Age is More Than a Num­ber

Wine & Dine Cookbook - - FEATURE -

Al­most all beef that come to our plates have been aged in some way or other. This is be­cause freshly slaugh­tered beef is stringy and tough, and a bit of age­ing—when its own nat­u­ral en­zymes break down the meat’s con­nec­tive tis­sue—ten­derises the meat. At its most sim­plis­tic, meat pack­aged in large vac­uum-sealed bags and in sty­ro­foam trays wrapped in cling film have been wet-aged.

Con­nois­seurs how­ever swear by dry-aged beef. Firstly, only high grades of meat can be dry-aged, as it re­quires large amounts of evenly dis­trib­uted fat. Left in a dry-age­ing cup­board, the beef loses mois­ture through evap­o­ra­tion, which in turn con­cen­trates its flavour. Like wet-age­ing, the en­zymes get to work, mak­ing the meat more ten­der. The process takes 15 to 28 days, dur­ing which a crust of fun­gus de­vel­ops on the ex­te­rior that, gas­tronomes say, en­hances the flavour too. When ready to use, this crust has to be sliced away. Cou­pled with weight lost in the evap­o­ra­tion, dry-aged meat tends to be more ex­pen­sive.

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