Last Updated on 4th August 2022 by Pauline Loughlin
When it comes to cooking meat, the steaks have been raised! A juicy steak that’s tender and moist is a delicacy guaranteed to make you the star of your next barbecue. Do I hear you asking how?
The answer is ageing the meat. There are two techniques for meat ageing. These are dry-ageing and wet-ageing.
Unlike dry-ageing, which is difficult to do at home, wet-ageing is pretty simple. Plus, wet-ageing creates a mild flavour that’s liked by almost everyone. Let’s find out how to wet age beef at home.
Step by Step Wet Ageing Process
This guide will help you through the meat-ageing process. Follow along to know how to get the best wet-aged meat for the best steaks at your next cookout or dinner party.
Purchasing the Right Beef
The first step in wet ageing beef is choosing the right piece for the task. It should be a large primal or sub-primal cut, like ribeye, sirloin, or brisket ( you can find a guide to slow cooking brisket in the oven right here)
This technique will work only on whole cuts and not individual roasts and chopped steak pieces. So, you’ll want to avoid the ones previously trimmed by the butcher.
These trimmed pieces have been removed from their vacuum-sealed cryovac bag and resealed with plastic wrap. When you’re wet ageing meat, you want to make sure that the vacuum is not broken. If oxygen reaches the beef, contaminations might occur.
Therefore, make sure that the beef you purchase is sealed in its original cryovac bag. Don’t forget to double-check the bag for any holes or leaks.
Refrigerating the Beef
This is an easy step. All you have to do is place the beef that’s still in the cryovac in the refrigerator and leave it.
Adjust the temperature of the refrigerator to be about 35F which is around 1C. At this temperature, the natural enzymes in the muscles will break down the fibres. This enhances the tenderness of the beef.
You don’t want the temperature to be too cold (32F or lower). If it gets too cold, the meat will start to freeze slowly. Consequently, the enzymes making the beef tender will stop working.
On the other hand, a too high temperature (40F or higher) will spoil your meat. This temperature is convenient for the growth of harmful bacteria that can spoil the meat easily.
However easy, this step is crucial because the meat stays in the refrigerator for a long time. Therefore, the consequences of the wrong temperature setting will be pronounced.
Turning the Beef While It Ages
After placing the beef in the refrigerator, it’s good to flip it over every week or so. Although this doesn’t have a drastic influence on the ageing process, it lets you inspect the beef on a regular basis.
It allows you to detect any partially frozen parts in the beef. This sometimes happens due to a cold spot in the refrigerator. You can also make sure the cryovac bag is still intact.
Plus, flipping over the meat evens out the pressure on the bottom side of the heavy cut of meat. Doing this once every week should hold the best results.
Letting the Beef Age for Some Time
Time is one of the most crucial steps. The time you leave the meat in the refrigerator determines how tender and moist it turns out. So, how long to wet age beef?
The meat ageing time can range from 21 days to 42 days. You can even go for as long as 60 days if you like. You’ll only run the risk of spoilage if the vacuum seal wasn’t intact.
The large chunks of meat need time to let the enzymes do their job. The longer you let the beef sit, the more dramatic change you’ll get.
A sweet spot is around 28 or 35 days. Wet ageing doesn’t affect the flavour drastically. It’s primarily for the texture of the meat. And by that time, the beef is melt-in-your-mouth tender. So, mission accomplished!
What to Do After Wet Ageing the Beef?
When it’s ready to cook, get the beef out of the refrigerator. Remove it from the cryovac seal and rinse it off. Don’t get scared if a bit of funky smell hits your nose. It’s normal.
After you discard the cryovac, rinse the meat, and dry it, the smell should decline. However, if the smell is too foul at this point, it means that something might’ve gone wrong during the process.
Then, start cutting the meat into smaller pieces. Season them with some salt, pepper, and thyme. You can get creative with the seasoning. Then, cook and enjoy the tenderness of your premium delicacy of meat.
If you’re not ready to cook it just yet, another option is to put the beef in the freezer for a month or two. The meat won’t continue to age in the freezer. The freezing temperature shuts down the active enzymes.
Wet Ageing Vs Dry Ageing
Wet ageing means letting the meat age in its juices. It doesn’t include any addition of water to the meat. It’s a simple process of allowing the meat to sit for some time in an airtight environment with a controlled temperature.
Wet-aged meat is a universal pick because it doesn’t have that pungent flavour of dry-aged meat. The taste of wet-aged meat is mild and the texture is moist and tender.
On the other hand, dry-ageing meat is a more difficult technique to get premium quality meat. It’s not typically done at home.
It works by oxidation of fat and bacterial action on the surface of the beef. This creates a funky, profound change in flavour. Dry-aged meat has a robust flavour that’s not agreeable to everyone.
Wet ageing is a simple process that yields a deluxe piece of meat. Wet-aged meat is tender and juicy. Just remember that a vacuum seal is crucial to avoid any meat spoilage.
Now that you’ve learned how to wet age beef at home, you can go ahead and prepare your perfect piece.