Even the most passionate meat lovers don't agree on everything. One of the most hotly debated topics in the steak world is wet-aged vs. dry-aged Wagyu beef. Continue reading this article to better understand the two processes, which cuts are best for each, and how to dry age your steaks.
Understanding Wet-Aged and Dry-Aged Steaks
Like highly sought-after wines and cheeses, premium beef is best when aged. While you certainly won't be wet or dry aging Wagyu steaks for years like prized vintages, the aging process enhances the flavor and texture of beef. The two most common ways to age meat are wet or dry aging. But which is better, a wet-aged or dry-aged Wagyu steak?
Let's explore some of the differences between these methods and which cuts they best serve:
Dry aging Wagyu involves storing the meat just above freezing temperatures for weeks. This process lets enzymes slowly break down the collagen within muscle fibers and enhance the meat's tenderness. At this time, the moisture within the beef begins to evaporate. As the moisture dissipates, flavors become more concentrated, which helps produce a much more robust, beefy flavor.
The longer you dry age Wagyu steaks, the more of an outer crust of decomposing meat forms. While this isn't exactly appetizing, it is cut off by butchers before reaching shops, homes, or restaurants. One of the disadvantages of dry aging Wagyu steaks is that you end up with significantly less product between having to trim the outer layer and moisture loss. However, if quality is valued over quantity, this is a sacrifice you should be more than willing to make.
Best Cuts for Dry Aging
Typically the best cuts to dry age are thick, intensely marbled steaks, like:
For most of human existence, wet aging beef didn't exist. It wasn't until around the mid-1900s when plastic bags became commonplace that meat masters began wet aging. Wet-aged Wagyu is cut into individual portions and immediately placed in a vacuum-sealed package.
After being placed in an air-tight package, the beef is stored in near-freezing conditions and aged for about 14 days. Like dry aging, this allows enzymes to break down tougher fibers. The primary reason for wet aging Wagyu steaks is to achieve a more tender texture for leaner cuts.
Best Cuts for Wet Aging
Though American Wagyu beef has significantly more marbling than USDA Choice or Prime varieties, not all cuts of steak are intensely marbled. Wet aging Wagyu is best for those cuts that don't have as much intramuscular fat, like:
It is critical to note that you can't wet age beef that has already been wrapped in plastic and stored on a foam pad, as is typically the case in grocery stores.
Differences Between Wet-Aged and Dry-Aged Wagyu Steaks
If making an apples-to-apples comparison of wet- and dry-aged Wagyu ribeyes, even a steak novice is sure to note flavor differences. Dry-aged Wagyu ribeyes have a more earthy flavor that many characterize as closer to umami. Think of a fresh cheese compared to an aged bleu cheese in intensity and aroma. Both are intensified during the dry-aging process.
Since most Americans are used to wet-aged steaks, they're more likely familiar with the "fresher" taste that wet aging imparts. Your local mega-mart or grocery store butcher counter sells wet-aged steaks as a reference.
As the name suggests, dry-aged Wagyu ribeyes retain less moisture and lose weight as they dehydrate. The fat within the steak melts into the meat, resulting in a divinely tender texture. Wet-aged steaks lose no weight to moisture loss, making them a more budget-friendly option on a cost-per-pound basis.
How To Dry Age Wagyu Steaks at Home
Dry aging Wagyu steaks can be done at home at a fraction of the cost of ordering them at a steakhouse. You're going to need a small electric fan, space in your refrigerator, a tray, and a wire rack. Place the wire rack on the tray, then add the subprimal cut. Face the small fan toward the meat and turn it on to circulate air around all sides. Put the tray in the back of the refrigerator on the lowest shelf and let the dry-aging process work its magic. Once a week, flip the meat and wipe clean any moisture that has dripped into the tray.
If your main goal is to give your dry-aged Wagyu ribeye or another cut a more tender mouthfeel, two to four weeks should yield the results you're hoping for. Waiting four to six weeks helps you achieve superior tenderness and give the beef its signature earthy dry-aged flavor. Six or more weeks is only for those who genuinely love the funky aromas and taste of dry-aged beef. If you're unfamiliar with prolonged dry aging, we suggest you work your way up to this level.
When it comes time to take your dry-aged Wagyu steaks out of the refrigerator, you're going to notice an unappealing, dark red, purple, or brown coloring and possibly even mold. Don't panic. Simply trim this layer to reveal a beautifully aged deep pink and white marble. Cut your beef into individual steaks and prepare your favorite way.
Can You Dry Age Wagyu Brisket?
Not only can you, but you may never go back once you have. Dry-aged Wagyu briskets take the already robust beefiness and high-fat content the cut is known for and amplify it. Follow the dry aging steps outlined above, and then prepare your smoker. After a low and slow cooking session on your smoker, you'll be greeted with the best barbecue you've ever experienced.
Wet or Dry Aging Wagyu Steaks? Start With Good Silver American Wagyu Beef
Thanks to Good Silver's American Wagyu Beef, you don't have to plan a special night out at an expensive steakhouse for a fantastic dinner. Instead, bring the in-house steakhouse experience home by ordering from our selection. Whether you prefer wet-aged or dry-aged Wagyu steaks, our selection of 17 cuts is sure to include your favorite cut that you can age to perfection. If it's convenience you seek, all you have to do is open your shipment and grill, roast, smoke, sear, or braise your steaks into beef bliss.