During the ageing process, proteins that give muscles form and functionality start to be broken down by enzymes left in the body after slaughter. As these larger proteins disassemble into smaller ones, meat becomes more tender.
Wet ageing of meat describes a general storage process that occurs after a carcass is broken down or boned when meat is packaged and stored.
Wet ageing enhances tenderness, but does not greatly influence the flavour of the meat. It is popular because it requires less time and space than dry ageing meat, plus there is no weight loss as the moisture is retained in the meat.
Dry ageing isn’t a new technique or trend. In fact, until the developments in chilling and vacuum packing in the early 1960s, dry ageing was the most common, and often, the only way to prepare meat for storage and transport. The process of dry ageing was traditionally carried out by hanging either the whole or cut pieces of the carcase in a cool room.
The secret to dry aged meat is the reduction in moisture. Techniques in dry ageing can vary depending on the desired flavour outcome and the amount of the moisture that is lost, both related to how long the meat is aged for.
The process is typically 7-14 days, but can be up to a month or longer. During this time, a protective ‘crust’ of bacteria forms over the meat, which helps to concentrate flavour and present a better end result. This crust is then removed before the meat can be safely prepared and served to customers.
Why Dry Age?
While it’s absolutely fine to eat meat as soon as it has been processed, it’s no question however that eating quality improves dramatically after it’s been left to hang for a few days.
While beef is technically dry aged after 7 days, it’s around day 11 that the crusting starts to properly form – an outward sign that the flavours are starting to concentrate and create the delicious result people know and love.