Written by Executive Chef, Paul Hamilton
Our dry aging story:
The dry-aging process itself entails storing the meat, either in primal or portioned cuts, in a refrigerated room (ironically called a hot box) at temperatures near freezing. During this storage period a fungal mould forms on the outside of the cut of the meat, creating an external ‘crust’.
This changes the beef in two ways; firstly, it causes a reduction of moisture in the muscle - intensifying the natural flavour of the meat - and secondly, the natural enzymes in the meat break down the muscles’ connective tissues, tenderising the cut.
Due to the actual nature of what dry-aging is (leaving raw meat to air for up to 6 weeks), only the highest quality cuts of beef are used for the process. Meat can be dry-aged for anywhere from 5 to 28 days.
At Steamers, we’ve constructed our own in-house, temperature and humidity-controlled dry-aging room – an industry first in Australia. This requires meeting four key criteria of controlled airflow, humidity, temperature and product segregation.
Thanks to our custom-built dry-aging facility, we’re able to offer our customers hand-selected superior cuts of marbled, Angus-Hereford beef before being aged to their specification.
Generally, the dry-aging process takes a minimum of five weeks but can be up to nine weeks and as short as a few days if a very mild flavour is preferred.
In the first week of the process, the environment inside the dry-age unit encourage the muscle proteins and collagen to begin to naturally break down. These release natural enzymes in the beef into the meat, causing a reaction in the amino acids of the muscle.
As time continues to pass into the second week, the amino acids and enzymes continue to tenderise the cuts and release flavour while the cut reduces in size and begin to take on a concave shape as it continues losing moisture.
Natural moisture in the muscle is pushed outward from the core, but fat and bone coverage on the top and sides of each cut serve as waterproof barriers, forcing the expelled moisture to exit the muscle through the front and back. Each cut will lose up to 15% of its moisture in the first three weeks of dry-aging.
By the fourth week, the meat has significantly changed flavour, thanks to the work of the enzymes. At this stage in the process the flavour of the beef is very strong and distinct, the cut will have drastically reduced in size and darkened in colour.
At Steamers, our standard aging period is five to six weeks. For us, dry-aging meat is a passion as beautiful as aging a fine cheese or wine. Our capabilities for dry-aging doesn’t stop at beef, and we are currently experimenting with dry-aging whole ducks, pork cutlets and bone-in Berkshire whole pork racks. So keep an eye on our Instagram and facebook for treats coming through.