How to Dry Age Beef: A Comprehensive Guide

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Last Updated on June 3, 2021
Annabelle

A long-time contributor to SeriouslySmoked. Jim has had a lifelong relationship with the art of grilling, passed on from his father and grandfather to him.  

Annabelle is an experienced food writer and editor. She focuses on common sense, easy to replicate recipes formulated

to help keep things fresh and exciting while fitting into her day to day life as a wife and mother.

how to dry age beef

Dry aged beef is raw meat exposed to a steady stream of oxygen for several weeks or months. When you store a primal cut of beef in a controlled environment for a long period, the meat loses its moisture, and its lean muscle tissue shrinks in size. This leaves a cut with a disproportionate amount of juicy, flavorful fat content. 

The dry aging process concentrates the flavor of the beef cut. During this time, enzymes in the meat break down tasteless molecules like glycogen and RNA into flavorful sugars and smaller, savory food particles. 

When you learn how to dry age beef at home, you can produce an appetizing steak with a nutty, slightly cheesy flavor that leaves your family and friends hungry for more.

1. How to Dry Age Beef?

If you’ve ever tried to find dry aged beef in a supermarket, you’ll know that it’s an expensive product. However, you can save money by buying a primal cut from your local butcher and dry aging this meat yourself. 

Once you know how to dry age beef, you can create delicious steaks with very little effort.

Pick the right cut of beef

Before you start the dry aging process, you’ll need to pick a full or sub-primal cut of beef. If you choose a piece of meat that’s too small, this steak will shrink and wrinkle up as it dries. This means that it’s no use for cooking later on. 

You should also try to find a section of meat that contains plenty of fat. The best beef pieces for dry aging have a fat cap on the top of the cut. This fat cap acts as a seal for the meat, locking in tasty juices and ensuring that the cut doesn’t dry out completely during the aging process. The fat inside the cut reduces over time and spreads an intensely beefy, umami flavor throughout the rest of the meat. 

The beauty of dry aging is that it’s cost-effective. Rather than spending loads of money on a sirloin or tenderloin, you can buy a cheaper primal cut like a chuck, short plate, or shank and greatly enhance this meat’s flavor by leaving it to age for several months.

If you’re not worried about the money, opt for a strip loin, sirloin, or ribeye sub-primal or primal cut to dry age. Find a cut that includes a bone since bones keep surrounding meat cool and tender over time. Butchers often offer their customers a discounted rate if they’re selling you an untrimmed primal cut.

Put the cut in the fridge

Once you’ve selected the right cut, lay it on a high-quality stainless steel rack that you can slide into a baking tray. Fold out the legs at the bottom of the wire rack, so the meat is raised slightly. 

When you’re setting up your fridge, install a desk fan at the back of the shelf and turn on the medium speed setting. This fan’s purpose is to keep dry air circulating around the fridge at a steady rate, helping to dry the meat’s surface.

It’s best if you have a spare mini fridge that you can dedicate to the dry aging process. When you put a slab of beef on a shelf of your normal fridge, it can take up lots of space and give off a potent smell that diffuses into the rest of your food. 

Put the baking tray and meat into your mini-fridge, and try to open the fridge door as little as possible. Every time you expose the meat to the surrounding air, you destroy the perfectly balanced environment inside the fridge.

Leave for 1-2 months

For the best results, keep the beef inside the fridge for between 5-8 weeks. It’s natural for meat to give off a cheesy smell after a few weeks. During the aging process, the meat’s glycogen energy stores, and glucose turns into lactic acid, emitting an unpleasant odor. The beef’s fibrilla then becomes tough and contract, creating a dry cut with a concentrated flavor profile. 

Turn the meat every week to ensure that the fan’s airflow reaches all the beef’s surface and edges. After 6 weeks, the dried cut will smell powerful and intense. Once you’re satisfied with the beef’s smell and look, take it out of the fridge.

Peel and trim the fat off the dry aged beef

There’s no use knowing how to dry age beef if you don’t also learn how to trim this dried meat properly. You’ll need to whittle down the dry aged cut before you can slice it into steaks for cooking and eating. Put the meat on a cutting board and use your thumbs to peel off the thick top layer of fat. 

Once you’ve stripped off the fat cap from the rest of the cut, use a high-quality kitchen knife to trim the next layer of fat off of the meat. Cut thin slices because you don’t want to cut off any fresh and moist sections of fat that will improve your cooked steak’s flavor later on.

Cut into steaks for cooking

When you’re done trimming and the meat’s surface looks flavorful and rich, slice the joint into 1½” to 2½” steaks. These steaks will have a uniquely beefy flavor and tender texture. When you sear and eat them, you should be able to taste a rich, nutty undertone.


2. Raise the Steaks by Learning How to Dry Age Beef at Home

Dry aged steak has a potent and intense taste that you can’t find with any other type of meat. It’s also incredibly soft and tender, with a satisfying and lush mouthfeel every bite just melts in your mouth. 

People are often put off by the premium price of dry aged beef at restaurants and grocery stores. Fortunately, it’s both simple and cost-effective to buy a cheaper cut of beef from a butcher and dry age the meat yourself so you can enjoy a succulent steak without breaking the bank.