How to dry-age beef

If you’ve ever had a steak that amazed you with its flavour and tenderness, chances are you were eating dry-aged beef. When you learn how to dry-age beef, you can use the process to tenderize and intensify the natural flavour of your beef dishes. True dry-aged beef can turn an ordinary dinner into something extraordinary.

What is dry-aging?

Dry-aging is a process where beef is aged in a temperature-controlled environment for a specific length of time. The meat is removed from its original packaging and refrigerated between 0-2°c with relative humidity of 70-80% and airflow of 400 – 550 cubic cms per minute. The length of time for dry-aging should range from 28 to 50 days but can go as long as 100 days. The longer the beef is dry-aged, the more pronounced the flavour. Since water evaporates from the meat during the aging process, dry-aging tenderizes the meat and concentrates the flavour. Trimming and water loss during aging will result in shrinkage of 25-30% of the meat’s original weight.

Traditional dry-aging

Traditionally, dry-aging is done by hanging meat in a controlled, closely watched, refrigerated environment. The temperature must stay between freezing and 2°C. Too warm and the meat will spoil, too cold and it will freeze, interrupting the aging process. You need humidity to reduce water loss and a constant flow of air all around the meat to control bacteria, which means a well-ventilated space.

Dry-aging at home

Although dry-aging is more difficult and involved than you may have thought, it is doable, and you don’t actually need a dedicated drying room or cabinet. Dry-aging kits make it easier to age your beef at home. These kits include a vacuum sealer and semi-permeable bags that allow moisture to evaporate while protecting the meat from absorbing odors from other foods in the refrigerator.

  1. Remove the meat from its original packaging, cover any exposed bones with dampened baking parchment paper and insert the beef into the dry-aging bag.
  2. Vacuum seal to remove air and close the bag. Write the date on the bag to ensure accurate aging.
  3. Place your bagged beef in the refrigerator on a wire rack for air circulation during the aging process
  4. After 5 days, turn the bag over and leave in the refrigerator for another 30 days.
  5. Remove the meat from the refrigerator and take it out of the dry-aging bag.
  6. Cut away the thin layer of dried meat or bark from the beef.
  7. Season and cook to your preferred doneness.

Dry-aging takes a little more time and effort, but it yields more tender meat with a classic nutty taste.

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