In our ongoing steak FAQ series, we have covered steak types and steak cuts. Now it’s time to cover the other buying decision you have to make. Whether to buy aged steak or fresh steak.
There are two types of beef aging, dry and wet. Let’s take a quick look at both.
Dry aged steak
Dry aged beef has been hung somewhere to air dry for a period of time. Depending on the butcher, the beef may be hung as a half carcass or be divided into the different steaks and beef cuts and stored individually. Some steak cuts will be placed in a cooler, some inside a freezer while some will be left in a drybag to age.
Wet aged steak
Wet aged steak is divided into individual cuts and vacuum packed and left to mature for between 4 and 10 days. This is a very popular method of aging a steak as it is easier to do, requires less hardware and can be done at a wholesaler or processor and delivered to a butcher during aging.
Those are the two main steak aging processes in use today. So what do they do and how does aging enhance the flavour and texture of a steak?
Aging allows the moisture to be drawn out of the steak over time. This concentrates the flavour of the steak. The muscle fibres within the steak relax and the enzymes in the connective tissue break down. This creates a very tender texture, something inherent in all aged steaks.
Depending on how long the steak is aged, fungus may grow on the outside of the steak, increasing the tenderisation process further. While it doesn’t sound very palatable, that fungus is removed before cooking and is perfectly safe.
- Steak aged 7 days has begun this process but won’t be too advanced. You will notice small improvements in flavour and texture but nothing drastic.
- Steak aged 21 days is more advanced and should have lost around 10% of its weight due to moisture loss. It will go darker and you will begin to experience better flavour and texture.
- Steak aged for 30 days will be a little further along and will have lost around 15% of its weight in moisture loss. Flavour will be more concentrated and the meat will be very tender.
- Steak aged for 45 days and longer. You will begin to see fungus and a much darker colour to the meat. It will lose weight at a slower pace now and will become more tender over time.
- Aging steak rarely exceeds 120 days. Anything longer than 30 days will begin to significantly impact the price of the steak.
Aged or fresh steak?
Should you buy aged steak or is fresh steak good enough? The answer is yes to both questions. You should buy aged steak if you can afford it and if you eat your steak without sauce and less than medium. In this situation you will get value out of the aging process.
Fresh steak is good enough for anyone and still makes a great meal. If you don’t think you would notice the difference, like your steak well done or love covering it in rich peppercorn or Diane sauce, spending the extra on aged steak may not be worth the investment. Only you can decide that!