View Full Version : Dry Aging Beef for Fun & Feasting

01-24-2015, 11:46 AM
care to divulge any secrets to aging your own meat? any books that would cover it in detail? Mostly interested in your temperature control, if it's a fridge or cellar or what.

I hang my own wild game but only for a few days as I butcher a couple of hours each night. Open the garage door at night and close it during the day, around the bullet wounds can get a little green depending on temps.

I've been curing and aging meat for around 6 or 7 years now, starting with sausages. I've since cured several full hams, some smoked, some not, for upwards of 15 months. The current Jamon Iberico I have hanging in the pantry is 16 months old, and lovely.

The best environment for curing is between 45 and 60 degrees F, and between 65% and 80% relative humidity. There will also be adequate air exchange such as to help the meat dry without spoiling and to deposit friendly bacteria on the surface of the meat. Most basements/cellars around the 40th parallel, plus or minus quite a few degrees latitude (think Northern Europe to the Alpine regions of Italy or the Pyrenees between France & Spain), have nearly ideal conditions.

There are a few tricks for getting into this ancient trade, particularly of dry aging beef or other whole muscles without the aid of salt to cure them.

First, use large, full cuts of meat. Whole hams, whole rib sections, whole shoulders, etc. An easy cut to start with for beef would be USDA first cut Prime Rib.

Second, leave the fatcap on the muscle, but trimmed to ~1 inch. An inch of fatcap will protect the underlying meat from desiccating fully or too quickly, resulting in inedible meat or spoilage. Wrapping the meat in cheesecloth can help keep bugs away. Alternately, slathering bare, lean meat with lard reduced from porkfat can help retard the drying process, and produce more usable meat.

Third, the meat must be placed on a rack, hung, or otherwise not left on a tray or ledge. Whatever portion of the meat is left leaning against something won't dry adequately and will spoil. I prefer to wrap the muscle in cheese cloth, then use kitchen twine to create a binding, then hang this from a rafter in my basement.

Fourth, if it is furry, brown, black, or a combination of those, you need to cut it off. A thin coating of white frost is totally fine: this is a probiotic flora that thrives across most places on this earth, and eating it won't hurt you. It is the same powdery white coating you get on a lot of dry aged Italian sausages like a good salumi.

As for resources & books, I started out with the book Charcuterie by Michael Ruhlman & Brian Polcyn (http://www.amazon.com/Charcuterie-Craft-Salting-Smoking-Curing/dp/0393058298). I have many, many others, but consider this book to be probably the best starting point for someone interested in going beyond just grinding up venison with a bit of porkfat and salt. Additionally, this is an article that goes into some detail, specific to the dry aging of beef. (http://www.beefresearch.org/cmdocs/beefresearch/dry%20Aging%20of%20beef.pdf)

Feel free to ask any specific questions, and I'll do my best to either answer them, or at least point you in the right direction.

01-24-2015, 12:18 PM
Useful information, appreciate it. We've never cured any other meats except venison or venison sausage. It's tough to do here as our temps fluctuate so much during the winter. Sometimes we can let a whole deer hang for a couple of weeks, but usually if we can let it hang for three or four days we're doing good. I would love to try and age a good ribeye but with the price of beef right now, it's gonna have to wait.

01-24-2015, 02:45 PM
Thanks! I've had that book on my Amazon wish list for quite a while. I've had an interest ever since trying head cheese in Europe and regarding dry aging I thought it was cool my grandpa told me he would pay for half a cow and leave it there telling the butcher "call me when it starts growing fur", not too many shops would do that now!

Having never tried dry aging, about the only observation/thing I can add is I see even more now membranes are my friend, when butchering I have always cut whole muscles as much as possible and left the membranes on for freezing and cooking of larger cuts, even cooking I do not trim wild game excessively, have never really been sceert of the "gamey" flavor to try to mitigate it too much although I've had a few animals I just had to grind the whole beast and mix with pork, seems the membranes would help for dry aging as well! (slow down the process)

One question: Is there danger of botulism such as with old school methods of canning?

01-24-2015, 03:51 PM
One question: Is there danger of botulism such as with old school methods of canning?

Botulism is a result of an anaerobic environment--one deprived of oxygen--and such an environment is difficult to find in dry-aged full muscles. There is a risk, however, small, but it is only of serious consideration when the ambient humidity is so low that a hard 'crust' forms on the outside of the muscle, leaving a great deal of moisture trapped inside.

Botulism is far more a risk for dry cured sausages, as within the casing, and stored away in any air pockets, are possible breeding grounds of anaerobic bacteria. Dry cure sausages are generally packed into casing, twisted into links, and then given air holes via a sterile needle. These air holes ensure that there are no bubbles of air trapped in the meat and/or under the casing, which will breed aerobic bacteria until the oxygen is consumed, and then in the aftermath, dangerous anaerobic bacteria.

01-24-2015, 04:55 PM
I've been called crazy, but I think dove and some duck breast tastes better once it's aged.

Usually I only age it about a week before I cook it though.

When I was young, growing up in Virginia, I remember my grandparents curing hams and other meats. Seems it's a skill that's lost on most today.