What is Dry-Aging?

Dry-aging is simply allowing beef to rest in a controlled open-air environment. This was a method used to preserve beef before the invention of refrigeration and the process dates back thousands of years. The resting or aging process changes the beef in significant ways.

The final dry-aged steak is the result of moisture loss, as well the effects of enzymatic and bacterial action.

What Does Dry-Aging Do, Exactly?

While dry-aging is a method to preserve beef, it is also a form of controlled decay where natural enzymes break down muscle fibers. A properly dry-aged steak is more tender than one that is not aged.

The first measurable component is the loss of water or moisture. It makes sense that a cut of beef allowed to rest uncovered will lose moisture. Over the course of 30 days, a subprimal cut can lose a significant amount of its original weight, with some estimates as high as 30%. 

This is one reason dry-aged steaks are more expensive. If you start with 10 pounds of beef and end up with 7 pounds, there is going to be an increased cost for the finished product. A positive result of moisture loss is the concentration of any natural flavors in the beef.

During the dry-aging process, the intramuscular fat retains more water than the muscle fibers, so a well marbled cut tends to work best. The outside of the beef forms a crust and if the environmental factors of air flow, humidity and temperature are well controlled, the interior is preserved and develops rich flavor. Large scale dry-aging facilities use bigger, full sub-primal cuts to maximize the desirable interior.

Perhaps the primary reason people appreciate a dry-aged steak is the difference in flavor. As mentioned above, the loss of moisture act to concentrate the flavor components of beef. Breakdown of the muscles from enzymes and bacteria work to transform the beef.

What Does Dry-Aged Steak Taste Like?

When you take a bite of beef that’s properly dry-aged, you’ll notice it is very tender. The aroma is more pungent than a regular steak and takes on notes many have equated with buttered popcorn. It has a more concentrated beef flavor and if it’s been aged more than 60 days, it tends to have stronger nutty flavor profiles.

How to Cook Dry-Aged Steak

When it comes to cooking dry-aged steak, simplicity is perfection. You want to highlight the concentrated beef flavor that was so carefully achieved through the dry-aging process. For this reason, we recommend simple seasonings accompanied by the reverse sear method.

 To cook a dry-aged steak, the steps are simple:

  1.  Thaw your dry-aged steak if it is frozen, preferably 2 days in the refrigerator before it’s time to cook.
  2. Allow the dry-aged steak to rest for 30 minutes outside the refrigerator to bring the meat closer to room temperature.
  3. Preheat your oven to 275°F degrees
  4. Season the dry-aged beef with salt and pepper. Don’t forget the sides!
  5. Cover a baking sheet in foil and place the dry-aged steak on a metal rack atop the pan.
  6. Bake for up to 75 minutes, but begin to check the internal temperature of the steak starting around 30 minutes in.
  7. Pull the dry-aged steak from the oven when it reaches an internal temp of 120°F degrees if you prefer a rare doneness. For medium-rare, pull  at 125°F degrees, and for medium do so at 130°F degrees.
  8. Get a carbon steel or cast iron skillet as hot as your stovetop can handle.
  9. Apply olive oil, avocado oil, or your preferred fat to coat the pan.
  10. Lay the dry-aged steak away from you on the pan and sear each side for 60-90 seconds

The Best Steaks to Dry-Age

Thick cut steaks like a tomahawk rib-eye or New York Strip are great candidates for dry-aging due to their levels of fat marbling and initial tenderness.

Like any other beef sources, there are numerous factors that impact the finished quality of a dry-aged steak. The best dry-aged beef starts with high quality beef. You’ll see most steakhouse menus list dry-aged steaks made from USDA Prime, the highest grade achievable on the USDA scale.

Snake River Farms offers dry-aged steaks using USDA Prime and American Wagyu beef. All our American Wagyu grades above USDA Prime in terms of marbling.

How Long to Dry Age Beef?

A very important factor is the amount of time the beef is aged. Most experts agree that 30 days is the minimum time for dry-aging to do its magic, though some facilities will age beef for 2 months or even longer. Dry-aged products less than 30 days will not provide the enhance eating experience of beef that is aged for a longer amount of time.

The dry-age facility also plays a major role in finished quality. 

Dry-Aged Wagyu Beef

The more fat marbling a cut of beef has, the more flavor it will acquire from the dry-aging process. This is what makes wagyu beef especially perfect for dry-aging. Wagyu cattle are known for their incredible layers of intramusclur fat, and over the course of 30 days of dry-aging, their beef obtains a powerful and unforgettable flavor. 

Dry-aged wagyu beef is a unique eating experience that is worth trying at least once. We’ve found it isn’t for everyone, the beefier, nutty qualities are not appreciated universally. However, for many, it is the ultimate steak and well worth the premium price.