What’s All the Beef About Dry-aging?

Dry-aged beef

My father-in-law worked for a Chicago butcher whose customers claimed he had the best beef around. The secret? Two weeks of dry-aging. Some of the finest steakhouses in the country boast dry-aged beef, wearing it as a badge of honor. But what’s all the beef about dry-aging?

Old world, artisan butchers dry-age beef, lamb, and pork for two reasons. First, it tenderizes the meat. Second, it concentrates and develops the flavor like a fine wine that has matured over the years. The process involves placing meat in refrigeration, exposed to the air, for a period of days or weeks. The other way meat may be aged is through wet-aging which allows meat to tenderize in Cryovac packaging. Wet-aging, unlike dry-aging, does not do much (if anything) to enhance the flavor of meat (though it does tenderize it). Unlike dry-aged meat, wet-aged meat does not undergo water loss or shrinkage, which is part of the reason dry-aged meats come at a higher premium.

When shopping for meat in the grocery store or butcher shop, when ordering a pork chop, steak, or lamb shank in a restaurant, how does one know that it’s dry aged? The same way that one knows whether meat is pasture-raised, hormone-and-antibiotic-free: nine times out of ten the retailer or restaurant will advertise it as such.

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