It turns out that the chef there, Chuck Troup, is experimenting with some really interesting things.
After speaking with him that night, I decided I wanted to do a little feature of him here on the site in the form of a Q&A interview. Read on and enjoy, and I highly recommend Maxwell’s Chophouse.
JP: Tell my readers a little bit about yourself: where you’re from, how long you’ve been in the business, and what got you interested in cooking.
CT: I was born in PA and raised in New Orleans. I have been living this lifestyle going on 31 years now. I don’t think I necessarily chose this lifestyle, it really chose me. Growing up and starting out in the industry I was surrounded by all of the craziness and excitement in a kitchen. I was so engulfed in the way all the cooks would interact with one another and I found that really amazing. It was funny to me and also exciting the way the cooks would all scream and swear at each other all night long, and then be best friends after it was all over. It really was and is organized chaos and I love that.
JP: You seem to know your way around steaks. Would you say this is your specialty, or are there other cuisines that challenge you and inspire you?
CT: I would say I know my way around steak and I do enjoy working in the steak environment, but over the years I have worked in various cuisines. I spent three years in Japan. Working and living in Japan had a great influence on me as a person, and as a chef. Being from the south, I grew up in an environment full of Cajun and Creole food. I always try to incorporate everything I’ve learned over time wherever I go. Even at a Steakhouse such as Maxwell’s, I’ll throw in a Cajun/Creole special, or even a salmon or steak tartare or sushi roll special. All in all I love pretty much every cuisine, there isn’t much I won’t cook or won’t eat!
JP: I like that you are experimenting with various lengths of dry aging. Is there a sweet spot for flavor in your opinion? 30 days? 60 days? 90?
CT: I think that my personal sweet spot for aging is the 160 to 180 day range. To me, that length of dry aging just has the right amount of funk, flavor and taste. Honestly, after eating a dry aged steak, I don’t know if I could ever go back to not eating it this way. With that being said, as a chef it’s important to know what’s too much. I totally understand why some people have different views on aging. Always have to know your guest.
JP: What sorts of other things are you experimenting with?
CT: Lately, I have been experimenting with lamb, duck, bison, elk, veal and I have even done a few pheasants.
JP: Last time I was here you let me try something that was aged for 500 days. How would you describe the flavor on something aged for that long? I took to calling it concentrated beef rocket fuel!
CT: Well for me I would say that piece of New York strip steak had an unseasoned salami texture with a huge musky flavor, but was not near as funky as a 500 day rib eye. Not sure if “funky” is a good word to describe aged meat, but it’s usually a good kind of funk!
JP: Would you ever consider offering a tasting of various ages to a customer? Say 4oz each at 30, 60 and 90 days?
CT: I would love to do a tasting of aged meat! It would be really great to have people that don’t understand the complexities of flavor that come with the dry aging process at different intervals so they can see how that switch flips with age.
JP: Are customers generally aware of what dry aging does, or do you find that you and the staff have to explain the process?
CT: I think that our audience is generally more educated than 10 or 15 years ago, plus there are a decent amount of people that go to a steakhouse for the aged meat. There are times when we will need to explain what the process is and why different cuts have different flavor at the same age. It’s important that all staff (servers, back servers, etc.) are educated on the process so we can confidently explain to our guests.
JP: What’s your favorite item on the menu at Maxwell’s?
CT: My favorite cut on the menu is for sure our rib eye. My favorite thing on the menu would be the Lamb Burger! Of course it depends on what specials we have, so it does change from time to time. Now that I’m thinking about it, I also love our roasted chicken – it’s really hard to choose!
JP: What’s your favorite cut of steak?
CT: Rib eye!
JP: What’s the most difficult steak to cook properly?
CT: The porterhouse is the hardest to cook correctly. I am completely opposed to the technique of cooking it to rare, slicing and then bringing up to temperature. A good grill cook knows that is reheating, and how most steakhouses do the meat this beautiful deserves the respect of proper cooking along with our customers.
Please enjoy this triple whammy write-up about DeBragga Meats, Certified Angus Beef and Blackbarn Restaurant.
DeBragga Meats, originally named the Brooklyn Hotel Supply Company, was founded by Joseph DeBragga, Emil Guenther and James Heilman in the early 1920s. In the mid 1930s, the company moved to Washington Street’s “meat packing” district of Manhattan. In 1948, the company was incorporated under its present name, DeBragga & Spitler, by Farmar DeBragga (Joseph’s son) and Paul Spitler.
In 1954, Marc Sarrazin joined the firm. Marc trained as a butcher at his family’s hotel and restaurant in the Charollais region of France, which is known for producing some of that country’s finest beef. The joy that Marc took in his work, selling New York’s top restaurants the finest cuts of meat, was evident in the strong relationships the company developed under his sales leadership.
In 1973, Marc Sarrazin became President of DeBragga, and the company became known as one of the finest meat purveyors in the entire industry, working directly with the best restaurants and hotels throughout the New York metro region and the Caribbean. Marc retired in 1992, and stepped aside to welcome his son, Marc John Sarrazin, as President of DeBragga & Spitler. Marc John’s two sons Eric and Peter represent the third generation of a business that traces its roots back nearly 100 years.
About eight years ago, the Whitney museum purchased DeBragga’s Washington Street lease, and DeBragga moved to a 25,000 square foot facility in Jersey City, which operates six days per week (there are no butchers cutting on Saturdays – only packing and shipping).
Today, DeBragga works with large packers like Nebraska Beef and Greater Omaha. DeBragga are purveyors of boxed beef, not wholesalers. The Certified Angus Beef brand is the entry level quality here. There is no choice quality, and there is no commodity pork or chicken. Half of their supply is hormone and antibiotic free. They sell 120,000 pounds of protein a week, and they have 100,000 pounds (roughly 4200 pieces, or a million dollars worth) of inventory in their three dry aging rooms. Take a look:
DeBragga’s customers are less steakhouse oriented, though they do supply Strip House and Gallagher’s. Their major customers are high end restaurants. Jean George, Tom Colicchio, Daniel Boulud and others use DeBragga for their proteins. Blackbarn (below) gets everything from DeBragga. They even started an e-commerce business to sell and ship directly to people at their homes.
CERTIFIED ANGUS BEEF
DeBragga became one of the first distributors of the Certified Angus Beef brand in the early 1980s, just shortly after the Certified Angus Beef brand began (1978).
In the late 1970s, the ability to get a great steak at home or even at a restaurant was hit or miss. The CAB founders wanted to set a standard for what would be considered a premium beef product. They found the best Angus ranchers and meat scientists to help them, and together they created 10 exacting quality specifications to determine what gets accepted into the program. Marbling, of course, is one of those key specifications. Four decades later, their vision to be the best of the best still remains.
All the beef in this delicious meal was Certified Angus Beef from DeBragga Meats. Chef John Doherty of Blackbarn Restaurant has been using CAB from DeBragga from the start of his career, which goes back to the early 1980’s, when he cooked for President Reagan, Margaret Thatcher and even rock gods Bob Dylan and Paul McCartney.
He cooked up a feast to celebrate CAB’s 40th year, and it was incredible. Here is everything:
Rib Eye Carpaccio with Shaved Foie Gras
Bone Marrow with Manilla Clams
Rib Cap Ravioli with Truffle Cream
Spinach Salad with Beef Bacon
Braised Short Rib Stuffed Rigatoni
Dry Aged Strip Loin Roast with Veggies
Tallow Biscuits with Berries & Cream
19 E 26th St
New York, NY 10010
King Solomon Foods is a family owned wholesale meat operation that’s been in business in Brooklyn since 1938, making them one of the oldest wholesalers to distribute in the city. They serve restaurants, supermarkets, country clubs, delis, you name it… from all over New York City to all the way out in eastern Long Island. Even some of the biggest named steakhouses in the area get beef from King Solomon Foods. These were all going to Peter Luger’s.
Here – take a closer look at some of these beauties:
In addition to Luger’s, they’ve also supplied places like Ben & Jacks, Old Homestead and Primal Cut in Manhattan. Some places even hand pick their meat in the facility.
Last weekend, Grant Siegel, Vice President of Sales, gave me a tour of the King Solomon facility, which is located on the water in Sunset Park, Brooklyn.
Grant represents five generations of the family business. As a former college football athlete from Colgate, his competitive nature is an asset to the company. He’s young, just 23, and he’s aggressively marketing and selling their high quality meats with the goal of making King Solomon a transcendental force in the game.
There’s no quit in him. He’s up at 3:00am every day and working until 9:00pm, and even putting in weekend time, as he was there showing me the facilities on his “day off.”
You probably noticed that massive slab of beef hanging behind us there in that last photo. Here it is all by itself:
Not many purveyors in the city are getting fresh carcasses like this anymore. There are maybe four of them. Most places are bringing in boxed beef and then further portioning that out for their customers.
One very important thing I learned from Grant on this visit was how much of a difference a fresh carcass makes in the final product for consumers. Take a look at this photo:
Both short loins had been aged for eight days at the time. The one on the right was cut by King Somolon’s butchers directly from a fresh carcass, right there on premises. The one on the left is boxed beef. Boxed beef comes off the fabrication floor at slaughterhouses and is then sealed up in bags and sent out to distributors in boxes. Distributors then break the beef down further depending on what their customers want (restaurants, delis, catering halls, etc). The difference in color and fat quality is staggering. The fresh beef will have a much better flavor from the aging process. But I was blown away by how dark and aged it looked after just eight days.
Speaking of dry aging, take a look at this nice room. Lots of good spacing and great air flow. To me, this is a treasure trove, and it’s probably worth about $100,000!
As the business continues to grow, Grant says that they plan to open up a second, much larger dry aging room off the back of the facility. Take a look at some of the beautiful pieces that were aging when I was there:
Grant personally doesn’t like to push the aging past 28 days, but here is a rack of 50-day dry aged ribs:
Almost everything I saw was stamped as Prime, and the smell of these short loins, especially the ones that were cut from fresh carcasses, was amazing.
But short loins and rib racks aren’t all they supply, despite the fact that they’re cutting between 500 and 600 steaks a day. There’s lamb, veal, and tons of other cuts of beef. Watch:
There’s a Kosher division, and they even grind their own burgers from trim. There are several different blends that they market. They do dry aged burgers, a “Brooklyn” burger (the official burger of the Verizon Center), a “King Solomon” burger, and a very popular chuck, brisket and short rib blend.
Additionally, a huge part of their business comes from poultry sales. King Solomon Foods moves about 250,000 pounds of chicken a week!
They are a direct receiver of chicken, so as a wholesaler that means their prices are extremely competitive. Bell & Evans, Purdue, Allen, you name it.
The business is already highly diversified. But Grant is looking to make this place a one stop shop, as they’re even supplying things like cheese, produce, turkey, seafood and sausage. For Grant, meat is a passion. It’s in his blood, and running this business was his dream. He’s always looking to take advantage of new technologies, study what’s available, and assess new business opportunities. He has the keys to the castle, so to speak. With youth and hustle on his side, he’s integrating a new mindset into an old school industry.
And he isn’t the only young blood in the family running things. His cousin, Zack Solomon, is the Executive Vice President of the company. He’s 29, and handles the day to day logistics and operations. Together, they represent the future of a business that runs five generations deep. That’s pretty exciting.
What’s even more exciting is that they sent me home with some really high-marbled, 28-day dry-aged strip steaks to try. Keep an eye out for some cooking videos and photos of these babies.
If you don’t already know about Delmonico’s, then you’re missing out. For over a decade, I’ve gotten pissed off every time I’ve seen TV shows or news articles about steakhouses (both in NYC and throughout the country) that discussed a whole bunch of mediocre places without Delmonico’s even so much as being mentioned. I’m happy to see that trend is finally changing, and people are waking up.
Not only is this joint serving up some of the best steaks in town, but they were first. Yeah. That’s right, Peter Luger fans. This place was the first fine dining restaurant in America, opening its doors in 1837. They invented the “Delmonico” Steak (a boneless rib eye) and Delmonico Potatoes, obviously. But they also invented Chicken a la King, Baked Alaska, Lobster Newberg, Egg’s Benedict and Manhattan Clam Chowder.
It’s one thing to be first or to have been around a long time, but it’s quite another to be consistently top notch. While I’ve only been getting down on steaks for this blog for about six or seven years, I can honestly tell you that they’ve always been a top choice favorite of mine, sitting comfortably in my top three to five steakhouses for the entire time. Right now they are first on the leader board, at 97/100 points. The 45-day dry aged rib eye is one of the best steaks I’ve ever eaten, and their bacon is hands down the best in the city. My full review base on several visits is HERE.
But anyway, on to the point of this article.
This month Delmonico’s is celebrating its 180th year in operation. Starting on 9/14 they’re offering 180-day dry aged bone-in rib eye steaks to mark the occasion. They’re being served on keepsake plates that you get to take home, featuring the artwork of New Yorker cartoonist John Donohue.
The steak is about 28oz of bone-in rib eye, and it’s magnificent. I was invited in to try it with some other steak connoisseurs.
It has a deep nutty and earthy funk to it, while still remaining juicy and tender. Chef Billy Oliva really nails it. This cut is being offered at $380 and is easily shareable, since you also will need to try some of their signature apps, sides and desserts when you go.
But that’s not all. The restaurant has also invited a bunch of well known chefs to create dishes that celebrate Delmonico’s 180th. This special tribute menu is available from 9/14 through 10/14.
I was able to try a few of these items as well (I focused mostly on the beef-centric dishes, though I did try some others). My favorites were as follows:
Chili Rubbed Rib Eye with White Corn Pudding, by Michael Lomonaco, Porter House.
This steak is in the vein of those cajun rib eye steaks you might see at Greenwich Steakhouse or Smith & Wollensky. It is truly delicious, and I highly recommend it if you’re not springing for Chef Billy Oliva’s 180-day dry aged rib eye.
Tournedos Rossini, by Paul Liebrandt, two Michelin starred chef, author and consultant.
That’s a massive, tender and juicy filet mignon sitting on a potato pancake and sautéed spinach, all topped by some foie gras. This is 100% pure decadence. Awesome dish.
Lobster Shepherd’s Pie, by Danny Meyer, Union Square Cafe.
Nine Herb Ravioli, by Daniel Boulud, Daniel.
Beef Wellington, by Harry & Peter Poulakakos, Harry’s Steak & Cafe.
Paris Brest Profiteroles, by Dominique Ansel, Dominique Ansel Bakery.
I really suggest you get down here between 9/14 and 10/14. I know I’m going back at least two more times this month to try more shit. Get on it, people. This is a rare opportunity to try a wide variety of amazing dishes and steaks. Tell them Johnny Prime sent you.
I recently received an email from the gent who co-created The SteakAger. He offered to send me a unit to review here on the site. I had no idea what the product was until I clicked over to their website to check it out. It’s an in-fridge box for dry-aging steaks at home!!! Check out their video:
Okay so just what is aged beef and dry-aging? I have a nice article about all that HERE, but the quick and dirty summary is that aging is a way to concentrate and intensify beef flavor and create a more tender steak.
I have had some limited experience dry-aging steaks with dry aging bags in the past, and the results were, surprisingly, very good! Since then, I have been secretly trying to figure out a way to fit a dedicated dry-aging fridge in our small NYC apartment. Needless to say, I was not excited about using more cubic footage for food stuff. In addition to our fridge, we have a drop-freezer, a baking work bench, and extra shelving for all of our cooking dedications. So The SteakAger was perfect for us; it goes right into the fridge! Most days the fridge is pretty empty anyway. We eat out a lot, as you can imagine, since NYC is pretty abundant with awesome restaurants. I do, however, like to cook steaks at home on occasion, to save a little dough here and there.
Anyway, my package arrived and I rushed home to get it before the package room in our building closed for the night. Here are some unboxing photos:
AC power and extension cable, along with other materials:
Keys are in there so you can get an idea of the sizing:
Charcoal pad slips into air passage:
Salt goes into the burlap bag and then gets placed at the bottom of the SteakAger, inside the box:
Sizing in my fridge:
It also fits if I turn it sideways, and it even has a viewing window on the side as well. Awesome! This orientation leaves me with a bit more space in the fridge.
So the way this works, is you connect an extension wire to the back of The SteakAger, which you can see above on the upper left portion of the unit. You then snake that through the door hinge of the fridge and plug it into a socket behind the fridge. I was apprehensive at first, wondering whether the wire coming out of the fridge would mess with my fridge’s efficiency, but it does not. The seal is still tight, and everything in the fridge is still nice and cold.
So after monitoring my local grocery stores and butchers, I found a good sale on beef. I picked up about 7lbs of top sirloin and popped it into The Steak Ager.
I adjusted my fridge setting down a bit to keep the temperature slightly colder than usual, at about 37 degrees. Then came the hard part: waiting… I started this baby on April 11th, 2016. Here’s a peek at it after 34 days in the box:
As you can see, a nice dark bark formed around the outside. I carved that off and portioned the meat into two top sirloin cap filets (aka Culotte), and two top sirloin steaks.
Here’s a time-lapse video of me doing that:
Right away, I cooked up a culotte. I seasoned it with salt, pepper and garlic powder, and seared it in a cast iron skillet with some butter.
I’m really happy with this product. It costs less than $250 with shipping. That’s a great deal for the ability to access dry-aged beef any time you want from your own fridge. I highly recommend this product to all beef aficionados.
Lots of people ask me about aged beef, and whether an aged steak is worth the upcharge at a restaurant or butcher shop. The simple answer is yes. But if you’re like me, you also want to know why it’s worth the money, and how beef aging happens. I’ve got you covered here. This page should serve as your guide to convincing yourself to seek out and eat aged beef more often.
Let’s first start with the fact that there are two major, most common types of aging techniques employed by most meat people: Dry Aging and Wet Aging.
After the animal is slaughtered and cleaned, large format cuts with high, evenly distributed fat content are placed in temperature- and humidity-controlled coolers. The reason I say “large format cuts” is to separate out in your minds the idea that you can just toss a grocery store cut of steak into an aging box and let it go. That would be wasteful, as your steak will shrink during the aging process. So instead, meat purveyors will use something big, like a full standing rib roast, or even an entire side of beef when they dry-age meat.
Dry-aging processes tend to cause the meat to desiccate to the point where you can lose almost a third of the original weight. So if you’re starting with many pounds of meat, typically untrimmed of any fat and still having the bones in, then it doesn’t hurt so much when your beef loses some weight and eventually gets trimmed. The reason I say “high fat content” is because fat equals flavor, and dry-aging increases and concentrates flavor. During the process, that fat content also becomes very tender, and acts like butter when it gets rendered out during cooking.
The coolers or “aging boxes” can vary greatly. They can be large aging rooms or just a mini-fridge sized unit that has been modified to stay at near-freezing temperatures with good air circulation and lowered humidity.
The beef must be stored at near-freezing temperatures, and with a somewhat lowered humidity. Right off the bat, these steps eliminate the prospect of having to combat certain harmful bacteria that can only survive above a certain temperature with certain levels of humidity. Air circulation, air ventilation and even UV lighting are also key in these cold-boxes, as they further help to prevent certain types of harmful bacteria from forming while promoting other, more helpful bacteria and fungi.
“Bacteria? Fungus? Eww!”
Nope. Don’t be an asshole. Here’s how it works: Dry-aging promotes growth of certain fungal mold species on the external surface of the meat. This doesn’t cause spoilage, but actually forms an external “crust” on the meat’s surface, which is trimmed off later, when the meat is prepared for cooking. These fungal species complement the natural enzymes in the beef by helping to tenderize the meat, and enhancing and increasing the flavor of the meat. The natural enzymes in the beef break down the proteins, making everything more soft and tender.
Once the aging is completed, the dark, thick and hardened bark on the outside is trimmed away from the underlying softened meat. This bark will form on any outer portions of the meat that are in contact with the air.
Bark is good. Dry-agers WANT that bark all around the meat. For that reason, meat within the cooling box will almost always be placed on a metal rack – which allows for air flow underneath – rather than a solid, flat surface. This also prevents bad bacteria from forming underneath the meat where it rests on the surface.
“So why even do all of this? I’m still kinda grossed out about the bacteria and fungus.”
Then you should eat a dick instead of a steak. But seriously: The beef’s natural enzymes will break down the fat and connective tissue within the muscle, which increases the meat’s tenderness. And since moisture is evaporated from the muscle as well, you get a greater concentration of beef flavor and taste in the end-product.
“But why would I want a dry steak? Isn’t a great steak supposed to be very juicy?”
Finally a good question. The steak doesn’t get THAT dry, and the majority of the real dryness is on that outside bark that you trim away. The meat still retains about 2/3 of its moisture, and that translates directly to “juiciness” while minimizing bleed-out after cooking. Once you start to cook the steak, tons of juices will begin to flow – trust me. So why do all of this? To sum up: the dry-aging process changes and improves beef in two ways: (1) it increases tenderness, and (2) it concentrates and enhances flavor.
Length of Dry-Aging
Dry-aging is commonly done for 15–28 days, but it is sometimes purposely done for longer periods of time. More time results in more shrinking, but also more flavor. Sometimes aged beef can take on a nutty flavor quality, intense earthiness, or the funk smell of blue cheese. A good number that I frequently see in restaurants is 35-days. At that point you are getting some of those interesting flavors without it being too overwhelming to the average consumer. Then again I have had 62-day steak that had a much more funky flavor quality than other 85-day, 105-day and 120-day steaks that I’ve tried. So I guess it depends on cooking technique too.
One seldom sees dry-aged beef outside of steakhouses, restaurants and upscale butcher shops. It is rare to see it in grocery stores due to the significant loss of weight in the aging process. Grocery stores sell meat by the pound and most average folks won’t understand the appeal of a funky, crusty and rotten looking piece of reddish-brown meat at such a marked-up price point. Most people just want to grab their pre-packaged steaks for the grill, and that’s fine. Only a few of us would be looking for top notch stuff like this. Whole Foods does offer aged beef, and they even age it on-site at their butcher counters. But dry-aged steaks are almost as expensive raw at a supermarket as they are fully cooked by experts in a steakhouse. So for this kind of stuff it makes sense to just go to the restaurant, or man-up and do it at home yourself.
An Important Tip
Home cooks beware: Dry-aged beef cooks very fast because it is more dry than a regular steak. I like to re-hydrate mine with olive oil. I let it soak for a while in an olive oil and garlic bath at room temperature before I cook it. Another option is to sous vide it in a butter-filled vacuum pack to about 120 degrees first, and then finish it off with a hard sear in an iron skillet for a nice crust on the outside.
Wet-aged beef is beef that has typically been aged in a vacuum-sealed bag to retain its moisture. This is the dominant mode of aging beef in the United States today, and you’ve most likely eaten wet-aged beef without even being aware. Wet-aging is popular because it takes less time (typically only a few days to a couple of weeks) and none of the weight is lost in the process (because there is no desiccation). For that reason, one can age individual cuts of steak rather than large format chunks of beef.
With the advent of plastics and vacuum sealing technology, meats can be broken down at the slaughterhouse, packed up, vacuum sealed and shipped out to grocery stores, butcher shops or restaurants. Since the meats are vacuum sealed rather than hung up in a cold dry locker during transport, the wet-aging will happen during the length of time it takes for a truck to deliver the product.
In the wet-aging process, natural enzymes do all the work to break down and tenderize the beef; there is no mold, bacteria or fungal growth aiding in the process or altering flavors.
I’ve only eaten wet-aged beef a few times at steakhouses in all of my steaking days. I don’t notice that much of an improvement, and I generally tend to enjoy dry-aged steaks more because of the concentrated and funky flavors. However, like the choice between a porterhouse and a rib eye, this is largely a matter of personal preference. Some people don’t like the texture or flavors associated with dry-aged beef, so they will stick to the wet-aged stuff.
Alternative Aging Techniques
So that covers the two major methods for aging beef. But there are other ways to achieve the same if not similar flavor characteristics.
Umai Dry and other companies offer special, large semi-vacuum seal-able bags that mimic the dry-aging process pretty closely. I’ve tried these out and really enjoyed the outcome. Simply put, you seal up the meat according to their instructions, and place on a metal rack in your fridge. Then you wait, and once the aging is complete, you carve off all the bark and portion everything out into individual steaks for cooking.
Koji Rice Method
I recently came across an article that lit up my brain synapses like wildfire. As you may know, the Japanese are masters at fermentation. They’ve been fermenting soy, miso and other delicious items for centuries with great success. In fact they’ve been credited for the 5th flavor sensation, “umami,” which I call earthiness or funk. Think aged hard cheese, dashi broth, soy sauce, mushrooms, truffles or fish sauce. These items have distinct and almost dank smells and flavors, but in a good way that invigorate your taste buds. Lots of the flavors in these items, specifically the soy and miso products, are created due to the presence of a live bacterial culture that breaks down proteins, similar to what happens during the beef aging process. The Japanese have harnessed this bacteria and introduced it into sacks of Koji rice grains for their fermentation purposes. This rice is available all over the place.
So basically a guy grabbed a cut of steak and dusted it with some powderized Koji rice, and in two or three days he had a steak with the flavor characteristics of dry-aged beef. Now, he did this on a pre-cut and pre-portioned steak, so he was limited with the time he could age it. If he went any longer, the steak would have started to desiccate too much and he wouldn’t have been left with much meat after having to carve off the outer bark. Rice will absorb moisture, after all, and leech out moisture. In fact, the end result might be more like a cured meat that was packed with salt (like prosciutto) rather than a dry-aged steak.
In any case, I will probably give this a whirl at some point soon, so keep your eyes peeled for updates.
Additional Useful Information
Because I am thorough and anticipating your thoughts and questions, here is some more shit:
Aging Other Types of Meats
Why, yes, you can age other kinds of meats like chicken, pork or lamb. However, since these are smaller animals, you tend to lose a lot of their weight during the dry-aging process. For that reason, anyone doing this with non-beef will likely age the meat for shorter amounts of time than beef counterparts. Furthermore, I would imagine you’d have to be even more careful and mindful of harmful bacteria, as chicken and pork could have a higher occurrence of bad bacteria in their flesh than beef (salmonella, trichinosis, etc) if certain conditions are not sanitary from the outset. As with beef, wet-aging is possible with vacuum sealing.
Difference Between Aging and Curing
Curing is the process of preserving meats with the addition of salt, sugars, nitrites or nitrates. These things are not added to beef in the aging process. The addition of these materials eventually creates a completely inhospitable environment for bacteria, and therefore the meat will not easily spoil, even at room temperatures. This is not the case with aging. Moisture is still retained, even with dry-aging. So if removed from an aging cooler a dry-aged steak will eventually spoil. Examples of cured products include various charcuterie meats that we all know and love, like salami, pepperoni and prosciutto.
UMAi Dry contacted me a few weeks back about their dry aging bags. I was intrigued by some of their promotional materials and video demos, so I told them to send me some samples to try out at home. I already had the sealer for use with my DIY sous vide machine, with which I made some kickass steaks.
Usually when I think about the aging process for steaks, I get overwhelmed and think I could never do it. This is something I should leave to the professionals. I worry about mold, bacteria, rancid meat, wasting money on failed attempts, etc. But with UMAi Dry this otherwise daunting task is boiled down to a super simple procedure. Essentially you just pop a hunk of beef in their special vacuum seal bags, put it in your fridge, and wait 35 days.
So I received my sample bags and ran out to the store to buy a nice rib roast, which I would later parse out into rib eye steaks after the aging is completed. NYC grocery stores don’t really have massive slabs of rib roasts sitting in the fridge section, so I had to ask the butcher what he had. He went to work for me, giving me a section of rib eyes with about four or five bones intact.
I was a bit freaked when I saw the price tag on this fucker. The butcher told me that the beef was prime, but that he only charged me for choice.
I guess that’s a good deal (several dollars per pound cheaper). But still… at $225 it could turn out to be a really fucking expensive mistake if I fuck anything up.
On the other hand, if this nearly 11lb hunk of prime rib eye ages nicely for 35 days, I could end up with several high quality rib eyes that would save me money on steakhouse dinners in the long run.
I took the gamble. I probably should have waited for a sale or something, but I was too excited to get started. About 30 minutes later I was starting the process of bagging and sealing.
I put some wax paper across the bones so that any sharp bits wouldn’t puncture or slice open the bag.
Once sealed properly, it just goes into the fridge on a cookie rack or drying rack, so that air flow goes all around the bag.
Then we just wait 35 days, with an occasional flip here and there. Here’s a pair of shots after 5 days with a flip. As you can see, the meat is already starting to darken and dry where the bag is in contact with the flesh.
Even darker after another week. It’s forming a “bark”-like layer of beneficial mold that helps to tenderize the meat as it develops.
And another week or so. I notice it’s also shrinking. Dry-aging processes tend to cause the meat to desiccate to the point where you can lose almost a third of the original weight.
After 35 days, here is the unwrapping!
The outside bark, which has the texture of really hard beef jerky, needs to be sliced off of the underlying softened meat, and the tough skin membrane over the ribs needs to be peeled and picked off.
It’s an arduous task, but the end product is totally worth the effort. Here are some shots that my wife snapped of the slicing, trimming and portioning process.
The inside is so gorgeous. This shot looks like angel wings:
A great looking fat cap was still intact. I was worried that I would have to carve off too much of that, but we did pretty good.
I’ve saved all the bark slices to use in making another beef stock or broth at a later date.
I ended up with two thinner boneless cuts, so I seasoned them up right away and seared them off in a cast iron skillet with some butter, garlic and onions (I cut one to fit them in the pan better).
The result was awesome. Perfectly cooked, super flavorful and really well worth the wait! The fat was entirely edible. Very soft and buttery, like beef jelly.
Those were just a couple of small boneless cuts. This cowboy chop was pretty incredible:
Now I’m wondering if I should try this again and just leave the shit in the fridge for several months. The flavor was great on this stuff. It had a nice earthy smell; a well-endowed scent of mushroom or truffle, with a slight hint of blue cheese. Like heaven.
If you’re adventurous with home meal prep, I highly recommend this easy-to-use product. I think I still have a few extra bags, so the next time I have a little extra fat in my bank, I might go in for another dry-aging experiment: maybe strip loin next time.
Final note: if your fridge is generally full, but you still want to age beef at home, I suggest getting a mini fridge, or a smaller dedicated separate fridge, just for beef. Put your temperature setting to about 35 degrees, and get a fan in there somehow to circulate the air. Always keep the beef elevated off the surface on a baking rack or something, too. No special aging bags necessary.