Ageing beef

History of Wet Aged Beef

Aged beef is the delicacy for which we all yearn. When selecting a steak for tenderness and flavour, often the consumer may ask, “Which is the right steak for me? Dry-aged beef or a wet-aged beef?” The answer depends upon which flavour one prefers, tenderness, fat content, and juiciness. 

The Process

When learning about wet-age beef, one must understand how the process begins. Once the steak has been placed in a cryovac sealed bag or a sealed plastic bag, it is placed in a refrigerated room for at least 3 weeks as it begins to tenderise. Wet-aging beef is the more “modern” process.

Wet-aged beef is placed in a cryovac bag. The cryovac bag requires all the oxygen to be evacuated from the bag. The aging time can be from 21 days to 42 days under strict temperature control. Between 0 degrees Celsius to 7degrees Celsius.

Dry Age Beef

Dry-aged beef has been hung or placed on a rack to dry for several weeks. Primal or sub-primal cuts are placed in a refrigerator unit, also known as a "hot box" or Dry Ager. This process involves considerable expense, as the beef must be stored near freezing temperatures. Sub-primal cuts can be dry aged on racks either in specially climate-controlled coolers or within a moisture-permeable dry-bag. Only the higher grades of meat can be dry aged, as the process requires meat with a large, evenly distributed fat content. The key effect of dry ageing is the concentration and saturation of the natural flavour, as well as the tenderisation of the meat texture.

The process changes beef by two means: firstly, moisture is evaporated from the muscle. The resulting process of desiccation creates a greater concentration of beef flavour and taste. Secondly, the beef's natural enzymes break down the connective tissue in the muscle, which leads to more tender beef. Dry ageing can take from 15 to 28 days.