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Almost EVERYTHING You Need To Know About Dry Aged Beef!

More Information About Dry Aged Beef!

What is the Difference Between Dry Aged and Wet Aged Beef?

Dry Aging Beef to Increase Its' Tenderness

Is It Possible to Dry Age Beef At Home

Definition of Dry Aged Beef:

Forty years ago, most of our beef was dry aged. In the early 1960's the process of vacuum packing beef became the norm for most processors.

The advantage of this process was that they could "wet age" the beef in the bag and not lose any of the weight of the beef. Wet aging was much more cost effective for the processors so a weaning of the consumers' taste buds began to occur. Slowly, the consumer forgot what the real taste of steak was.

Beef is aged for 7 to 21 days. During this process a crust forms on the outside of the loin, very similar to the texture of beef jerky. This layer is trimmed away, leaving steaks that are superior in tenderness and flavor. During the dry aging process, the juices are absorbed into the meat, enhancing the flavor and tenderizing the steaks.

Research from major universities, including Kansas State University, indicates the enhancement of flavor and tenderness occurs in this Dry Aging process. Dry Aged Steaks are very popular in the fine, white linen steakhouses on the coasts.

The dry aging process takes special care and requires a relatively large inventory. It is very time consuming and expensive, requiring extra effort, storage and high-quality beef.

 Up to 20% of the original weight of the loin is lost during the dry aging process. This is why dry aged steak is offered only in fine restaurants, upscale grocery stores and gourmet steak companies.

You DO NOT Age Pork!


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What factors make THE BEST BEEF  STEAKS?

1.  What can be done to cattle before and after slaughter to produce 

Quality begins at the ranch, as any red-blooded Texan boasts. Cattlemen are mindful of all sorts of things we don't want to think about when we're sitting down to dinner. They ponder stuff like low-stress handling, diet, vitamin supplementation, timing of castration, breeding, and hormones. Stockyards and meat handlers after slaughter consider things like electrical stimulation, infusing meat with calcium and chemicals, even how carcasses are hung.

2.  Grain fed beef.

For our discussion, we'll concentrate on the axioms that make for more pleasant dinner conversation. What the cows eat can make better eating for us. The prestigious purveyors in Chicago, which supply many of Dallas' finest steak houses, finish their beef by feeding the cattle grains, instead of grass, their final months of life. To Richard Chamberlain of Chamberlain's Steak & Chop House, these grain-fed steers are noticeably more flavorful.

3.  Prime Grade Beef.

When experts choose their meat, traditionally only "prime" makes the grade. A prime rating is the gold standard and given to less than 5-percent of all beef in the country. When grading meat, U.S. Department of Agriculture inspectors look at the degree of marbling. That's those tiny slivers of fat throughout the meat which give flavor and help keep it juicy when it's cooked. More fat is better only to a point, as really thick lines of fat make for a tough steak.

4.  Marbling.

Problem is, well-marbled prime isn't as prime as it used to be. The past two decades Americans developed an aversion to fat, and cattlemen responded by breeding cattle to be leaner. Lean took precedence over quality and flavor. Old-fashioned prime beef became scarce. "Thankfully beef is trendy again," said Chamberlain, "and steak-lovers' cravings are being satisfied in more ways."

5.  Cattle Breed.

For really lean cuts, such as fillets cut from the tenderloin, prime is a moot point. So, when shopping for them or the choicest "choice" grade steaks, wise steak buyers are turning to cows with good genes. Due to great breeding, these cows—like Black Angus and Japanese Black Wagyu—have especially flavorful meat and natural superior marbling regardless of their grade.

6.  Dry Aging.

For select customers, those top purveyors also expertly dry-age beef. Only a few legendary steakhouses and even fewer butchers across the country do their own dry-aging because it's expensive and takes meticulous attention and expertise. Pappas Bros. Steakhouse is the only restaurant here to dry age their own beef. Judd Fruia, General Manager, said they have three trained chefs who monitor up to $100,000 worth of steaks in their UV hanging room around the clock.

For Dallas home cooks, Rudolph's Market has been dry-aging beef for over a hundred years, said Brandon Andreason, butcher. "It's the only way to do it and the beef is hands-down superior to that aged any other way. If dried properly, even choice can be as good or even better than prime."

The time-honored process of dry-aging begins with top quality meat. Only a fraction of beef dry ages well: well-marbled prime grade and meat from those exceptional cattle breeds. Extremely lean beef won't age without spoiling as it needs that protective fat coating. The meat is hung in large sterile refrigerators with carefully controlled air flow, humidity, and temperature for two to six weeks. During this ripening period, several key things happen. Enzymes break down the muscle fibers, improving tenderness, until by the third week the meat is positively buttery. A 20 percent moisture loss concentrates the beefy flavors, leaving an intense, almost gamey, taste. The meat's ability to hold onto moisture with cooking is improved, too, making for juicier cooked steaks. Dry-aged beef also develops a crust which has to be trimmed away, resulting in an additional loss of up to 25-percent of the meat's original weight, adding to its cost.

Even though it's an expensive proposition, dry-aged beef has long been considered the best among seasoned steak connoisseurs. They describe its flavor as rich and nutty, decadently tender, and "beefier" than nonaged. Its intensity requires a robust erudite palate.

Still, no one denies that dry-aging is basically controlled rotting, and the meat is an acquired taste. "It has a green taste that's hard for many diners to appreciate, to the point of being offensive," said Chamberlain.

"If you don't enjoy a richer well-marbled ribeye or strip steak, then dry-aged beef wouldn't be something you would appreciate," said Bob Stephenson, Executive Chef at Cool River Cafe. He feels quality beef is of greater appeal to most Dallas diners. "Certified Angus beef or prime are the biggest draws," he said.

Most steakhouses in Dallas sell wet-aged beef. It has been aged, packaged in vacuum-sealed plastic bags while being shipped from the stockyards to the consumer. Although the enzymes still help tenderize the meat, the flavor remains neutral. The meat, because it has been sitting in its own juices, has been described as wet and bloody-tasting.

Whether you believe those who say that dry-aged beef is a romantic fantasy, or those who say wet-aged beef is a ruse, everyone agrees some type of aging makes for a better steak.

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More Information About Dry Aged Beef!
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Aging beef is a procedure used to naturally tenderize beef. The process includes storing vacuum packed beef for 5-28 days at a constant temperature of 0-4 degrees centigrade. This allows the natural enzymes in the muscle to slowly break down the fibers. The taste of aged beef also improves. Once beef has been properly aged, it can be either cooked or frozen. The frozen beef will maintain the benefits of aging. It is not advisable to age beef in a home refrigerator, as the temperature varies too much. It is also not possible to age beef that has been previously frozen.

Dry vs. wet aging!

There are two ways of aging beef: wet and dry aged. Wet aged occurs when the beef is kept in a vacuum-sealed bag and not exposed to the air. During this process the beef sets in its own juices and doesn't loose much moisture causing the beef to be less juicy and have a wet taste. Dry aged beef is placed in an aging cooler with a controlled temperature between 35-38° and humidity of 50-60%. This enables the natural enzymes of the beef to break down the muscle fibers thus tenderizing the meat. When dry aging beef, the outside becomes stiff and there is a loss of moisture of up to 40 percent after trimming. Dry aged beef will be extremely tender and concentrated with succulent flavor.

Marbling is a must!

Marbling in meat should be fine and throughout. Thick or heavy marbling will not break down during cooking and will be a tougher cut of meat. Meat with little or no marbling will have very little flavor and usually will not be as tender.

Color and Texture!

Look for beef that has a cream color on the outer fat. Bones should have a reddish color. The meat should be firm to the touch and also should be cherry red in color.

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Checkoff Dollars Used For
Aging Study Of Retail Cuts

AUSTIN — Supermarket meat managers can enhance the tenderness of some fresh beef cuts through planned aging, according to a recent Texas A&M University study funded with beef checkoff dollars through the Texas Beef Council.

The objective of the research is to help retailers increase consumer satisfaction with certain beef cuts. The 1995 National Beef Quality Audit determined that inadequate tenderness is second only to low overall uniformity and consistency as major concerns by retailers about beef.

TBC currently is working with Texas A&M researchers and national groups to disseminate the aging information to retailers.

"Aging meat makes it better," said Dr. Jeff Savell, leader of A&M’s meat science section and a principal researcher in the study. "Beef has to age to have enhanced tenderness characteristics. What this means to supermarkets is that somewhere along the system we’ve got to build in an aging system."

For Texas beef producers, who funded the study through their $1 per head beef checkoff program, the study means retailers are part of the process in presenting more tender beef to consumers. They can help enhance tenderness, as well as perception of the state’s fresh beef products, simply through different inventory management.

"This study shows that the retail marketer has as important a role as the producer in making beef more tender," said Ken Jordan of San Saba, chairman of TBC’s beef quality committee. "When all segments work together, we can come closer to providing the consumer with a highly desirable, consistently tender product."

Aging refers to holding beef at refrigerated temperatures for an extended period of time. The process allows natural enzymatic reactions to take place that maximize the flavor and tenderness of certain beef cuts.

The Texas A&M study looked at seven popular retail cuts. It showed that five of them reach optimum tenderness somewhere between 12 and 16 days of aging.

Studies have shown that beef gets from the packer to the retail meat case in an average of 17 days. That means some beef already has proper aging. However, other beef gets to the retail case in as few as three days. That’s far too early for the enzymatic reactions that induce tenderness to occur.

Based on the study, Texas A&M released the following recommendations to retailers to assure that maximum tenderness due to aging has occurred:

Chuck rolls and bottom rounds should be aged for at least 12 days;

 Ribeyes and shortloins should be aged at least 13 days;

 Top rounds should be aged at least 16 days.

The study showed aging had no maximum effect on shoulder clods and top sirloins. Therefore, these cuts can be marketed soon after they leave the packing plant.

The objective of this research, Jordan said, will be to get retailers to install a planned aging system that complements the industry’s efforts to increase tenderness through genetic selection pressures.

"The idea for this research program originated with beef producers," Jordan said. "It’s an example of how the beef checkoff program works at the grassroots level to make our industry better for all beef producers."

Optimal Conditions of Cooler Aging for Beef

SummarySteaks from longissimus muscle were stored at 30° F and 38° F for one, two, three, eight and 15 days postmortem to identify time/temperature combinations providing optimum tenderization. After completion of each treatment, steaks were sampled for myofibrillar protein degradation using gel electrophoresis and Warner-Bratzler shear force. Steaks aged at 38° F tended to have lower shear force values (greater tenderness) and shorter storage times than those stored at 30° F. Gel electrophoresis confirmed these results: samples stored at 38° F had considerable protein degradation in eight days, comparable to steaks aged at 30° F for 15 days.


Biology of meat tenderness is quite complex, with many factors influencing the final product. One factor affecting tenderness is extent of proteolysis, or breakdown, of muscle proteins. As meat ages, proteolysis is enhanced. Larger protein components of meat break down into smaller fragments and as this process continues, the meat becomes more tender. Another factor is temperature, which has a profound effect on the time course of aging, and may also influence the extent of tenderization. It is well known beef improves in tenderness when stored in coolers, with optimal aging occurring in the first 11 days. What is not known, however, is the optimal aging time at a given cooler temperature. Many purveyors now extend aging periods prior to selling beef to upscale restaurants. Extended storage of meat at or near freezing temperatures, however, may not accomplish the desired effect and is not always feasible. It is possible a shorter storage at a slightly higher temperature would accomplish the same results for less time and money. The relationship of storage temperature and aging times to beef tenderness and palatability is needed to make general recommendations to those who age beef.


Ten pairs of loins were used for all aging time-storage temperature combinations. The loins were stored using two cooler temperatures (30° F and 38° F) and five aging times (one, two, three, eight and 15 days postmortem). After each treatment, steaks were cut and 10-gram samples were collected from each steak for gel electrophoresis. The steaks were then vacuum-packaged and frozen at -68° F for Warner-Bratzler shear force determination at a later time. A zero-time sample was also collected on the day of slaughter to provide a baseline for electrophoretic gels.

After controlled thawing, steaks (1 inch thick) were broiled to an internal temperature of 158° F and allowed to cool. Cores (n = 8-10; 0.5 in diameter) were taken parallel to fiber directions and sheared for determination of tenderness as measured by shear force using the Instron Universal Testing machine.

Myofibrils used for electrophoresis were isolated from raw muscle samples by differential gradient centrifugation. Electrophoresis identified protein fragments with different molecular weights. Molecular weight standards (BioRad, broad range) were used to identify molecular weights of the protein bands.


Warner-Bratzler tests suggest steaks stored at 38° F tend to have lower shear forces at a shorter storage time than those stored at 30° F (Figure 1). Although not significant (P > .05), this trend is consistent with current theories of aging. The shear force test is subject to a great deal of variation. We postulate greater numbers of samples would maintain this trend, increasing the level of significance.

Although the relationship between shear force and aging time is not linear, it does follow a curve (P < .01). It is interesting to note values obtained for steaks aged at 30° F for 15 days are similar to steaks aged at 38° F for 11-12 days. Reducing aging by three days would lead to significant annual savings.

The results from both Warner-Bratzler and electrophoresis suggest aging occurs at a faster rate in steaks stored at 38° F and suggest beef can be stored for a shorter period of time at a higher temperature to obtain the desired tenderness. Such an aging period would translate into considerable savings in time and money for purveyors. Further study is needed to determine palatability, microbial growth and the specific biochemical processes occurring during different time and temperature combinations. Also, other retail cuts of beef must be tested using the same procedures to refine the relationship between storage temperature and aging.

Beef is aged to obtain the optimum in flavor and tenderness.
 Although opinion varies on the proper length of aging, the best beef is aged to about 10 -14 days.

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If you found this page interesting, you may also want to look at the following pages:

Kobe Beef

London Broil


Beef Marinade

Tri Tip

Filet Mignon

Beef Brisket

Beef Brisket

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