Chow Town

June 8, 2013

Like aging wine, dry-aging meats adds flavor

There seems to be a resurgence in the art of butchery and the craft of aging meats.

Chow Town

The daily dish on Kansas City's food and drink scene

There seems to be a resurgence in the art of butchery and the craft of aging meats.

Personally I enjoy a 45-day dry-aged bone in steak just like the next person, but what makes it better?

All beef is wet-aged for about 14 days before it hits the markets, so a slight wet-age is what we are use to. But, let’s start with a tender cut of steak and make a little magic happen.

First wet-aging is done in a cryo-vac plastic bag and just placed in a cooler.

The difference in flavor of wet-aged beef is not that remarkable. The meat is moist but takes on a tangy sour taste similar to sour cream or buttermilk. The fluid from the meat can’t escape during wet-aging so it becomes stinky serum. The texture, when put side-by-side with dry-aged beef is a bit squishy.

Sounds super tasty, right?

Dry-aging is a bit craftier as it requires proper humidity and temperature and something most of us don’t have, patience. This process is also about 50 percent to 100 percent more expensive, as time space and waste equal money.

Through the aging process, meat loses some volume and of course the outer parts must be trimmed so there is physical waste. All of this is made up by the intense blue cheesy flavor and tender moist texture.

A whole piece of meat with the bone in, typically a prime rib loin or strip loin, are set in a controlled environment and magic just happens.

Through the break down of muscle fibers and the oxidation of fat, the meat turns into the Mecca of flavor. The outer part of the meat dries out creating a seal for the rest of the meat to start making magic with it’s own enzyme breakdown. Without the proper humidity and temperature the meat will rot instead of age.

Dry-aging meat is similar to a properly aged wine. The longer the better, with the understanding there will be a little funk attached to the end result.

Most people enjoy meat, which has been dry-aged for 30-45 days. That meat has a nice texture with a nuttiness merely at a nuance. Between 45-60 days of aging the nuttiness comes with earthiness and lots of funk, but it is fabulous.

When cooking a piece of perfectly dry-aged beef the fat melts like a marinade into the muscle fibers creating a pillow of intense flavor. It is important to serve the dry-aged beef with the bone attached, as it will carry a few more intense aromas, which will fill your nostrils with a circus of olfactory delight.

Take small bites and intently enjoy each time the piece of meat brushes between your taste buds and teeth. It is an amazing rush of flavor and takes concentration and commitment to dissect the different flavors.

As you slump back in your chair delighted with the phenomenal experience sip on a strong wine that has been aged just as nicely.

Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system, one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.

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