Dry-Aging beef Part 1

Having travelled my share, I found out that we lack dry-aged beef in Finland. Wanting to teach me and my surroundings what that is and how much better quality meat is once it’s properly aged, I set out to get my hands on a proper piece of meat and begin to dry-aging it.

I live in Finland, the country of supermarkets and vacuum packed meats. I’ve always enjoyed farmers’ markets and dedicated butcher shops during travelling. I first came across dry-aging beef in a restaurant and started to wonder what is it. Sure, we had the old-wives tales here as well, that having “better hung meat” was something you should aim for, but with barely nobody knowing where the saying comes from. Leave the beef hanging for extended periods of time makes it tender and develop flavors.

The process

So where does one start learning about meat processing? The internet of course! I watched some youtube videos (plus here and here), read interesting blog posts until I stumbled upon Serious Eats’ awesome and somewhat scientific article on home aging beef. I had to give it a go! Especially after reading Heston Blumentahl’s In search for perfection -book, that describes the scientifically proven method for cooking the best steak.

The first challenge was to find a suitable chunk of meat. An important aspect is the logistics chain. It is surprisingly difficult to find a meat farm that will provide you with a specific cut meat that isn’t vacuum packed. Eventually I found out about Havsgårdar. They are a small farm that produces high quality Highland beef about one and a half hours from where I live. Few phonecalls with the farmer, the butcher and the drive later I was a proud owner of about 5kg worth of prime rib.

Day 0: The meat is in the fridge with some pink salt to adjust the humidity.

You can read about the science in the Serious Eats’ article, but in brief, the conditions required to allow for a safe dry-aging process, i.e. decomposition of the muscle cells requires a relatively cold (+2°C) and much drier than your average fridge (~60% rh). I happened to have dedicated fridge for this, so using rock salt and a small grill, I perched the meat in the fridge and started waiting.

Day 2
Day 5
Day 10
Day 17: Noticeable color change and the surface has dried significantly

To enhance to drying, the dr-aging cabinet (fridge) should have sufficient air circulation. I played around with various USB-fans and whatnots, but eventually the best solution was to use a computer case fan and an adjustable power source to reduce the airflow. It was quiet, the wire was thin enough to go through the seal in the fridge door and its positioning was relatively easy.

Fan positioned inside the fridge
Day 32
Day 44

The verdict

Eventually, at day 48 the meat was ready for my purposes and I got to cut it. The meat was delicious, supple, tender and packed with flavor. It wasn’t quite as good as I had in AG in Stockholm Sweden, or Peter Luger in NY. After reading on it, it seems that the dry-aging process benefits fattier breeds of beef. Having done this now for a very lean Highland rib, the flavour compounds weren’t that pronounced.

I was very happy with the end result, but I still need to try out on a fattier and marbled breed, so stay tuned.

Day 48. The Ribeye has been cut from the bone but not yet cleaned

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