Yum! Dry-Aged Beef

What's the Big Deal about Dry-Aged Beef?

      We are in the 1% of the industry that dry-ages beef today, because we want to ensure that our beef has the best quality in terms of taste and tenderness. Here's the scoop on dry-aging:

What is dry-aging? 
     In general "aging" refers to the time that occurs between harvesting the animal and dividing the beef into portions (i.e. when the butcher makes his"cuts" of beef). Some places "wet-age" and others (like us) "dry-age" their beef. Dry aging is considered to be the best form of aging, but it's surprisingly not all that common these days. 

     To officially be considered dry-aged beef, it must hang in a cooler for a minimum of 11 days and is sometimes hung as long as 30 days. It is hung in a very controlled and expertly watched environment - maintaining a temperature between 36 degrees Fahrenheit and freezing. It is also maintained at a specific humidity (85 degrees Fahrenheit) to prevent the meat from drying out. We only want SOME of the water to evaporate, or the meat would be more like jerky. Needless to say, if it's not done right, it can spoil, dry out, and essentially be disastrous.

Why does dry-aging affect taste and tenderness?
     You know how a raisin has more of a concentrated taste than a grape does? That is similar to dry-aging beef. When something (like a grape) is "dried" it's taste becomes more intense -more concentrated. Personally, I think that's why you find people to either love or hate raisins... there aren't many in the middle because the taste is distinct and intense.
     In a similar way, dry-aging beef concentrates the taste of the beef. In a gentle and very controlled way, some of the water is allowed to slowly dehydrate (while retaining it's tenderness), concentrating the flavour. In addition, while the beef is being dry aged, natural enzymes break down the muscle tissue, again concentrating the taste and changing the flavour while making the beef extraordinarily tender as well.

Why doesn't everyone dry age?    

Historically (until the 50’s and 60’s) dry-aging was the only way beef was processed, but since it is time consuming, extensive (and therefore expensive), these days it is generally only seen in high-end restaurants and specialty producers. The great steakhouses all serve dry aged beef. 

What do the other places do if they don't dry age their beef? 

      The process of wet aging isn’t as expensive, intensive, or extensive as dry aging and takes only a few days to complete. And that is precisely why general retailers find this process more favourable. 
As a result of skipping the dry-aging schedule entirely, the beef goes straight from being hung to being butchered and packaged. 

     Specifically in the wet-aging process, beef gets vacuum sealed (with all it’s moisture, but no time for enzyme breakdown) a day or so after it’s butchered. The general consensus is that while wet-aged beef can be as tender as dry-aged beef (a result of sealing the moisture into the packaging before freezing it), there is no consensus that this is true. There is however general consensus that wet-aged beef is not remotely comparable to the preferred taste achieved with dry-aging beef (resulting from the break-down of enzymes and the preservation of flavour).

We Dry-age because for us, it would be a shame to work so hard on our small farm to raise healthy, hearty, happy, yummy beef and then discard flavour and tenderness.

Does Dry-Aging Affect the weight or cost of beef you take home?

     When the butcher does his stuff, he cuts away a good chunk of fat and bones. Whether  you dry-age or wet-age, everybody should expect a 20% loss in fat and bone loss. Then…    

     As some of the moisture is evaporated and other enzymes are breaking down the connective tissue in the process of dry-aging, the dry-aged beef comes in at a weight of 15% less than beef that is wet-aged.

     So, although wet and dry aged beef experience approximately the same amount of cutting shrink (20%), dry-aged beef has this additional 10-15% shrink, which means that yes, you should experience a 35% difference between the weight you pay for and the weight that goes into your freezer.  NOTE: our beef doesn't shrink the way wet-aged beef does when you cook it (because the water has already evaporated).

So, while the animal, and the hanging weight started out the same, the process of dry-aging makes the weight that goes into your freezer, but not the price of the beef. Although, arguably the taste and tenderness, added to the fact that our beef is natural as well, makes it worth it to us – and to you, too we hope!

If you have any questions for us about this process or any other beef related question, please feel free to contact us at coberbeef@gmail.com

Thanks for your time, your feedback, and your patronage. We appreciate it all!