Geriatric Beef (or, the Process of Aging)

Steak Dinner

Ever wonder why the dry aged beef you see on restaurant menus are so much more expensive?  Well, here’s a breakdown…The cow is cut into what are called “Primal Cuts” – the entire rib, or the entire chuck (about 60 percent of a whole cow) the entire loin, etc.  There are 8 primal cuts from a cow, so, a cow averaging about 1300 pounds has really big primal cuts.  Then of course there’s loss of fat and bone when the primal cut is broken down into sub-primal, then retail, cuts.  Primal cuts are usually delivered shrink wrapped “wet” (in their own moisture) and if it’s going to a grocery store they break it down into the cuts they want to sell and shrink wrap it again for immediate consumption (called a wet, or fresh pack).

Then there are the primals that go to higher end restaurants and fancy restaurants.  The restaurants have the option of cutting and serving fresh beef, or aging the beef in its wet pack, where flavor accumulates over time (anywhere from 2-6 weeks) but not much dehydration occurs so they aren’t losing much weight (beef is bought priced per pound remember!). 

Primals that are DRY aged are taken out of their wrapping, and hung for a period of 3-6 weeks at controlled temperatures of 34-38 degrees, and 50-60 percent humidity.  The meat loses up to 20 percent of its moisture while dry aging, and enzymes go to work chewing the muscle fibers, which tenderizes the meat.  The exterior of the meat gets a really deep mahogoany color and has a texture like old leather.  The exterior has to be trimmed away which further reduces the weight about 20-25%.  Dry aged meat tastes gamier, nuttier, and earthier and it feels buttery in the mouth.  This is why it is so prized.  As you can imagine, a primal cut that loses up to 45% of its original weight will certainly be reflected in the price!!!  Make sense?  IF you want to  “get a whiff” of what dry aging is all about you can even do a “scam version” in your own refrigerator.  Just buy steaks already cut (please buy choice or prime!), and put them on a tray uncovered in your fridge (at 38 degrees please) for 2-3 days.  You’ll notice a difference in the flavor and texture.  It’s up to YOU to determine if It’s worth it!


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