Friday, July 17, 2009

Dry-Aging Steaks at Home – This is Only a Test

One reason the steaks at premier steakhouses are so amazingly good is dry-aging. Of course, most high-end steakhouses also use Prime beef, which is more marbled with fat, hence juicier than the Choice grade you get at the supermarket, but beyond the quality of the meat, it's the aging that really makes a memorable steak.

This is also why they are so crazy expensive. The strip loins are carefully aged for weeks in a perfectly controlled environment, and as they sit they slowly dehydrate, which intensifies the meaty flavor, and also give the steaks an even more luxurious texture. Natural enzymes have time to break down the fibrous, connective tissue in the muscle, which tenderizes the steak like no other method.

A thick dry-aged steak is the ultimate red-meat eater experience. Unfortunately, there was really no great way to do this at home…until now (I think). I heard about a website, drybagsteak.com who was selling a kit to effectively dry-age steaks at home. They sell a vacuum heat sealer along with specially designed bags which they claim allows moisture to permeate out of the bag, but at the same time blocks oxygen from entering the bag.

I asked them if I supplied the strip loin would they send me the bags and equipment to test this new product on the blog? They agreed, and so the video demo you see here is Part 1 of the process. This video shows how to prepare the beef in the bags using the vacuum sealer, and in 14 days we will unwrap the meat, cut some steaks, and test the results in Part 2. Stay tuned. Enjoy!




Aging Steaks Photo (c) JOE M500

30 comments:

tut said...

Wow cool idea but won't work for me :( my only kid at home is vegan an wife is a grazer,eat cereal an toast an pastry all day,only time she eats real food is if i plonk a plate in her laps,that cut of meat would take me months to eat,so sads :( I have thought of ageing meat on a rack in fridge um what do you think of that?

tut said...

Also is there anything to the color of the beef cuts,some are like a pale red some are really deep red for some reason I think the deep ones are better of the same cut,is that right?the ones I see in supermarket are all pale but the farmers market an butchers some are a deep red but no brown bad spots um know what I mean? Thx John

milkshake said...

I bet the disgusting "old fridge funk" will gets soaked by the meat over the weeks of aging so the product may not taste that great. I would definitely get a clean and dedicated fridge for the home dry ageing, and put lots of baking soda in there just to be sure.

Also, how does one prevent the dry-aged meat from getting greenish-brown in places? Is this discoloration caused by the lack of air?

Chef John said...

the bag is designed so no odors or gas get in, the moisture gets out from osmosis from what I here. check their site for more details. I will report as it ages and all will be reveled.

tut, I think you should go out for a steak. BTW, the deep red color of meat is due to being treated with carbon monoxide gas. google for details, it's pretty common.

DavewinPS said...

I remember a story I read in Time magazine, eons ago, about a banker and his wife who died agonizing deaths from botulism poisoning contracted, not as it happens so frequently today, from plastic-surgery gone horribly awry, but from eating canned soup. (I realize, that today's banker has no concept of 'canned soup', but this took place in the early 1960's.) The article went into detail of how the microbe grows in oxygen-free sealed containers, and how the toxin itself is not destroyed by cooking. How does this process ovoid the risk? And have you seen anyone with a steak on his forehead?

Chef John said...

i doubt this bag it 100% oxygen proof, just enough to prevent oxidation. i'll let you know if there are any deaths.

milkshake said...

Chef I am deeply skeptical that a "specially-designed" moisture-permeable bag can really keep out the bad fridge-flavors. I am not expert but I think a dedicated super-clean fridge would be the right idea if you want to do this more frequently: a decent-sized cheapo fridge costs only few hundred bucks - the aged prime cuts can be lot more than that. Also why don't you ask someone who does meat dry-aging for a restaurant business - what kind of cold rooms they have and how often do they clean them?

Chef John said...

i'm using a spare fridge in the garage, but i've aged small prime ribs and loins before at home and in commercial kitchens and never had any odor problems. besides, what the hec do you keep in your fridge?? my fridge always has a baking powder box and doesnt have any strong odors.

Anonymous said...

Milkshake, Foods in your fridge will not comtaminate other items if the temperature is correct and the area is kept clean, and never allow raw uncooked foods to co-mingle, ie, don't store uncooked meats in the same container with other foods or other types of uncooked meat. Throw out outdated food, and items incorrectly stored, or covered improperly. Clean the interior and all food containers periodically.
Love, A cleaning freak Mom.

tut said...

k googled it says they use it to fix the color in packaged meat so it looks better longer.I'll just keep getting mine at the market or butchers sometimes theres deals at supermarkets seems better to pass on them.I'd go out John but I enjoy cooking to much an now the weathers good I ride my bike down to the farmers market almost everyday for the days meal.:)O the french fries were great John :) um I couldn't bring myself to grind up the ribeye for burgers though :( so had ribeye sandwich instead lol

Basia said...

Two words : dorm fridge.

J. Jones said...

This is brilliant! I can't wait to see the results.

I have personally wanted to do this for years, but it's just not possible. If you manage to pull this off, it will be great.

tut said...

Gacckks starting to feel guilty thinking of ageing some meat for weeks an secretly eating it in the dead of night :(Um I watch family guy while I eat he makes anything you do seem ok :)Thx John ur a real problem solver.

Ed said...

Googled the product. Don't seem to be any negative results. Seems to have been a study, you can find it here
http://www.foodproductiondaily.com/Processing/Dry-aging-using-vacuum-packaging-provides-savings

Will wait for your expert opinion, but looks good!

Chicau

milkshake said...

I could tell you what I keep in my fridge but then I would have to - anyway, its too crowded in there already.

Jimmy said...

Call me skeptical -- I'm thinking you should have done a blinded taste test here: the dry bag steak versus any regular plastic vacuum sealed steak, left in the fridge side by side for the same amount of time. Ideally both cuts should be from the same loin. Part of me wants to believe this will work, the other part is thinking they're selling nothing more than the placebo effect.

Chef John said...

it will rot in regular plastic. It's not a placebo, it controlled dehydration. Do some research on dry-aging. I can see it working already and others have tested this, but I'll judge when I taste. I will taste next to the same beef unaged.

Randy Hanson said...

John, this is an exciting product, but I have been dry-aging beef loins for years without it! I wash the loin, DRY it with paper towels, then wrap in clean kitchen towels. I can change the towels every day or more if I want to, but it works if I don't. After about 2 weeks or longer if I can wait, I remove the loin, trim the outside and cut my BEAUTIFUL 1/2 inch (or larger) steaks.

This really works, folks, and the flavor is incredible. It turns out that if you place it on the bottom back shelf, the temperature does not swing wildly in today's refrigerators. I've done ribeye, NY, and tenderloin without a single failure.

The bag, if it works, would make this easier and cleaner!

Chez US said...

Very ... interesting. Can't wait to see how this turns out and if it works! My mom use to use a similar machine to suck the air out of bags of veggies before freezing ... who knew she could have started her own meat packing business.

Chef John said...

yes, the vacuum machines are pretty common, but it's the special plastic bag that they are really selling. It lets moisture transfer through unlike regular shrink wrap.

Steven K. said...

I question whether that is a New York strip. That hump on the strip makes it look more like a Ribeye than a New York.

powerplantop said...

Keep us informed as to how this turns out. What I am curious is how much liquid comes out of the bag. (do you need to put a tray under it).

Chef John said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Grill Master said...

I have tried these bags. There some issues. I could not use the vacum sealer I have already with them. Only the one they sell works. To get professional results dry aging steaks, the same paramaters apply. You need the correct temperature air flow and humidity. The dry bags are supposed to get rid of the need for correct humidity but with todays frost free refrigerators the temperature is not stable enough to hold around 35-38 degrees. With my growing family the fridge does not stay shut for too long. You still need constant air flow and fridges do not have the correct air flow passing through them. If you are going to try this, my suggestion is a didicated unit is best and be very careful of the temperature your refrigerator can produce.

Grill Master said...

I have tried this product before. The problem I had was that I could not use the vacuum sealer I aleady own. The only one that works is the one that they sell. I had to pull the meat out early because todays frost free refrigerators do not hold a steady low enough temperature and I was afraid the meat was going to spoil. My growing family does not leave the fridge closed for too long. There is no air flow to speak of either in a conventional refrigerator. To dry aged steaks with professional results, the paramaters are still necessary even with dry bags. Temperature and air flow are still needed. The need for high humidity is the only thing these bags resolve. If you are going to try this, buy their vacuum sealer and use a dedicated unit and only one that can drive the temperature to a constant 35-38 degrees all the time. Frost free does not work be very careful!

Chef John said...

FYI my fridge temp was 43 for the whole time it aged.

kaminokura@me.com said...

I tried the Drybags and was amazed that there is no dripping, no clothes to change, no funny colors--just a nice shiny clean deep red surface after I peel back the bag after a couple of weeks in the fridge. The whole clothes and paper towels thing was kind of gross, and left the fridge smelling funny. With the Drybags, (though the sealer was a bit tricky to figure out--Chef John made it look so easy!!) the process was so clean and easy. I looked around on the web and found that Kansas State University had done research with this material back in 2006 and found it safe and comparable to traditional open air aging.

Cap said...

John, I put my first drybagged hunk o' ribeye in an empty frost free fridge 4 days ago. I've been using a laser surface temp thermometer, and the temp of the surfaces of the fridge vary by more than 5 deg at any given time. Therefore I decided that measuring the surface temp of the meat every day would be more reliable. This morning the meat's temp varied from 35º-38º at various locations, just what the instructions say. The seal looks exactly as it did when I originally vacuumed it.

For those interested, beef prices are low right now, and I got a whole PRIME ribeye for $7.49/lb at Costco last Thurs. Of course I got the biggest one they had which was 14.5 lb, and when I got home with it and compared it to the size of the large drybag, I was afraid I'd have to cut it in half and vacuum in two bags. Turns out that after I put it in the bag and shoved it down with my foot (just kidding), there was 4" of bag material left for sealing, perfect! I'll be careful next time to make sure the meat weighs no more than 14 lb. The next issue was the small size of the fridge, but as it turned out, the meat fit perfectly when laid diagonally.

A tip for those of you who have a totally empty fridge available...though I have only my own anecdotal experience to back this up, it seems that the lower (warmer) you set the freezer compartment the lower the fridge temp at any given setting. So by setting the freezer as warm as possible and adjusting the fridge setting until you attain the desired temperature, there may be some saving in electricity. Oh, and I also removed all the drawers in the bottom of the fridge for maximum circulation. Turns out this increased the cost of my dry aged beef to the tune of a new glass top for one of the drawers. The original fell off and shattered all over the floor.

I have decided to let the meat age for 24-28 days. I have some prime ribeye steaks ($8.99/lb) in my main freezer that I bought the same day as the whole ribeye, and I wrapped each in plastic wrap, froze overnight, then vacuumed with the Foodsaver. For our test, we will grill a non-aged steak along with an aged steak for a tasting. Maybe this would be a good excuse to haul out a '90 Latour. Will report probably the first week in May.

Thanks so much for testing this method. Without your endorsement I don't think I would have attempted it.

Cap said...

BTW, I am Frank's wife Linda who entered the above post.

Linda Baldwin
Powhatan, VA

Judy said...

My hubby and I have been dry aging ribeyes for three years now. We've also done a combo of wet/dry aging for filet mignons. We have a dedicated refrigerator and use cotton cloths, changing the cloths once per day. For those not used to the taste of dry-aged beef, they may not be happy with the end result. We are used to it, having had a butcher in New Jersey who provided us with wonderful dry-aged beef for years. My hubby has learned how to butcher the meat so well, we hardly have any waste. The finished steaks (and burgers from scraps) are frozen, but they don't last long. They are sooooooo good. Here's more info: http://judyskitchen.blogspot.com/2010/09/dry-aging-of-filet-mignon.html.