Why Is Dry-Aged Steak More Expensive Than Its Fresh Counterparts?

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For humans, aging hurts but for some favourite culinary delights like wine, cheese and red meat, aging improves flavour and deepens enjoyment. This is particularly true for dry-aged beef that has a richer flavour and more tender texture and can be sold for a higher price compared to its fresh counterparts.

The magic of dry-aging

Meat is about 75% water. A few percentages of moisture loss due to evaporation in the dry-aging process will result to a more concentrated meat with a more concentrated flavour. As water evaporates from meat, its natural flavour intensifies.

However, flavour is also the effect of chemical changes. According to Joe Regenstein, Professor in the Department of Food Science at Cornell’s College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, during the dry-aging process, some of the flavour compounds and molecules in the meat undergo a chemical change that increases some of the flavour components while reducing others.

Muscle cells are composed of different materials like protein and molecules that include glycogen, DNA and RNA. During the process of dry-aging, the large, flavourless molecules are broken down into smaller segments that are more flavourful than the larger segments. Dry-aging also changes the texture of meat. Meat is known for its complex internal structure that is difficult to bite through. When proteins are broken down, the meat becomes more tender.

Best cuts of meat for dry-aging

The best parts of meats for dry-aging are the entire primal that has a good protective covering of bone and fat. There is less surface that has to be trimmed after the dry-aging process. Filets cannot be dry-aged because every single side of the meat will be exposed to air and will break down faster than the meat on the outside. Bone-in New York strip or rib-eye when dry-aged are sold in popular steakhouses for a significantly higher price.

Up to 50% of the primal’s original weight is lost because of evaporation and the need to whittle away the mouldy parts. If 10 pounds of beef is dry-aged, only about 5 pounds will be left by the time the process of dry-aging is completed. This essentially doubles the price paid for the beef.

The ideal length of time for dry-aging is about 30 to 35 days although individual tastes are also considered. Retail customers usually prefer 35 days while restaurants mostly opt for 18 to 20 days. Restaurants do not want their steaks to be dry-aged for too long because if the customer is not familiar with dry-aged steak, he might think that something is off.

The longer that meat has been aged, the richer will be its flavour. In restaurants, dry-aged beef is the ultimate in dining experience and allows customers to expand their palette.

However, a flavourful and tender dry-aged steak requires a proper dry-aging chamber that facilitates the dry-aging process. All the necessary precautions and equipment are present in the dry-aging chamber to achieve controlled fermentation. When the process of dry-aging is showcased to customers, they will be encouraged to try the unique experience and share them with family and friends.

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