By now you'll know that we talk (a lot) about dry-aging our beef over here. We thought it might be a good idea to explain that a bit better. Let's start with the real question, though. Why bother? Why would you want to eat old-ass beef, when you could eat perfectly fresh beef? Well, the simple answer is that aging meat PROPERLY can improve texture and flavour. Those two are “biggies” when it comes to eating anything, really, but they’re especially important when trying to appreciate meat.
Previous generations knew this and previous generations dry-aged their beef. What does this involve? Well, a fairly basic process really. By carefully controlling temperature and humidity, naked beef is exposed to air flow. The air reacts with the exposed meat and enzymes are broken down, which affect things like proteins, muscle fibers, connective tissues, sugars, amino acids etc. Sorry, we went full meat-geek there for a second. My bad. You don’t need to know all of that stuff. You do need to know that, because of the water loss that occurs when you hang a piece of meat, it means there’s less contraction when you cook it. Less water comes out of the steak, in other words. Juicer steak guys. Juicer steak. That’s where I’m going with this. Flavour-wise, expect heightened umami, buttery notes, grassy smells. The good stuff. Another benefit of the dry-aging (and the resulting decrease in moisture in the meat) is the texture of the exterior of the cooked beef. You know that delicious, golden “crust” on well-cooked beef. Well, with dry-aged beef, that crust is…even crustier.
Of course, every fairytale needs a villain. And, in this case, that villain is a little plastic bag. In recent times, the quality of these bags has improved. Retailers realised that. Lazy butchers realised that. They discovered that if you just grabbed a piece of meat, you could throw it in these amazing new bags and vacuum seal them. Stick that piece of meat on a shelf for three weeks. Boom! “21 day matured steak!” And guess what? The thing weighs the same when you take it out the bag! Who cares if it smells like a used razor blade and tastes, well, like a piece of meat that’s been sitting in its own blood for three weeks? Apparently not too many people, in fact. The name given to this process was “wet aging”. And that is what allows the steakhouse chain down the road to sell “28 day aged steak” on their menu. It’s what allows butchers to sell it, it’s what allows retailers to sell it and - unfortunately - it’s what convinces a lot of people to buy it. Of course, nobody is lying. The meat has been aged. The problem, simply, is that it wouldn’t have served any purpose (except maybe a marginal improvement in tenderness.)
So what’s the ultimate period for a piece of meat to be dry-aged? Well, for me at least, it’s personal preference. Anything less that 14 days is a waste of time. From 14 days we see improvements in texture. But, really, only at about 21 days do we see that nutty flavour coming through. That can be heightened even further with a few days/weeks more but (again, just my opinion) quite often it becomes a pissing contest. “Oh yeah, those okes down the road are aging their meat for 40 days. I’m going to do 50. Oh yeah? They did 60days?! Well fu*k them We’re gonna do 70.” Eventually it just ends up tasting gross. Dry aged meat can be funky, sure, but there reaches a point where I just find it rancid and unpleasant. At FFMM we know our carcasses and we know our conditions. 30 - 35 days is our “sweet spot”, with extra special pieces sometimes getting pushed to 40 - 50 days. That’s as far as we’ll take it. We also believe certain cuts benefit from aging more than others. A thin piece of flatiron, skirt or spider steak will get the 14-day treatment. The fat covering on prime rib allows us to push it much further. We read the meat and we make the call. Either way, the truth is there for you to find yourself. Ask around. Not just to find out if the meat is aged. But to find out how.