Chef from Cooks Illustrated removing Dry Aged Prime Rib Roast from a Home edition Steak Locker

We were thrilled for Steak Locker to be featured in Cook's Illustrated brilliant article earlier this year; aptly titled "Understanding Dry-Aged Steak".

The writers took to the test kitchen with five identical prime-grade prime rib roasts from the same purveyor, staggering the delivery so that they could start dry aging a roast every two weeks.

Image credit to Cook's Illustrated Blog, featuring Steak Locker and prime ribs aging in a refrigerator bought for dry aging

The cooks trimmed each roast of desiccated flesh and some of its fat (including the oxidized portions) and then broke it down to create 1½-inch-thick rib-eye steaks. They cooked all the steaks sous vide to 130 degrees (medium-rare) and tasted some straight from the sous vide bath (to detect flavor differences without the distraction of browning) and some after searing them to develop browning. 

Not only do the writers do a smash-up job of describing the process and the art of dry-aging, they give a concise break down of:

Dry aging is basically controlled decomposition. It typically starts with whole subprimals: large cuts with bones and fat caps left fully intact. These are held in humidity-controlled refrigerated rooms where air can circulate around the beef, pulling moisture from its exposed surfaces. Meanwhile, muscle enzymes in the beef slowly soften muscle protein and connective tissue and change flavor, and desirable molds grow on the meat’s surface, creating additional protein-snipping enzymes. At the end of aging, a thin pellicle of dried, hardened flesh will have formed on the meat’s exterior; this, along with the molds and oxidized fat, are trimmed away, and the beef is then cut into individual steaks.

Image via Cook's Illustrated

Cooks Illustrated's summaries of Taste and Texture of Beef Aged Two, Four, Six, and Eight Weeks:

  • After two weeks of dry aging: Steaks were barely more tender than the unaged beef and tasted very similar.
  • After four weeks: The meat was “melt‑in‑your‑mouth” tender and noticeably more savory and complex.
  • At six weeks: The beef was only slightly more tender than at four weeks, but its flavors had continued to develop, becoming more “nutty” and “funky.” 
  • At eight weeks: The meat was no more tender than at six weeks, but it had a “blue cheese” aroma and intensely gamy flavors with “mushroomy,” “cheesy” notes that “barely resembled beef.”

graph of texture and flavor of dry aged steak over time from cooks illustrated blog. image credit to Cooks Illustrated

For our money, the sweet spot for dry aging is four to six weeks. That’s when the meat will have become significantly more tender, with richer, beefier flavors. But if you’re up for the heightened gamy, cheesy flavors of more advanced dry aging, look for meat that’s been aged for more than six weeks.

Cheers to the Steve Dunn and the folks over at Cook's Illustrated for the great article. There is nothing on the market that can compare to Steak Locker when it comes to full control over monitoring and controlling important variables like humidity and air circulation while aging your meats, cheese, charcuteries, etc.

The Steak Locker Home and Steak Locker Studio Editions both fit the bill for those wishing to dry age at home and in smaller batches. The Steak Locker Pro is the perfect choice for commercial use; ideal for professional chefs looking for full control over their product. 

Images Credit: Cook's Illustrated, Original Article written by Steve Dunn for Cook's Illustrated