Generally speaking, meat can be either dry-aged or wet-aged. The two techniques produce vastly different results within the same cuts of meat. It’s hard to say one tastes better than the other -- they’re simply different. Dry-aging tends to produce a very aggressive, pungent sort of flavor, while wet-aging creates a milder, and more universally agreeable taste. Us steak-aficionados can enjoy an intense, deeply flavored dry-aged cut, but some people would certainly point to that dry-aged flavor as being too robust or pungent. For this crowd, wet-aging might just be the answer.
In contrast to the centuries-old dry aging technique, wet-aging is a fairly recent invention. With dry-aging, the meat is left in an open-air environment. Because of this exposure to oxygen, certain bacterial growth is encouraged and enabled. This creates an intense aromatic flavor that is something akin to an aged cheese. Unfortunately, the dry aging process is incredibly resource-intensive and not particularly realistic for the home cook. Wet-aging, on the other hand, is perfectly in-reach, as it requires very little in the way of dedicated equipment.
With a few tips and tricks, you can wet-age a steak in your own home.
The first, and perhaps most important step, is to find out when your meat was originally killed and packed. Based on the date of packing, you can determine how long your window is for wet-aging. If you skip this step, chances are you’ll end up with a rotten piece of meat. Generally, the pack date will be printed on the case that the meat came in. Ask your butcher -- chances are, he’ll be happy to provide that information. Or, if you’re feeling particularly hungry, feel free to buy the whole case!
As you probably know, loins come in vacuum-sealed bags. It’s important to double check the bag for leaks before going any further with this process. It’s possible (and easy) during transport for the seal to be punctured slightly, so make sure the meat is 100% air-tight.
One of the great things about wet-aging is how simple the process is -- once you’ve got these aforementioned ducks in a row, the hard part is done! Place your loin in the fridge, and wait! We recommend anywhere from 30-60 days. As long as the loin is airtight sealed, mold and rot will not set in.
Once your aging is through, open her up! You will notice a distinct smell, but it shouldn’t smell rotten or spoiled. Trust us -- you’ll know if it is. Give the loin a rinse in cold water, and then trim off any discolored or unwanted bits. From there, you’re good to go! It can be butchered and cooked just like any other cut you might buy, aged or otherwise.
As you can see, wet-aging is well within reach for the home cook. It just takes a bit of know-how, and a nice, prime cut of beef to get started!