Maybe it is the romantic in me (as my wife would probably see it), but my love affair with dry-aged meat, like so many great love stories, has that unshakable feel of it was meant to be.
It was 2019, couple of days before Christmas time, and I finally had the requisite $700 I had been setting aside for three months—along with my wife’s blessing—to treat myself to PK360 grill. Significantly enough, around this time, my wife and I had branched out of our usual genres (mystery and period pieces for her and science-fiction and action for me) and started watching a culinary show on Netflix. One night after putting our two kids to sleep and crawling half-conscious into bed for some quality us/me time, we turned on the TV, and that’s when I heard of it for the first time: a one-of-a kind meat– a specialty really—famous in Spain and obtained through days—and even months—of aging.
I had already been trying my hand at new recipes, moving away from “burning the meat” as I know refer to my younger, amateurish attempts at barbequing, and heading into the Aaron Franklin and Steven Raichland territory. So, of course, I was up for trying something new—even if that meant convincing my wife to buy a mini fridge, a couple of fans, a thermometer, and a Germ Guardian (more on how to set up your own dry-aging facility in the next article).
But buy it I did, and not too long after we were having my father-in-law over for mashed potatoes, Greek salad, roasted asparagus, and a 30-day-aged prime rib.
The taste was definitely one of a kind (“roast beef meets blue cheese” was how my wife described it) as was the texture (“really tender” was how my father-in-law characterized it, while I beamed proudly).
Needless to say, I was hooked.
The Science Behind Dry-Aging
As I learned while reading about the dry-aging process and as described by Rafter W Ranch, a family-owned ranch that sells dry-aged beef, “Dry-aging beef is a process that involves hanging freshly slaughtered beef in a temperature-controlled environment for anywhere from a couple of weeks to several months or more before being trimmed and cut into steaks. During this process, naturally-occurring chemical changes, including bacterial, enzymatic breakdown, and oxidation, cause the meat to become more tender and flavorful.”
So What’s the Big Deal?
The result is exactly what my wife and father-in-law described: a uniquely flavored and textured cut of meat that owes its highly concentrated beefy and nutty flavor in large part to dehydration (a decrease in 1/3 of the meat’s volume due to water loss) and its special brand of tenderness to the complex chemical process behind dry-aging.
Even though dry-aging meat typically calls for specialized facilities and expensive refrigeration equipment, it is possible to dry age your Wagyu beef at home.
So if you are feeling adventurous and ready to take your Wagyu beef to the next level (yes, there is indeed the next level) and your wife is OK with you placing a refrigerator (a small one) next to her elliptical in the garage, make sure to read the next article in this three-part series.