Dry Aging Beef at Home
Most home cooks don’t have access to a meat market that sells dry aged beef or prime grade beef, but a short period of dry aging in your refrigerator will improve the taste & texture of the standard rib roast that is readily available in any supermarket.
Beef is commercially aged with either a wet method (in cryovac packs) or a dry method. The dry method is what most fine steakhouses prefer. When beef is aged enzyme activity breaks down the protein making it more tender and dry aging concentrates the beefy goodness by evaporating the moisture in the meat.
While many home economics teachers may gasp at this technique, this method is safe as long as you start with a roast that has been freshly cut, perfectly dry on the surface before aging and kept in the coldest part of your fridge (my coldest spot is in the back part of my lowest rack). Mold will not grow on the surface if the meat is completely dry, cold and uncovered. Uninvited microrganisms are more likely to form on a piece of refrigerated beef if it is kept moist in the original packaging than if it’s stored dry, cold and uncovered till ready to cook.
I recommend starting with a freshly cut standing rib roast of at least 3 ribs (5 lbs) or more. Even a mega-mart supermarket will freshly cut a standing rib roast for you to order with some notice. Immediately upon getting home with the roast unwrap it. Do not wash the roast but pat dry very well with paper towels. Place on a rack in a dish and set in the coldest part of your fridge unwrapped. I like to age for 3-5 days but have done so up to 8 days with excellent results. The exterior of the roast will turn dark red as it ages but this will not affect the interior. It’s not a cause for alarm. Flip the roast from one side to the other every 12 hours during the aging for even drying.
Remove the roast from the refrigerator 2 hours prior to roasting to bring to room temp and smear all over with a paste made from 2-3 cloves of minced garlic, 1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt, 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon dried herbs of choice (I like thyme) and just enough soy sauce to moisten. The moisture in the paste actually rehydrates the outer layer of the meat as it roasts and produces a tasty, crusty exterior. I also like to tie my roast to help it keep it’s shape while roasting.
The actual roasting method in my opinion doesn’t make much difference in the final product. Both the high oven to start then lower temp to finish as well as the low temp all the way methods work very well. I have even roasted on an outside grill finishing with wood chips during the last hour of cooking with fantastic results. A meat thermometer is the best way to know when your roast is ready to pull from the oven. We like ours on the rare side and pull the roast out when a meat thermometer reaches 125 degrees and then let it rest for at least 45 minutes lightly covered with foil before serving. The internal temperature will rise 5-10 degrees more after it is removed from the oven. The final result will be a roast with a richly flavored, crusty exterior and a beefy, juicy interior. I serve this with Yorkshire pudding roasted in the pan drippings while the roast is resting and of course a simple horseradish sauce made with sour cream and hot horseradish.
Freshly cut beef is the only meat I recommend treating in this manner. Pork and poultry generally don’t benefit from aging unless you are into home butchering of livestock or are a hunter and know how to handle venison. When I have the luxury of planning in advance I also briefly age large steaks and larger pot roast cuts with this technique before cooking with equally fantastic results.