For most unseasoned cooks, the idea of letting a piece of meat sit forgotten at the back of the fridge for days is enough to induce dry heaving. Nothing good can come from meat that isn’t cooked when it’s still fresh, right?
Experienced cooks see things very differently. They know that it’s the aging process that gives certain types and cuts of meat — namely, beef steaks — most of their flavor.
There’s a reason the steaks served by top steakhouses taste so good: they’ve been given the time to undergo a process called dry aging, which gives them a rich aroma, nutty flavor and a tantalizingly tender texture. We won’t go into the scientific details of how or why dry aging works. All you need to know is that the process allows some of the excess moisture in a steak to evaporate and flavors to concentrate, while at the same time enzymes in the meat begin to break down the tissue and make it way more tasty. It’s win-win!
It’s actually really easy to dry age your own steaks in your own home. In fact, we’re betting that, after you read this article, you’ll feel like a dummy for never doing it yourself.
Here’s what to do:
1. Buy a good steak
You’re going to need a steak (or several) in order to dry age a steak. Who would have guessed? Head down to your local butcher and pick up a thick, marbled piece of whatever cut you like best.
2. Wrap that sucker in cheesecloth
The goal when you dry age your steak is to let it dry out slowly over time — but not too much. Cheesecloth allows some moisture to escape, but not so much that you end up with crispy bits on the outside of your steak. Don’t have cheesecloth? Get some. Can’t find some? You can use paper towels as a replacement, but you’ll need to swap them out for fresh ones every time they get saturated with moisture.
3. Slap it on a wire rack on a cookie sheet
You want good air circulation around your steak, so place it on a wire rack that raises it up an inch or two off the surface of a cookie sheet (which is there to catch any drippings). Don’t have a wire rack or a cookie sheet? A plate and a platform made out of tinfoil will probably do the trick.
4. Stick it in your fridge for four days
The back of your fridge is best for two reasons: it’s the coldest place in your fridge and it’s out of the way. Four days is a good start for dry aging novices, but some experts argue that you will see far better results from extending the process to two or even three weeks.
5. Grill it and eat it
Make sure you take the cheesecloth off first. Leave it on the grill for less time than you normally do when cooking a steak because dry aged steak has less moisture and requires less time over heat — and because super rare steak is delicious.
6. Get smug
Relax with a nice glass of scotch and the satisfaction that you just had the best steak of your life — and you didn’t pay out the ass for it.