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Aging Beef - Wet Aging

The nearly lost art of the great steak

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Wet Aging

The less expensive alternative to dry aging is called wet aging. Meat is shipped from packing plants to butchers in vacuum packaging. Butchers can set this packed meat aside in their refrigerators and allow them to age. Since the meat is packed in it’s own juices the enzymes will breakdown the connective tissues and make it more tender. However, because there will be no fluid loss the concentration of flavor that you get from dry aging won’t happen.

So why not save yourself some money, and age your own beef? Take that vacuum packed primal cut (from which market cuts are taken) from the butcher and put it in the refrigerator for 2 weeks and you’ll have a really tender piece of meat, right? No. Aging needs to be done at precise temperatures and humidity under controlled circumstances. The average family refrigerator just doesn’t have what it takes to properly age beef. It is very easy to get a good colony of bacteria going in that meat during the couple of weeks it takes to age a piece of beef.

Worse still is this recipe for a trip to the hospital that’s been floating around the Internet. Take your prime or choice steaks, unwrap them, rinse with cold water, wrap in a clean kitchen towel and place on the coldest shelf of your refrigerator. Every day for 2 weeks take the steaks out and change the towel. At this point you are promised a fantastic steak, provided you live though the digestive process after eating it. What you need is the experience and knowledge to know when spoilage first starts. There is a definite change in smell and color of the meat so very close inspection is required during the aging process to insure that it doesn't go bad.

The biggest risks to any piece of meat that you buy from the store and attempt to age are all the things that happened to that meat before you picked it up. Any exposure to bacteria during butchering, packing or shipping can make that meat unsafe to age.

It is popular with many of the competition barbecue cooks to age their briskets. This is done for a short period of time and with sealed meats. The cryovac briskets can be held in your refrigerator for a week or two safely. It is debatable how much improvement you get out of this limited process.

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