Presented by DRYAGER
One might imagine that watching beef age is akin to watching paint dry, but in my experience nothing could be further from the truth! I liken it more to watching a terrarium grow and prosper or a Richard Serra sculpture rusting over time, its final form markedly different than the way it started out. The beef in a dry age environment transforms, the fat goes from being as white as the driven snow to being tinged with yellow, to eventually looking like a faded map, its jaundiced paper etched with contours the color of madeira wine. The muscle too transforms, from a pale pink to a foreboding anthracite, its surfaces growing increasingly darker and more mysterious. The beef prunes and cracks, shriveling as it desiccates, taking on the appearance of a fossil.
Living with the DRYAGER in my living room for a month was more fun than I anticipated. As it is I love to be surrounded by Prime beef whenever possible, but the UX500 allowed me to witness the dry aging process first hand. It is not as linear process as I imagined. Sometimes nothing would seemingly happen for days at a time, and then suddenly a new hue would appear, or a rupture might form due to desiccation. Of course this is purely visual. Underneath the surface the enzymes are hard at work tenderizing and flavoring the beef 24/7.
So after 28 days I pulled the strip loin from the DRYAGER. It certainly looked the part — the once white fat was now a pale maroon, the pale pink flesh now a deep oxblood; the once loose form had tightened and hardened significantly — but something was amiss! It did not smell fully developed. It had the aroma of chicken livers, a faint funkiness but it hadn’t yet reached maturity. If 28 days is the industry standard and I maintained the correct temperature and humidity controls shouldn’t the beef be ready? Aging is not an exact science, at least not the way wet aging is — there is an element of aesthetic control over the taste of the finished product that a bag cannot offer.
I used a strip loin that had been fabricated from hanging cattle, rather than a vacuum packed Primal, cut within a couple of hours of it going into my DRYAGER UX500 for 28 days. This is not how most dry aged beef is prepared. Most commercial facilities and restaurant aging rooms take in Primals that have been vacuum packed, and most often at least a week before being unpacked. This effectively starts the wet aging process, meaning that meat that is dry aged for a month in a dry aging room has already been aged for a week longer in the bag.
Thus the strip loin I aged in my DRYAGER UX500 needed a little extra time to reach maturation. This is something to keep in mind when sourcing meat for aging. Most beef is brought to market as vacuum sealed Primals. But if you are buying from a local farm or harvesting yourself, there is a strong likelihood you will be dealing with completely fresh beef.
I checked on the strip loin over the next few days and at 31 it hit the inflection point. The aroma was fully developed, the unmistakable tang of dry aged beef was apparent. In fact I was flabbergasted by how developed the bouquet was, it smelled like beef produced in a commercial facility. But how did it taste? Tune in next time to find out!
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