The Great Dry Aging Experiment

by Bunny                          

 Have you ever been to a restaurant where they list how long they have dry aged their steaks?  I’ve seen that before and always wondered what they really meant, and why the heck they would bother.  Still after a little research and watching a Good Eats episode where they did it I felt like giving it a shot myself. 

The first thing you do when you dry age your meat is get a good piece to start with.  We picked up a nice boneless roast from the grocery store.  I was hoping for a standing rib roast, but that will have to be another time.  The next thing you do is unwrap the darn thing and put it on the drying rack.  This is a cookie sheet with paper towels on it and a cooling rack over that.  This keeps the meat out of any moisture.  Then you loosely cover it with another towel and put the whole thing in the fridge.

Yup, I thought it was crazy too.  It made no sense to me at all.  My whole life I’ve been told to cover the food before storing it and be especially careful with raw meat.  But this just goes right into the fridge.  You can further cover the meat if your fridge is crowded and you are worried about cross contamination – but we have an outside fridge with enough room for things like this from time to time so I just left it covered with the towels.

You should change the towel on the meat every day.  The whole point of this exercise is to remove all the surface moisture from the meat.  We dry aged our roast for about four days.  Every time I went to change the towels I would get more and more nervous thinking that I had ruined a perfectly good piece of meat.  It was looking shriveled and was picking up a stronger aroma as the days went by.  The aroma wasn’t bad at all – just a stronger meaty smell than I am used to when I open up a package of meat.

Finally, the day came when I was going to cook it.  I chose to go with the low temperature method.  After rubbing the now scary looking roast with oil I coated it with kosher salt (sticks to the meat better because it is full of flat sided crystals) and fresh ground black pepper.  This went into a Pyrex dish and was covered with a tent of heavy duty aluminum foil.  The oven was set at 200 degrees F and I just walked away for a while.

About three hours later, I put in a probe thermometer to test the meat, the temperature at the middle of the roast was around 118 degrees F and the roast had changed from a scary dry looking thing into a lovely plump looking dish.  The baking dish had collected the runoff from the roast and the house smelled heavenly. 

I pulled the roast from the oven and wrapped it in the heavy duty foil I had used as a cover before.  This kept it cooking.  Since I had the thermometer in already I just left it in and watched the temperature rise slowly over the next twenty minutes until it stabilized at around 140 degrees F.  Meanwhile, I scrapped up the leftovers from the baking dish and added some water and cooking Marcella.  This I set to boil on the stove top in a small sauce pan to make a topping for the dinner.  I also cranked the oven temperature up to 500 degrees F.

Once the sauce was almost reduced by half I decided it was way to strong and so I dropped the heat and added some cream to smooth out the taste.  At the same time the meat went back (unwrapped now) into the hot oven for another 10 minutes.  This was to create a crust on the outside to give a texture contrast to the meat. 

Once it came back out was the moment of truth.  Would this method work and would it be any good?  Well after slicing into the roast I was delighted to see a beautiful pink and red center with a wonderful crusty edge.  A quick snitch told the rest of the story.  

Wonderful looking roast.

Dry aging the meat had increased the, well, the meatiness of the flavor.  Instead of a good roast, I had a really good roast with a stronger flavor than usual.  The cooking methods left the insides moist and tender while the outside toothy and ever so slightly crisp.  It was a great roast.

The final plating is presented below.  We combined steamed green beans with a baked sweet potato (note that this is a real sweet potato and not a yam) for a balanced and delicious meal. 

The final plating. YUM!

All in all I have to highly recommend dry aging for that special dish you have coming up when you have time to prepare for it.  The major drawback is knowing that I would want a roast in 4 days, but when you do know that it is well worth the extra effort.

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2 Comments »

  1. […] The Great Dry Aging Experiment […]

  2. John O Said:

    So I would guess that dry aging may not be so good with venison, since it may make the gaminess too strong. Let me know if you try this with something like antelope. 🙂


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