At Raley’s, we like to offer customers something special. At select locations, that includes our very own in-house dry-aged beef. You’ve probably seen something similar on the menu at an upscale steakhouse. The holidays are the perfect time to go the extra mile when cooking for family and friends, and serving dry-aged beef will make the meal that much more delicious and memorable.
What is dry-aged beef?
Dry-aged beef is beef that has been aged from as little as a few weeks to several months before being cut into steaks.
Why dry-age beef?
This process develops a much richer flavor and makes the beef more tender than it would be if it were cooked like a fresh piece of meat. Some of the flavors that come through include nuttiness, sweetness and a savory-umami flavor. The longer it’s aged, the more pronounced the flavors and aromas typically will be. Of course, what you detect will vary depending on your taste buds.
The dry-aging process
Dry-aging takes place in a temperature- and humidity-controlled environment. The cuts of beef are hung in such a way that all sides are exposed to the same amount of airflow. The meat is exposed to oxygen, which engages the natural enzymes within the meat to start breaking down the molecular bonds. During that process, because the structure changes, the flavor compounds and other molecules change, too. Some flavor components will increase, while others will not.
You might wonder about mold, considering that the process involves hanging meat in the air. Yes, some mold occurs, but it’s akin to the kind of beneficial mold of blue cheese. And anything that develops is trimmed away.
How long does it take to dry-age beef?
Typically, dry-aging can take place for as short as a few weeks (18 to 20 days is common) to 45 days or even up to 60 days (meats aged that long acquire what some have described as a “funky” flavor and cheese-like aromas). As you might expect, the flavor changes dramatically throughout that time period. During the dry-aging process, moisture evaporation can reduce somewhere between 30 and 50 percent of the primal cut’s weight. This, along with the time and labor involved in dry-aging beef, factors into its higher sticker price.
With a steak this special, you’ll want to cook it right and not risk losing its remarkable flavor and texture. While the technique for cooking a dry-aged beef is not significantly different than cooking a fresh cut of beef, it is wise to brush up on a few top tips.
- Get to room temperature. Remove the steak from the refrigerator about 30 minutes before cooking so that it comes to room temperature. This helps the steak cook more evenly from the edges to center.
- Wait to season. Hold off seasoning your dry-aged steak with salt until just before cooking it. If you apply salt too soon, the salt has time to pull moisture out of the meat, making it difficult to sear and seal in the juices.
- Meat thermometer is a must. Using a meat thermometer can mean the difference between an overcooked steak and perfection. It’s recommended to remove steak from heat when it’s five degrees shy of your desired temperature because it will continue cooking. (Here’s a general guide: 125°F for rare, 135°F for medium-rare, 145°F for medium, or 150°F for medium-well, 160°F for well-done.)
- Allow the steak to rest. After cooking, transfer the steak to a cutting board, and let it rest, uncovered, for at least five minutes.
Bonus tip: Many chefs swear by the reverse sear technique. Slow cook the beef in an oven set between 200°F and 275°F and cook until just shy of desired doneness. Then quickly sear in a hot oiled pan to finish.
If you are interested in a dry-aged cut of beef for your holiday dinner, we ask that you place your order a minimum of 15 days in advance to ensure you receive it in time. It is a little more expensive, but that’s because it takes more time and labor to produce dry-aged beef. But once you taste it, we think you’ll agree it’s worth the effort.