Dry aging is a technique that is applied to meat for three reasons:
- it concentrates the flavors by reducing the amount of water;
- it tenderizes the meat by the slow activity of enzymes that are naturally present in the meat;
- it adds additional (funky) flavor if you age for a long time (six weeks or more).
If you go to a good steak house, the steak you will get there will be dry aged. Dry aged meat is expensive, because of the loss of water and the loss of the dry outer layer of the meat that has to be trimmed after dry aging. You can buy dry aged meat from specialty butchers, but you can also dry age at home. For this you could use a dedicated dry aging cabinet, but you can also use UMAi Dry bags. These bags are essentially a membrane around the meat, so that you can dry age it in your refrigerator without the aging meat affecting the other contents of your refrigerator or vice versa.
I tested the process with a 2 kg (4.4 lbs) piece of ribeye. You can only dry age large pieces of meat, not single steaks, because after the drying process you will need to trim away the outer layer. With single steaks, there would not be enough left.
The ribeye I used is grass-fed beef from the German Simmental. On the one hand it is good to dry age this meat because it is not as tender as grain-fed beef, but on the other hand it is relatively lean and more fatty beef is even more suitable for dry aging.
The UMAi bags come with very clear instructions of how to transfer the meat from the packaging to the UMAI bag without touching the meat.
The instructions assume that you will be using a ‘clamp’ style vacuum sealer (such as a FoodSaver), but it works even better with a chamber vacuum sealer. The only limitation is that the size of the meat will be limited to the size of your chamber.
The meat needs to be placed on a rack in the refrigerator, such that air can circulate around it. The recommended aging period is 21 to 35 days.
I aged the meat for 34 days. The meat had lost 25% of its weight from the drying process (down from 2 kilos to 1.5 kilos).
First I peeled away the bag/membrane.
Then I trimmed away the dark outer layer.
A lot of trimming is needed. Although the trimmings are supposed to be edible, their smell made me think otherwise and I discarded them.
I ended up with 1.1 kilos, i.e. 55% of the original weight of the ribeye or 45% loss of weight. That is a lot and it explains why dry aged meat is expensive (and why you should only dry age a large piece).
When you cook the steak there will be less loss of juices during the cooking process, so the final yield of cooked steak will be better than 55% of what you would get from meat that has not been dry aged.
Inside the meat you can see that it is developed a dark color.
I cut the ribeye into 2.5 cm (1 inch) steaks. I seasoned them with salt and freshly ground black pepper…
…and vacuum sealed them.
Then I cooked them sous-vide for 2 hours at 52C/126F. I picked a low temperature because the meat was relatively lean. For fattier grain-fed ribeye I would use 55C/131F or even 57C/135F.
After cooking sous-vide I allowed the steaks to cool in cold water for 10 minutes. Then I took them out of the bag and patted them dry with paper towels.
I seared the steaks in clarified butter over very high heat for 1 minute per side in a carbon steel pan.
Carbon steel is my favorite kind of pan with a natural non-stick.
I wrapped the steaks in aluminum foil and allowed them to rest for 5 minutes to allow the temperature to become more even, thus making sure that also the center of the steak would be at the correct serving temperature.
The resulting steak had more flavor and was more tender, just like a store-bought dry aged steak.
The UMAi Dry bags do actually work and you will get the same result as a store-bought dry aged steak. Whether you want to use them is up to you: it depends on whether dry aged beef is available to you and at what price, if you have the space in your refrigerator, if you have the time to wait, and are willing to invest in buying a large piece of meat at once. Of course drying your own steak does deliver considerable bragging rights…
Steamed Chinese buns with a meat filling are known as “bapao” in the Netherlands. It is very popular snack food. You can buy them in the supermarket and heat them up in the microwave. The quality is not very good (and they have only a small amount of meat), so it is much nicer to make your own. I have seen different Chinese names for this, like baozi, hum bao, bakpau, and bah-pau. They are often filled with pork, but in this case I chose to make a beef filling.