You may have heard of ‘ageing’ beef, but do you know what this means? Ageing is the process during which microbes and enzymes act upon the meat to help break down the connective tissue, making the meat more tender. Whether it happens in a vacuum bag or out in the air as a swinging side of beef, the process is very similar.
During wet ageing, the plastic doesn’t allow the meat to breathe, so it ages in contact with its own blood, which lends it a more intense sour note and a more bloody/serumy flavour. This does sound a bit negative when you’re talking about the flavour of a steak, but the fact that upwards of 90 percent of the beef taken home by Australian shoppers is in plastic-wrapped foam trays, which has been wet-aged, seems to suggest that it can’t be all bad.
This method allows the meat to breathe and lose water, which increases its “beefiness”. Because it is exposed to air the muscle fibre gets acted upon by other microbes other than those in the muscle itself. Those other microbes are various airborne fungi that begin to digest the meat, giving an aged loin its distinctive flavour, aroma, and fuzzy exterior.
Which method is best? The answer to that is that it’s complicated! While most red-meat foodies prefer dry-aged beef, it may be the case that the public actually prefers wet-ageing as they have become used to the taste of bagged meat over the funkier flavour of dry-aged beef.
Neither method of ageing is the be-all-and-end-all. Although dry-ageing may be superior in terms of texture and taste, it’s impossible to properly dry-age some cuts of beef like flat iron and skirt steak because they lack the protective fat and bone that cover traditional cuts like rib and short loin. Once they are removed from the carcass, they simply begin to degrade and dry out, making wet-ageing the suitable choice for these cuts.
Have you ever tried dry-aged beef? At CY’s we have our very own dry aging cabinet and are producing Village Green beef cuts that have been dry-aged for 45 days. Ask our staff for details.