There is no question that in the Carnivore’s world, a great big hunk of perfectly grilled dry aged beef is the holy grail of meat. There are a great many factors that go into the “why’s” and “how’s” that make it so, but the most important factor of all is time.
You may have heard that slow food is good food. A long braised beef bourguignon the dead of winter, a low smoked pork shoulder in the backyard BBQ and even the ubiquitous beer can chicken on the Weber. All three benefit from patience and care in preparation. The same holds true for a well-aged piece of beef.
There are two ways to age whole and sub-primal cuts of beef , wet aging in vacuum sealed packaging and dry aging under temperature and humidity controlled refrigeration. The former being the most popular in the restaurant industry. Most steaks that make it to the steakhouse table are wet aged for a period of up to 60 days or more in a meat packing warehouse. These sub-primal cuts of beef are then shipped off through a distributor to their final destination (restaurants) and then cut into individual sized portions. These steaks will by and large taste dramatically different than the steak you buy from your local grocery store or butcher. The act of aging the beef in a warehouse in its vacuum sealed packaging helps to tenderize the beef and change its flavor through the controlled decay that occurs as enzymes break down the muscle tissue. As complex as this seems, it truly is as simple as harnessing the power of rotting meat, and using it for good instead of evil.
Dry aged beef on the other hand completely changes the taste and texture of your steak. By regulating the temperature and the humidity in the refrigerator used to dry age large cuts of beef you can control the rate of decomposition. You allow for the collagen in the muscle fibers to slowly break down and for most of the moisture to evaporate away leaving only highly concentrated blood platelets and pure protein behind. Sounds pretty gruesome, but that’s the science behind intense flavor.
But it doesn’t come cheap. At about 50 days of aging you lose about 25 percent of the original weight. Which means that for a butcher investing in a dry aging program they have to closely monitor the loss of weight in their product and adjust the price accordingly. A whole NY strip loin that a butcher can purchase for $14 per pound can yield about 13 large steaks for about $7.50 a piece. He can then mark that price up and pass along the steak to the consumer. Once you start dry aging and loose about 25% of the weight, that strip loin now costs the butcher about $19 per pound. So do the math, he’s in the business to make a profit, and who does the extra cost get passed on to? But don’t be too sour, it’s you who benefits from the care and time taken to properly age that steak that you get to enjoy.
Why this process makes us salivate at the mere mention of dry aged steak on a menu is a bit of a mystery, but a lot of it can be credited to the human need for being in possession of the “best”. And hands down, a properly grilled piece of dry aged steak is like no other when paired with a great baked potato and fine cabernet.
Here’s a great Recipe to accompany your steak- Blue Cheese and Toasted Garlic Butter