Are you a meat lover? Well, we surely are! Here at Marina Club we take our beef extremely seriously, which is why we treat each and every cut of meat with the respect it deserves. The technique of Meat Aging is not something every restaurant in Malta practises.
Thankfully, our meat enthusiast clientele can put their minds at rest, because we believe such a culinary method elevates the taste and texture of meat to a whole new level – which is why we practise it so passionately. So let’s get down to the nitty gritty, what is meat aging all about?
The technical term for aging is referred to as Postmortem Aging, which is sometimes referred to as ‘conditioning’ or ‘ripening’. It’s basically a natural method which improves the palatability quality of meat, especially cuts from the rib and loin. Commercially, aging is achieved by subjecting carcasses, primal or subprimal cuts to controlled, refrigerated storage conditions. Normally, such beef cuts are specifically chosen since these are usually the desirable parts of a steak. While carcasses from any species could be aged, the process is usually limited to beef, due to the comparative youth of pork, lamb and veal.
Aging is a naturally occurring process which happens in all muscle tissues, whether vacuum packaged or in the form of carcasses or wholesale cuts. In the conversion of muscle to meat, natural enzymes found in muscles, breaks down specific proteins in muscle fibres. This fragmentation of protein strands, termed myofibrils, results in improved tenderness of the rib. Tenderization occurs at a relatively rapid rate until 3 to 7 days postmortem, and then the degree of increased tenderness reduces with time.
Dry versus Wet Aging
Wet Aging is a comparatively new method that developed along with advances in plastics and refrigeration. In this technique, cuts of beef are vacuum-sealed in plastic and shipped to the market. The actual aging occurs within the 4-10 days between butchery and sale while the meat is in shipment.
On the other hand, Dry Aging is when large cuts of beef are aged for anywhere from several weeks to several months before being trimmed and cut into steaks. This process not only helps the steak mature in flavour, but also makes it much more tender than it would be completely fresh. The main difference between the wet and dry aging methods is, while both enhance tenderness, it’s only dry aging that intensifies flavour. Thus, for the sake of this argument, we’ll be focusing on the technique of Dry Aging.
Dry Aged Beef
This is a traditional method of placing a whole carcass in a refrigerated room for 21 to 28 days at 32-34°F and 100-85% relative humidity, with an air velocity of 0.5 to 2.5 m/sec. Although varying widely in commercial practice, all three conditions, are crucially important in the proper aging of carcasses.
Aging at a higher temperature can accelerate tenderness development, however, amplified microbial growth becomes a serious problem at higher temperatures.
The amount of humidity should be monitored closely, because too much will allow disproportionate microbial growth, whereas too little will cause excessive shrinkage.
Air velocity is equally critical since it acts as a medium for moisture removal from the refrigerated area. Inadequate air velocity will permit undue moisture to condense on the product, and as a result, off-flavours and aromas, as well as spoilage, will occur. On the other hand, if the air velocity is too high, this will result in excessive surface drying, with resulting weight and trim losses.
Why does dry aged beef taste better?
Fresh beef is aged for at least a few days and up to several weeks to allow enzymes naturally present in the meat to metabolise the muscle tissue, resulting in upgraded texture and flavour. Exposed to air so dehydration can further concentrate the meat’s flavour, dry-aged meat is more succulent and has a mellower yet beefier flavour.
How Long does it take to age?
Taste is so subjective and it’s virtually impossible to define the point where sublime becomes putrid. The general consensus is that 30-40 days of dry aging will bring out some incredible characteristics in your beef, and deepen flavour. Think of it as a high definition version of a regular steak.
One must appreciate that a dry aged beef is a completely different eating experience to your traditional beefy steaks, commonly worshiped by carnivores worldwide. Indeed, the safest comparison would be to liken extreme dry aging to a matured pungent cheese or a glass of finely aged wine.
What type of meat should be aged?
Generally, a number of aspects determine how substantially meat will benefit from aging. Though, a certain amount of aging does ultimately develop all beef. Nevertheless, some muscles respond better than others; so the eye part of your ribeye will have a higher tenderness response than the cap on your ribeye.
Moreover, out of all proteins, beef is the most variable in terms of tenderness. Usually, pork, lamb and veal are already tender to begin with, and it simply boils down to poor cooking methods that ends up toughing them.
Here at Marina Club we stand by the dry aging method. We use the whole sides of beef on bone ribeye steak and set the temperature just above freezing point, leaving the cut to age for 30-35 days. Prior to serving, the meat is trimmed, and this factor usually reflects on its yield and price.
If you would like to reap the benefits from our tenderizing process book at table at Marina Club situated at the stunning Valletta Waterfront, and come enjoy exquisite, concentrated meaty flavours!