Adventures in Dry Aging: A Shock to the System

Presented by DRYAGER



In the last episode I pulled my strip loin sub-primal from my DRYAGER cabinet after 31 days. I used fresh hanging beef from my friends at Golden Packing in Manhattan’s famous Meat Packing District, one of the few remaining butchers in the now gentrified neighborhood, and one of the few shops in the city that has access to fresh hanging beef. As I discuss in episode one of this series I wanted to assess the DRYAGER cabinet's capabilities from as early in the aging process as possible. The strip loin I procured was cut from a carcass an hour before it went into my DRYAGER unit, about as close as you can get to fresh beef in the modern age. The vast majority of meat brought to market these days is in vacuum sealed form, meaning the wet aging process has already begun.

While I do have a DRYAGER bone saw at home my friends over at Golden Packing have a band saw, and a slew of butchers that can breakdown a short loin far better than I can. I also wanted their opinion on the way it looked and felt, considering it came from their shop. I had the short loin fabricated into six bone-in NY strips leaving the sirloin end, which contains the so-called “vein steak,” for a roast. The “vein” isn’t a vein at all, its actually a sheath of sinew that surround the gluteus medius muscle, which spans the sirloins and short loin Primals. There is nothing wrong with this muscle per se, but it does have a tougher texture than the other short loin muscles, and of course the sinew can be chewy.

To say that I was impressed by the initial results would be a massive understatement. The bouquet, the feel, the look of the now withered and desiccated short loin was exactly what I expect from a commercial grade facility. That the DRYAGER cabinet was able to accomplish this level of curing in a residential sized unit, and without a direct water connection or drain, surprised me. And it was wasn’t just my opinion: my friends at Golden Packing where also suitably impressed.



Of course the ultimate proof is in the tasting. The external aroma of the loin was what I expect from well tempered beef — an initial sharp blue cheese like pungency followed by a more gentle nutty undercurrent. Would this translate on the palate? And as importantly what of the texture? A great steak cannot depend on a single parameter, it is about the collusion of flavor, mouth feel, tensile resistance and the intensity of the lingering essence — does the flavor disappear or does it echo on the palate?

I am both happy, and a little shocked, to report that the flavor and texture of a steak aged in the UX500 was on par with what you can get from a local butcher or in a restaurant environment, and in fact it produced a steak I felt superior to many steakhouses I have visited. I started off with the best possible product — USDA Prime hanging beef, exactly what you would expect from steakhouse, but certainly not what is often sold in them!

I prepared my first DRYAGER UX500 aged steak by seasoning liberally with salt and searing to rare in a cast iron pan. The aroma was instantly familiar, the look and feel of the now charred and glistening steak what I expect from a proper aged steak. And the texture was spot on. The searing heat and rich marbling created a dense crust the color of dark mahogany that gave way to a lush, crimson interior. The texture was tender but had a pleasing chew, it wasn’t the mushiness that filet often provides, rather it had body and form. And a supremely beefy flavor.

I know what you are asking — yes, it had unmistakable tang of dry aging, the steely, blue cheese like funk that is so sought after by steak aficionados. But to be clear, it was only on the very exterior of cut, where the Primal was directly exposed. This is what I expect, and indeed demand, from a 28- 31 day dry aged product. The interior tasted predominantly like beef, not the secondary flavor notes for the dry aging process itself. It is important to note that it is the concentration the flavor of the beef itself that is the primary reason to dry age in the modern world. By removing moisture from the muscle what remains is a more profound and intense flavor.

If simply achieving tenderness is ones aim, then wet aging does that as effectively and with no loss of product. But the idea that every bite of dry aged steak should taste like a piece of Roquefort cheese is unrealistic and frankly, quite unappealing. Long aged steaks have their place — indeed I have been an advocate for the practice my whole career — but the one month sweet spot should still be upheld as the industry standard. And the DRYAGER unit accomplishes this with aplomb. The steaks had a joyfully beefy flavor, a succulent mouthfeel and just enough resistance to let you know you are eating a steak cut from Prime steer.


 


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