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What makes dry aged beef so much better than wet aged?

written by

Cassandra Row

posted on

October 16, 2023

If you’ve been looking at buying beef directly from a farm or ranch, you have probably heard the term dry aged. But what does that even mean?

Basically, there are two main aging processes for beef, dry and wet. Both are relying on natural enzymes in beef to tenderize the meat. The environment is different, so different enzymes are activated.

Dry aging is time tested and has been used for ages. After the beef is butchered, the carcass is hung in a cooler at 36 degrees Fahrenheit and 85% humidity. Sometimes the carcass is broken down into primal cuts and allowed to sit on open shelving to dry age in the cooler.

The most common time for dry aging is 14 days but can be anywhere from 10-30 days. Sometimes the carcass is broken down into primal cuts and allowed to sit on open shelving to dry age in the cooler. During this time, the natural enzymes work to gently break the tough fibers and connective tissue down and make the beef more tender.

Beef that is dry aged tends to taste more nutty, earthy, and robust flavor, unique to only dry aged meats.  During the ageing time, the meat is essentially drying out which concentrates the flavor.

Wet aging is more modern where after the butchering the carcass is hung for 12-24 hours before being broken down into cuts and then packaged. These packaged cuts are then stored at just above freezing, like dry aging, but the cuts do not dry out because the juices are sealed in the packages with the meat.

Natural enzymes work in wet aging as well to break down and tenderize the meat. Since the juices are sealed in with the meat in wet aging, the cuts have no weight loss because all the water is retained. Wet aging produces meat that has a sweeter, juicy, and robust flavor.

Most big commercial packers use wet aging as it is faster to move the product out the door. The carcass is cut and ages as it travels to the store where consumers purchase it.

Small and medium butchers will typically use dry aging. This is a slower process when moving meat from start to finish, but usually worth it. The dry aged flavor is what typically gives the raved about flavor being so much better.

If you want to try dry aged beef, check out our online store and taste the difference for yourself.


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