Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Dry-Aging Steaks at Home – The Final Chapter: I Think It Worked

Here's the final post in the dry-aging steaks at home saga. What follows is my honest opinion on the results, as well as a fairly pointless video showing me finishing the project.

Admittedly, there isn't much to learn from the video, but since some of you seemed genuinely interested I figured you'd want to see the finale.

By the way, if you read my last
post you know I'm in Vail, CO being wined and dined by RockResorts, so I did this voiceover in the hotel room with a voice you only get at 8,000 feet.

When I first considered how to test my dry-aged steaks, I was thinking of the standard "taste it with an un-aged steak and compare" method. Seemed logical, but then I thought of somet
hing even better -- why not taste it next a higher-grade, professionally dry-aged steak?

This would be the true test. Would my steaks have the same taste and texture as the real deal? As I've already stated in previous blogs, there's really no debate about whether a dry-aged steak is a superior eating experience to a conventional steak, so it seemed anticlimactic to taste them side-by-side just to say, "hmmm…the steak aged two-weeks is more tender and flavorful." What a shocker.

So, instead I bought a thick, well-aged steak from the same butcher, using the same beef as the whole loin I'd bought. Not only that, but I decided to make it even more of a challenge and bought "Prime" grade steak. The battle was on. Would my home-aged, "Choice" grade steaks match up against a "Prime" grade steak aged by an expert?

First of all, the Drybags clearly worked exactly as advertised. The surface was hard and leathery, as you can see in my short video, and the meat had definitely undergone a slow, controlled drying process.

The loin smelled exactly like the aged steak I've worked with in the past, which is to say it had a faint, meaty musk that I would describe, as strange as it may sound, as very pleasant. After trimming off the hard, dried exterior, the color of the meat was a beautiful deep, dark red. As promised the bag allowed moisture to escape, yet sealed it from the outside environment, so no spoilage occurred.

The steaks were coated with freshly ground black pepper and allowed to come to room temperature. After a generous application of kosher salt, they were cooked over charcoal to medium-rare (internal temp of 130 degrees F). After resting, I sliced up the "Prime" dry-aged steak from the butcher. We tasted, and it was predictably fabulous.

We then cut into my steaks, and I'm happy to report the results were pretty impressive. I found the meat tender and flavorful, and comparable to the professionally aged beef. Lenny and Denise from ChezUs joined us to assist in the tasting, and along with my wife Michele, we had four experienced palates on the case.

The final verdict was; two of us though the steaks were comparable, one thought the quality of the butcher's steak was slightly better, and one definitely preferred the home dry-aged steak more.

So, there you have it. As to
whether the Drybags are an effective way to age your own steaks at home, the answer is a definite yes. Should you get one? I can't answer that -- these are matters of taste -- while I feel strongly dry-aged steaks are better, you may not.

If you love dry-aged steak, and want to eat it more often, without the expense of the steakhouse it may be a good investment. It's worth noting that it also comes with smaller bags for regular vacuum packing, so that could factor into your decision.

Thanks to Drybag Steak for letting me test the product out. It was a fun experiment, and the final product was quite luxurious.

If you want more info, or have specific questions, please refer to the Drybag Steak website.

Professional food bloggers do not live by old beef alone! In addition to the steaks you see here, the rest of the menu included:
- Frog Hollow peach, basil, and mozzeralla fresca crostini
- Prosciutto and argula on baguette
- Roasted cipollini onions
- Watercress salad with marinated early girl tomatoes
- Sottocenere truffle cheese and lobster mushroom pomme dauphinoise (I filmed this, so stay tuned for that video soon!)
- Two sauces: classic Bordelaise sauce, and not so classic "Béarnaise" aioli.

First Three Photos (c) ChezUs


tut said...

The steaks look great Chef John but just reading the name of those potatoes made me hungry lol

blogagog said...

I noticed that the bags are relatively expensive. Do you think they can be rinsed out and reused? If so, we're going to try it.

Chris K. said...

I love the idea of aged steaks at home, but I loathe that 10-15% scrap trim.

Is it simply the price of extravagance? There must be something it's good for, other than dog food. Our foodie ancestors would know better, dontcha think?

Anonymous said...

Chef, can you give a rundown on the cost of the steak you bought and dry aged at home and the cost of the comparable cut of pre-dry aged. Thanks. Awesome sight!

Chef John said...

the loin I got was about $9/lb, and if you buy already aged it will be around $18/lb

Chef John said...

chris, let me know if you find a use!

procrastineer said...

I would love to learn how to make that water crust salad and roasted onion recipe.

Rowell said...

That was an interesting read and great comparison. I have never thought about doing dry aged steak and no doubt it would make a great meal.

The drybags are a little on the expensive side for me but if the steaks were made on special occasions I can see this being worth it. Thanks!

Halden said...

Thanks for this series. It ruled. I have a related question. Does freezing steak inevitably make it more tough? I've had some less than satisfying experiences with some rib-eye's I've frozen lately.

Though I imagine defrosting things slowly in the refrigerator will help with that...

Anonymous said...

Isn't it considered wet aged steaks if aged in a vacuum sealed bag? I thought dry aged was only when it was aged will hanging from the ceiling, but is not sealed at all. I could be wrong, after all you're the chef, not me.

Chef John said...

yes, but the bag is not "sealed" It's only wet, if it stays wet and no moisture evaporates. Thats the whole point of these bags, the meat dries while being wrapped. (read previous blogs and comments where we covered this)

Christian K. said...

I've never tried this, but it seems to me you could use the dried trim to make beef stock (or maybe even broth).

ScottMark said...

I just processed my first dry-age ribeye pack. I'm pretty impressed. I sealed it using the "use your foodsaver" instructions from the web and my food saver -- a video that seals bottled water, which is very much not the same thing as a primal with meat juices surrounding it. I wasn't pleased with the results of the seal, and soon afterward I ordered the true snorkel sealer from drybagsteaks, which I have not yet used. I notice that there are ZERO videos of how to seal these things with the "sticky proteins" (blood) still on the primal. I hope drybag takes the initiative and gets one made.

Regardless, the beef is in absolutely great shape. So maybe I could have perfected the foodsaver technique and saved a hundred bucks. But I very much like the idea of a sealer that seals when I say so, not when it thinks so. My first foodsaver did that, and I still mourn its passing.

I came back to foodwishes, looking for hints on what to do with the trim. Based on what I've read, my first idea is to simmer it for soup broth. It may not be great, but it's going to be my first experiment.

Anonymous said...

Have been dry-aging strip loins for several years.

The use of a drybag has brought about my first failure.
Though the drybag sealed well (had to be peeled from the strip loin) the meat took on an very unpleasant taste. Had to throw out about a $80.00 extremely beautiful Certified Angus short loin.

The dogs are eating at it, but even the dogs are not all that enthused about this chunk of meat.

Bought 6 Drybags, got 5 drybags left I will not use, anybody want a bargain?

Drybags + a ruined strip loin = over $100.00 down the hole..plus 4 weeks wasted.

My uneducated opinion, if the Drybag will let the water readily evaporate -- what is to stop something not so benign from coming in the opposite direction? Basically the meat is uncovered, it just takes a little longer to get funky.

Please remember this wasn't my first dry-aging load of turnips.
My usual method is to "paint" most of the lean portions with approx 1/8 inch of freshly rendered beef tallow, leaving some lean at top and bottom to facilitate evaporation.
With the Drybag I had hoped to eliminate having to remove the tallow covering and dispose of it, clean up, a little inconvenient and slightly messy procedure, but I never had a dry-aging failure with my "paint" method either.

In all fairness perhaps 28 days is too long a time frame for the drybag method, the Drybag website is not all that specific on the technical aspects.

Unknown said...

First of all, as owner of DrybagSteak, I am sorry to hear this customer is unhappy with the results of his DrybagSteak aging process. We hope he knows we appreciate his feedback and would like to respond to his concerns directly.
Second, his description of unpleasant taste after aging in DrybagSteak material is unique and surprising. In the two scientific studies with professional taste panels, there was no mention of off flavors resulting from aging in DrybagSteak material. In all restaurant tests, there has been no mention of unpleasant flavors. If anything, the LACK of the funky, oaky, musty flavors one gets with traditional open air aging has been the only consistent comment regarding unsatisfactory results in flavor.
Regarding aging time, the website only mentions aging times as standard to common practice. In fact, DrybagSteak has been used with aging at all of the generally accepted lengths of time with equal or better results to traditional air aging in controlled studied. Whether 14-, 21- or 28-day aging periods, DrybagSteak aged beef has produce excellent results, with most steak house chefs preferring the 21- to 28-day aged flavors.
One last note on the scientific side, DrybagSteak material is not a plastic bag, and defies many of our assumptions about plastic. It will allow a vacuum to be pulled, but is highly oxygen permeable. It will not "leak" moisture, but will release it from the inside area of greater moisture to the outside area of lesser moisture as a membrane would allow for osmosis. The microbacterial studies done by Kansas State University and twice published in Meat Science have shown that the material does not create a dangerous anaerobic environment on the surface of the meat inside the material. Strangely enough, the microbacterial activity on the surface of a traditionally open air aged piece of meat has greater diversity and potential for danger--particularly in an aging environment that lacks ultraviolet lighting to keep down mold growth. In other words, if you want to dry age "clean" and safely in any refrigerator or cooler, excellent air flow and the application of DrybagSteak material is the combination most likely to give you excellent results.
Please let us at DrybagSteak know if your results are otherwise.

Go Share Your Faith said...

I ordered some drybags after seeing this video and tried to use my regular "foodsaver" sealer..
While IT DID work...It was such a hassle that I'm going to go ahead and buy the snorkel sealer.

It's just not worth ruining a bag or two each time.

Anonymous said...

can the drybags be used with my foodsaver vac sealer?

Anonymous said...

if you trim it, you trim off what was dry aged. sigh....

Chef John said...

No, you don't. You're not understanding the process.

Unknown said...

can this method be used with the food saver bags they sell on amazon?

Unknown said...

Looks great Chef ....My choice ribeye has been aging for two weeks now ...gonna let it go for 28 days....can't wait to add the sides you have posted !