Dry-aged steak is an indulgent treat that I can’t help treating myself to once in a while. It’s rich in flavor and so tender I would make it every day of the week if I could afford it! At least I save something by cooking it at home instead of eating it at a steakhouse. And you can learn to do it, too!
So how do you cook a dry-aged steak?
I was surprised at how easy it was to cook a juicy and succulent dry-aged steak, so I’m excited to share my experiences with you.
After you’ve read this article, you will know:
- How to prepare dry-aged steak.
- How to cook dry aged steak.
- How the dry aging process works.
How to Cook a Dry Aged Steak
Dry-aged steak has gone through a process to intensify the flavor and tenderize the meat, so cooking it is not complicated. Simply season it liberally with salt and pepper before placing it in a hot pan and searing it on both sides. Once a crust has developed on both sides, put the pan in the oven to finish the cooking. Let the meat rest well before digging in.
How Does the Dry Aging Process Work?
I always feel like understanding the ingredient you’re cooking with is vital in cooking it properly. That’s even more important with dry-aged beef because it changes the steak considerably. So how does the dry aging process work?
Dry-aging is a preservation process that dates back thousands of years to when there were no fridges to keep our meat cold. It involves placing the meat in a controlled environment to age slowly. In older times, this was done in underground chambers, or only during months of cold weather.
Today, this can be done in a dry-ager or a fridge. The meat is either hung or placed on a rack over a baking tray to make sure there is consistent airflow from all sides. (More recently, some dry-aging is done in a special vacuum-sealed bag with a one-way seal.)
As it ages, the cut of meat will shrink as the moisture is drawn out and beneficial bacteria will start to act on the surface to intensify the flavor. The meat will also become more tender as it ages because the connective tissue is being broken down. Beef can be aged between 30 and 45 days, depending on your cut and how intense you want the flavor.
Why doesn’t the beef spoil? Because of the controlled environment.
In dry aging, the meat is kept at a steady temperature and humidity level that allows it to mature without any harmful bacteria growing. The only bacteria or fungi that can grow in this environment are the beneficial ones that form the crust around the beef as it ages and help develop the flavors. (This is similar to how cheese is aged.)
When you remove the meat from the fridge or dry ager, it will have very little odor, which is how you know the aging has been successful and the beef is safe to eat.
Whole cuts and individual steaks can be dry-aged; butchers will usually use the entire primal cut as this reduces the shrinkage and loss from trimming in each portion.
What is the Texture of a Dry-Aged Beef?
Dry aged beef has a softer texture than wet-aged beef, thanks to enzymes that break down the muscle fibers and connective tissues as the meat ages. It’s also drier than fresh meat.
This means that if you cook a dry-aged steak to well-done, it can become dry less flavorful. For best results, dry-aged beef should never be cooked beyond medium rare. But also, thankfully, since the meat is tenderized, you don’t need to rely on cooking to soften it.
On average, you can cook a dry-aged steak about 30% less than you’d cook a regular steak. For example, if you cook a regular steak for 10 minutes, you will only need to cook the dry-aged version for 7 minutes.
What is the Right Way to Cook a Dry-Aged Steak?
Cooking dry-aged beef is very simple. The dry-aging has already done so much of the work for you that you only need to cook it to the correct temperature.
There are a few options for methods to cook your steak, but one thing I recommend for all of them is using a cook oven-safe or cast iron skillet. A cast iron pan makes an unbeatable crust on steaks, and you can pop the whole thing in the oven to finish cooking.
Another of my favorite tips is to use the beef’s own fat to cook it with. If you are trimming your steaks yourself, you can reserve that fat and render it down into the most delicious cooking oil you’ll ever taste. You can also request some fat from the butcher if they trim the steak for you.
Prepping Your Meat
Prepping is key to a well-cooked steak. The amount of prep needed depends on whether you buy the steak pre-trimmed or not, but the first step is always to remove your steak from the fridge in advance to allow it to come to room temperature before cooking.
If you bought the whole-aged primal cut or dry-aged your own at home, you will need to do some trimming before you start cooking. Trim off the dark crust and all the excess white fat– but don’t throw it away. These trimmings are fatty and flavorful, so they can be used to cook your steak later.
If you bought your steak already trimmed, then you can skip right to this step. Pat the steak down to remove any excess moisture before sprinkling it on all sides with lots of salt and cracked black pepper.
I never use marinades or dry rubs for dry-aged steak because I find it detracts from the stunning flavor caused by the dry-aging.
Searing Dry-Aged Steak
I usually cook dry-aged steak by searing alone if I’m working with a steak thinner than 1 ½ inches, especially one that has been aged individually. The aging process causes the meat to lose a lot of moisture, which makes it shrink. So a steak that started as 1 ½ inches will be quite a bit smaller after aging and trimming. These steaks will only need a very quick sear over high heat to cook them to perfection.
Start by getting the pan nice and hot with a glug of oil or the rendered beef fat. Place the steak in the pan and cook for 2 minutes on each side until a thick crust forms, turning back and forth until the inside of the steak reaches your desired temperature. Baste with the fat as it cooks to intensify the flavor.
Reverse Searing Dry-Aged Steak
When steak has been dry-aged as a whole cut, like a whole boneless ribeye rib roast, the steak will usually be portioned into thick steaks between 1 ½-2 inches. This is the most common form of dry-aged steak at a store.
Whenever I’m cooking steaks this thick, I like to use the reverse sear method because it results in tender, perfectly cooked steaks every time without fail.
To start, reverse searing involves searing the steak exactly like I described above. Once the delectable crust has formed on both sides, place the steak in the skillet in a 350 F oven for 5-7 minutes.
Grilling Dry-Aged Steak
Now I know many of you associate steaks with the grill, but you should proceed with caution when it comes to dry-aged steaks.
Some steak enthusiasts will say to avoid cooking dry-aged steak on the grill because you don’t get such a thick crust. Another reason is that the smoky flavor of the grill can take over the rich flavor of the aged beef. Both of these may compromise the unique flavor and succulent texture of these prized cuts, which I think is a waste.
My solution is to use a cast iron skillet on the grill to cook your steaks. That way, you’ll get a gorgeous crust and retain the flavor without running between the kitchen and the grill outside to tend to your steaks and the rest of the meat you’re grilling.
Regardless of your cooking technique, one step you must never skip is resting. But why is resting so important?
As the steak cooks, the meat juices will make their way to the edges of the meat. If you cut steak immediately after cooking, these juices will squeeze out of the meat and onto your plate. Losing these crucial juices will result in a less juicy steak than you hoped.
To prevent this moisture loss, allow the meat to rest for 5-10 minutes so the juices have time to reabsorb into the meat evenly.
What is the Best Doneness for a Dry-Aged Steak?
I, and most other professional chefs, will always recommend cooking a dry-aged steak medium-rare because this will show off the flavor best and have the juiciest texture. But, at the end of the day, how well a steak is cooked ultimately comes down to personal taste.
As with all protein cooking, I recommend buying a simple digital meat thermometer to get your cooking temperatures perfect. This removes all the guesswork and means you will get a perfect steak every time.
Here is a simple table to guide you on what internal temperatures to cook your dry-aged steak to:
|Medium rare||130-135 F|
|Medium well||140-150 F|
|Well done||155 F|
If you are a steak connoisseur, you absolutely need to try cooking a dry-aged steak for yourself! Simply follow this guide, and you will be rewarded with the tastiest steak you’ve ever eaten.
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