There’s nothing better than a steak grilled to perfection in your backyard. Yet, while you may be the ultimate grillmaster, the outcome of that steak depends mainly on the type of meat you’re working with in the first place.
Not all steaks are equal in taste and cut, so the selection is essential for serving up a savory steak you look forward to time and time again. One of the better ways to ensure a flavorful and tender steak is dry aging. However, that often comes at a higher price, so you’ll need to consider whether the investment is worth it for you.
What Does Dry Aging Mean?
To fully appreciate dry aging or determine whether it’s worth the extra cost, knowing what is involved in the process may help. Simply put, a dry aged steak has been aged for a set amount of time. This aging takes place anywhere between 7 and 120 days.
Stored in a temperature and humidity-controlled environment, these steaks won’t go bad as they age. The technique may vary among different providers, but essentially the environment, or aging room, facilitates the drawing out of moisture or evaporation, shrinking the steaks in size and darkening their color.
Another way aging affects this meat is in the breakdown of collagen or connective tissues holding muscle fibers together. Naturally present enzymes in the meat itself are responsible for this breakdown. The outcome is a tender steak that is less chewy and easier to cut.
How Does Dry Aging Improve the Flavor?
The length of time a steak dry ages will have the most significant impact on its flavor. Each steak loses up to 15% of its total weight with this process. With the loss of this moisture, the flavor is concentrated and gives the steak a more intense, beefier taste overall. In turn, the longer the steak is dry aged, the more intense the flavor will be.
Commonly, a steak is dry aged for 30 days. From this length of time, you can expect a beefier taste comparable to rare roast beef. In addition, subtle hints of other flavors, such as buttery popcorn, are also commonly picked up on with dry aged steaks.
Steaks undergoing dry aging for more extended periods, such as 45 days, appear a bit unsightly if you’re not used to seeing them, often resembling a moldy blue cheese block. Yet, this process is perfectly natural and the steaks are safe to consume. You can expect this appearance to intensify if dry aging is prolonged up to 12o days.
Is Dry Aging Worth the Higher Cost?
Whenever you’re out at a steakhouse or other high-end restaurant, you’re bound to notice that dry aged steaks are more expensive than other types. With the time-consuming process of dry aging, the intensity of the beefy flavor, and the tenderness it creates, it’s understandable the cost is higher and that people are willing to pay that higher price.
The time and effort it takes for the dry aging process is a significant factor when determining price. Not everyone has the special equipment and facilities needed to accomplish this delicate aging process. Those that do take pride in providing the best tasting steaks possible.
Determining if dry aging is worth the higher cost is a personal choice. Those who enjoy a tender, flavorful steak should look for products dry aged up to 30 days at a reasonable price. This product gives you the benefits of dry aging without breaking the bank.
The longer the steak undergoes dry aging, the stronger the flavor and the more tender the cut, the higher the price. While beef lovers enjoy these longer-aged steaks, they are often cost-prohibitive to the casual backyard griller except for special occasions. Again, it will depend on your personal preferences and how big your budget is for such delicacies.
You may want to start by ordering a dry aged steak at your favorite restaurant to determine if its flavor is worth the additional cost. From there, you may choose to keep a supply on hand for grilling at special get-togethers or whenever you want a good steak to enjoy.
Tips for Grilling Dry Aging Steaks
There is an art to cooking dry aged steaks on the grill. Remember they are different from the usual, fresh steaks and, in turn, due care needs to be taken to ensure the best possible outcome. With less water trapped inside the meat, a tendency to dry out is common if it is cooked too long, so always stay alert when grilling.
Here are a few essential cooking tips to help make your dry aged steaks the best they can be on your grill.
- If frozen, allow plenty of time to thaw
The preferable method is to let the steak thaw for two to three days in the refrigerator.
- Prepare before grilling
An hour before grilling, let your steak sit out until at room temperature. Shortly before grilling, also apply salt to both sides of your steak. Any earlier application and the salt will pull more moisture from the meat and wet the exterior.
- Apply heat correctly
Sear both sides of your steak on high heat to caramelize the surface and capture juices. Then transfer the steak to a lower heat setting location on your grill. You can also use the reverse searing method, which top restaurants often use.
- Use the proper tools
Only use blunt-ended tongs to move your steaks, avoiding any punctures in the meat. Check with a meat thermometer to ensure you’re reaching the correct cooking temperature. Many chefs recommend cooking dry aging steaks no more than to a medium-rare level.
- Let it rest
Allow the steak to rest on a hot plate so internal juices can settle before cutting.
Deciding if Dry Aged Steak is Right for You
Grilling steaks is a great way to spend an afternoon or evening with family or close friends. When you switch up the menu for some variety, consider including dry aged steaks for remarkable taste and texture that everyone will enjoy. Everyone deserves a special meal once in a while, so for these occasions, dry aged steaks can be well worth the extra cost.