Enzymes. Microbes. Evaporation. And why dry-aged beef is usually preferred over wet-aged.
How do restaurants make sure that they serve us the yummiest meat?
To make beef – like Wagyu beef – extra tender, the meat is aged. Aging is a process where the meat’s natural enzymes break down the connective tissues (that make the beef taste leathery) so that the meat becomes softer and more tender.
There are two ways to age beef: dry and wet. The wet process vacuum-seals the beef in plastic, and the beef ages in its own blood and juices for about a week. In fact, the meat can age while it is being transported. The result is a meat that has a stronger bloody flavor.
In dry aging, the meat is left in a temperature-/climate-controlled environment at around 2oC/36oF. It is hung or put on shelves (see diagram above), for about 2-4 weeks.
During this time, the water in the meat evaporates. The beef loses up to 30% of its weight, and the flavors are stronger and more concentrated.
At the same time, because it is exposed to air (and not vacuum-sealed), the microbes in the air also break down the meat. This gives it a unique taste.
The combination of these phenomena is usually why aficionados and connoisseurs will vouch for dry-aged beef. You can watch this video about the difference between wet- and dry-aged meat.
The meat we get in supermarkets is usually wet-aged. The beef that top restaurants serve is typically dry-aged. If you want to try dry-aged beef, the next time you pop into a butcher or a high-end restaurant, ask how their beef is aged. Or if you prefer, explore doing your own dry-aged beef at home!
How do you usually like your beef done? Share your thoughts with me!
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