Sep 02
by Doug Piper

Dry Ageing Options

Dry ageing meat has become very popular with butchers and their customers. Some butchers have invested a significant amount of money into dry ageing coolrooms and portable dry ageing machines.

I love to walk into a shop that has beef hanging in a dry ager, certain fungal (mould) species are creating a rich and funky flavour while the enzymes are slowly breaking down the meat fibres leaving a tender cut of meat ready for a customer to take home and enjoy.

You should use fresh beef when dry aging beef, vac packed beef will still work however; the meat tends to get a green tinge around the outside of the primal. Once sliced that green tinge can become more prominent especially if the vac packed meat already has some age on it when you purchase it.

Bone in or boneless fresh beef is a better option to use when dry ageing. Leaving the meat on the bone is a more profitable option especially rib eye`s, rumps and shortloins. Meat with less exposed surface area will retain more moisture and limit the amount of waste that needs to be trimmed, that is why I prefer bone in.

If you are ageing shortloins, remove the tenderloin and just leave all the bone on the shortloin. Tenderloins are already tender and may possibly dry out too much in the ageing process, especially if you are ageing for a particularly long period. For beef rib sets, leave the chine and feather bones on, remove the short ribs, you possibly cannot get enough of those, make sure you leave enough rib bones on the rib set in case you need a dry aged standing rib roast or rib eye cutlets.

If a dry ager is a bit out of reach and you would like to dabble in it, for around $150, you can buy a small domestic vacuum packaging machine (Food Saver) and some “Dry Age” bags. The dry age bags work a treat. No mess no special refrigeration, vac the piece of meat and place it on a rack in the fridge fat side up, so air can circulate around the bag for the required amount of time (usually 30 days is enough).

Dry age bags actually breathe, the material of the bag creates a bond with the natural proteins in the meat, allowing moisture and oxygen exchange while ensuring the ageing process is free from risk of contamination.

Why not try selling “pre-aged” beef in your shops, you can start the process and have the primals (half or whole) sealed in the dry age bags in your cabinets, this could attract new clientele and create something different to talk to your customers about, especially the foodies! Just give your customers the tips on storage, trimming etc so customers can finish the ageing at home easily. 

I have used boneless pieces of beef, bone in beef pierce the bags too easily. Primals like striploins and cube rolls, rump caps and the rost biff are an easy and popular option.

I turned a carton of very disappointing striploins into some extremely enjoyable steaks in 20 days using the bags. Recently I dry aged a corner cut of topside to see if that cut can improve, after 75 days and a bit of trimming I pan fried a couple of the steaks and to my surprise ate comparably to a good scotch or sirloin. The Topside had a nice flavour and still had the characteristic of being dry, overall it exceeded my expectations however 75 days is excessively long to wait for a nice steak. You could try this at 30 days or more if you are keen or just 

For more information on wet and dry ageing, see the “Art of Dry Ageing” in the Butchery section here in the Australian Butchers Guild website.

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