A lot of restaurants around use the Dry Aged Method of Aging their steaks, In BRIMSTONE STEAKHOUSE we decided to wet age all our steaks in Himalayan salts and our own rub.
Ever wonder why your steaks at home don’t taste as great as those at the steakhouse? The secret is aging.
The bone-in rib eye steak arrives, sizzling, to your table in your favourite restaurant. A blackened sear and mouth-watering aroma combine to create a sensory first impression that promises greater things to come…and what follows does not disappoint.
The first thing you notice is a velvety tenderness that you just know should not come from a muscle this large, from a 1,200-pound beast that could destroy your car. Suddenly your taste buds are bathed in a complex blend of flavours: an initial savoury hit caused by the Maillard reaction on the outside of the meat giving way to the inside’s juicy sweetness with a mysteriously tangy accent. And as you close your eyes and savour this moment of bliss, you ask yourself: “Why don’t my steaks at home ever taste this good?”
It’s because your favourite restaurant has something your supermarket doesn’t: aged beef.
Aging Meat…Isn’t That a Little Odd?
It may sound unsettling or even dangerous to someone who was taught to always eat fresh food, but properly aged beef is truly something to be experienced. And the science backs it up.
For starters, the key phrase is properly aged. This is a delicate process that should be handled by those who know what they’re doing. Food safety is not to be taken lightly, and poorly handled aging is a great recipe for a trip to the hospital.
The meat you buy at the supermarket is fresh. The long chains of proteins in the muscle tissue are intact…and pretty chewy, and bland in flavour compared to what they could be. But that’s where natural chemistry comes in—specifically, the actions of enzymes on proteins. As the meat rests, enzymes that were contained in the muscles’ cells are unleashed and break down those long-chain proteins into amino acids, including the ones that create the savoury “fifth flavour” known as umami (think soy sauce or Parmesan cheese). They also convert the small amounts of carbohydrates in the meat into sugars, creating a sweeter taste. And by weakening the connective tissue surrounding the strands of protein, they naturally tenderize the meat without the use of chemical additives.
The trouble is, this process all takes time…and time, as they say, is money. Suppliers want to get paid, and the supermarket needs to sell its product to meet its overhead. It costs a lot of money for a supermarket to sit on all that inventory—not to mention the investment of time, and cooler space, and paying qualified staff to monitor the aging process and protect the investment.
Meanwhile, the restaurants like BRIMSTONE STEAKHOUSE, buy our steaks and spend time and money on properly aging your steaks so to create that special experience that can only come from a properly taking care and aging your steak to perfection.
Dry Aged vs. Wet Aged
There are two ways to age beef: dry and wet.
Dry aging is the practice of hanging an entire beef, side of beef or certain prime cuts (e.g. rib, loin) in a controlled, refrigerated environment for several weeks. The temperature must remain between 0 and 2 degrees celsius. Too warm, and the meat will spoil; too cold, and the meat will freeze, halting the aging process. Humidity is tightly regulated, and there must be constant circulation of air.
In addition to the tenderizing and flavour-enhancing effects created by the meat’s natural enzymes, the dry aging process promotes the growth of certain mould species on the meat’s surface. The moulds produce enzymes of their own which contribute to flavour and tenderness…and while actually seeing this process could be a little disturbing, the growth is dutifully scraped off before the beef is sold.
Dry-aged beef can lose 30% of its weight by water loss. While this concentrates the “beefy” flavours, it also makes each cut weigh less and loses its juiciness, That 10-ounce rib eye steak now weighs only 7 ounces.
Wet aging consists of vacuum packing beef—either prime or sub-prime cuts—in plastic and letting it age in a refrigerator. The meat is packed in its own juices, allowing its natural enzymes to break down connective tissue but without the fluid loss or mold growth of dry aging. Of course, there’s a trade-off: you won’t get the concentration of flavours caused by the reduction of water weight or the added funky flavour created by the mould, but the beef retains its original weight and the flavour and tenderness are greatly improved, while we at BRIMSTONE STEAKHOUSE take the added step of adding Himalayan salt and our own rub to intensify the flavour.
I would recommend you to try out the wet aging process at home using a rib eye of sirloin steak. Get zip lock bag (or vacuum sealer if you have one), some sea salt, cracked black pepper, dried garlic and thyme. Close the zip locked bag and remove all the air (if any air gets in or is left in the bag it will spoil). Leave in the fridge for 14-21 days. Remove from bag and cook to your liking.