Dry aging is a technique to improve the texture and flavor of meat, especially steak. It is costly because the outside needs to be trimmed and discarded, and moisture is removed from the meat so it loses weight. To improve just the texture, you can speed things up by warm aging using sous-vide. Modernist Cuisine at Home advocates the use of Asian fish sauce as a shortcut. Their advice is to brush 3% fish sauce by weight on the steak, then vacuum seal it, and refrigerate for three days. They say it will tenderize the meat and creates the deeper umami flavor that is characteristic of aged meat, but with less effort and waste. I put this to the test.
I started with a flank steak (bavette) and high quality fish sauce. Make sure that its only ingredients are fish (usually sardines or anchovies), salt, sugar, and water. No other junk.
I weighed the steak and measured out 3 grams of fish sauce for every 100 grams. As my steak was 350 grams, I used 10.5 grams of fish sauce.
I then vacuum sealed it and and refrigerated it for three days.
After those three days, the meat had changed color. You could now take it out of the bag and cook it in some conventional way.
But of course I opted to cook it sous-vide, for 24 hours at 55C/131F. Some people cook flank steak shorter than that, but I like it to be tender.
After cooking sous-vide, I took the flank steak out of the bag and patted it dry with paper towels.
I heated some oil in a carbon steel pan over high heat and browned the steak on that…
…on both sides.
Then I sliced it against the grain (which is lengthwise for flank steak). Slicing against the grain is not necessary for tenderness when flank steak has been cooked sous-vide for 24 hours, but it does make the meat look better.
The verdict? The meat had great flavor and Kees loved it too. There was not even a hint of “off” taste or fishy taste. I suppose I should have done a side by side experiment to really tell the difference. I think the quality of the meat is more important (especially the amount of intramuscular fat, also known as marbling), but adding fish sauce seems to work. It is definitely a lot cheaper than buying dry aged meat (and in these parts, easier to find, too).