can go ahead and prepare it for cooking.
How Long Does it Take to Dry-Age Meat?
In order to figure this age-old question out, I did a little experiment with 4 different steaks, aging them over different times.
The cooking process was the same for all the steaks aged, and here are the results of the taste tests:
- 2 weeks - After 14 days of aging, I noticed there was no change in flavor. The tenderness was about the same as non-aged steak. There isn’t much point in dry-aging beef for this short period.
- 3 weeks - After 21 - 24 days, the steak begins to get a lot more tender. However, the meat flavor doesn’t change too much. This is how long your typical steak will be aged in a high-end steak house.
- 4 - 6 weeks - You will see a noticeable amount of mold and “funkiness” on the outer layers of the meat. The meat juices are a lot moister, and the beef taste is intensified.
- 6 - 8 weeks - after 50+ days, you'll notice a very tender bite and extreme flavor. The meat is full of richness - sometimes too much for some people.
So, how long you should let your beef age is down to personal preference. Personally,
I enjoy my beef aged for around 50 days. When the beef is aged for longer, the flavors are a little too intense for my liking.
Also Read: How to Smoke Meat for Preservation
Should I Use Dry-Aging Bags?
Whether you should use dry-aging bags depends on you. Using these bags doesn’t make a significant difference, so they are unnecessary.
How Can I Avoid Food Poisoning From Aged Beef?
You can avoid food poisoning from aged beef by cutting off any hard discoloration spots.
Is Dry-Aged Beef Better?
Dry-aging your beef makes the meat incredibly tender and rich in flavor, so the answer is yes - it tastes better.
Salvatore Agusta, co-founder of Palermo Street Food, adds that the process of dry-aging also intensifies the natural beefy taste; hence, the enhanced flavor of meat.
The best thing is that it isn’t difficult to do it at home; all you need is a refrigerator, a fan, some patience, and you’re ready to go.
As you can see, there’s no need to spend a lot of money on meat that was dry-aged, as you can do it yourself.
Once the meat is aged well and it is time for actual cooking, you can find a ton of recipes online that include using aged meat.
Next time you’re willing to pay a fortune for dry-aged meat, consider dry-aging it at home.