Tag Archives: tender

Aged Beef

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.

Prime & Beyond, NYC

Dry 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 aging room at Gallagher’s Steakhouse
The aging fridge at Prime & Beyond.

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 Aging

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.

Aging Bags

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.

A photo posted by Johnny Prime (@johnnyprimecc) on

Sometimes meats are cured and preserved by smoking as well. Jerky is also a form of meat preservation that involves both heat and drying, but not curing.


Since cured and dried meats deserve their own write-up on this website, I will eventually be adding a page dedicated to them here in time. Keep your eyes out for that.


Tender overall score: 77

Tender is a sushi and steak joint in midtown. I recently purchased a Groupon: $49 got me $70 worth of food, though I think I paid less with a coupon code. Anyway, check the review below:

Flavor: 9
I had the rib eye. This thing was damn near perfect. Despite this being a somewhat small sized boneless cut, I only took a single point, and that was because some of the fat was a bit gristled and non-edible. I’m trying to reserve the 10-spot for when I eat every scrap.


The meat was perfectly cooked inside. If I had to guess, I’d say they are using a sous vide machine, because the ONLY part that was not pink was the immediate edges, which had a wet crisp on them. Check out the cut and you’ll see what I mean in the cross-section:


The steak was served with some roasted garlic too, which was really soft and spreadable.


Choice of Cuts & Quality Available: 8
This place has all four of the basic cuts (FRPS – filet, rib eye, porterhouse and strip), however they are only available in one size each. The menu says that the strip is dry-aged and the rib eye is Black Angus, so the quality is good there. There is no other beef available other than a meatloaf entree.

Portion Size & Plating: 7
Portions for the steaks are a bit on the small side. The filet is only 8oz at $38; the strip is 12oz at $54; the Black Angus rib eye is 16oz at $50; and the porterhouse is 40oz at $47/pp, which is $94. Since it is only offered for two, they may as well just say $94 on the menu instead of using the per person cost. I’m uncertain whether you can order it for three and have it be something like a 60oz cut. Plating for the steak was really pretty: a wood tray with a stone inlay plate.

Price: 7
I’m glad we had a Groupon, because I think the sizes of the steaks ran a bit small at this price point. When I saw $54 next to a 12oz strip on the menu, my eyes widened in disbelief. That’s way too high. That said, I think we had a good deal with the Groupon purchase, so I wasn’t cringing when Sir William Price arrived at the table:


Bar: 8
This was a confusing visit. A good portion of the restaurant was shuttered due to a private event, so I think we were seated in the smaller rear area, where they had a secondary bar. I’ll give it the standard score of eight as benefit of the doubt, because I think the bar in the main dining area sits along some nice frontage on 47th Street, and has a full walk-around square of bar seating space.


Specials and Other Meats: 5
The only other meat on the menu was chicken. While this only scores half of the allowed points in this category, I have to give credit to the place for sticking to what the sign says on their establishment, for the most part: steak and sushi. The big let down was that they didn’t offer any specials, especially being nestled in their high-powered midtown location on west 47th Street. When I think of a Japanese steak and sushi joint, high quality specialty items come to mind, like Wagyu/Kobe by the ounce, flash cooked on a hot stone with soy sauce and shiitake mushrooms… or tongue-numbing and deadly blowfish sashimi… or soft, delicate uni… NADA!

Apps, Sides & Desserts: 8
We has some sushi rolls as starters. They were only six pieces each, instead of eight. But they were really tasty. First was the Pink Panther, which was king crab-based with a soy wrapper and some crunch.


Next was Sunset, which had a bunch of different cuts of raw fish inside and on top. Very fresh and delicate.


We also had some truffle fries. These were perfectly cooked McDonald’s style, with a dusting of parsley and a drizzle of truffle oil. Not too overpowering, but well seasoned. We cleaned out the entire bowl.


Seafood Selection: 9
There’s a fair deal of seafood on the menu, even outside the sushi realm. Salmon, branzino, mussels and black cod, in particular, with a shrimp risotto to boot. I was surprised by some of the Italian-style preparations that were on this menu.

Service: 9
The staff was very attentive, and our water was always filled promptly. The service was quick too. We were in and out within an hour, pretty much. Very nice, considering that we weren’t in the mood for a huge, long dinner.

Ambiance: 7
While I can’t really give a full blown review of the ambiance here, since we were limited to a smaller portion of the restaurant, I can confidently assess the place based on what I saw. The lighting is very dim. Big props to Sony for creating a camera like the Alpha 7S, which is a fucking BEAST in low light situations. The music was somewhat ridiculous: very bad, corny 90’s music. I think Hootie & the Blowfish played at some point, which is funny because I mentioned above that I wanted the blowie special without any mention of the hooters. Okay so too dim, bad music, an awkward video screen displaying a generic, stock image of sushi with the word “sushi” next to it… BUT a very cool hallway that connected to the bathrooms and the adjacent Sanctuary Hotel (lots of Buddha and far eastern/Indian statues – those were cool).




UPDATE 8/7/17

I came back in with the PR company that represents the Sanctuary Hotel in order to promote the restaurant week menu at Tender.

Here are the avocado fries and the spicy tuna roll starters. The avocado fries needed a hit of salt, as well as a better dipping sauce. The spicy tuna roll was fine.

Of the three entrees, the filet mignon is probably the best selection, but that comes at a $6 surcharge. When I was here, they gave me the fill sized filet, but I was under the impression that this is usually smaller for regular restaurant week guests. 8/10.

If paying the additional fee isn’t your speed, then go with the rigatoni bolognese:

The pasta is cooked perfectly, and the sauce is meaty but not too heavy. I liked it.

Last, the branzino.

This was nice, and had a great crisp from the skin and fried lotus root. But after having the same dish at Le Cirque, I was disappointed here. This was half the size at best.

Dessert was decent. TI tried a nice piece of tiaramisu and a sliver of cheesecake, but they also offer creme brûlée.

130 W. 47th St.
New York, NY 10036