Beef can be aged so that the flavor and tenderness are enhanced. As the beef ages, enzymes in the meat are released which help to soften the tough, connective tissues. The aging process must be performed under carefully monitored conditions by a professional and should not be tried at home. Aged beef should not be confused with old beef, which refers to beef that has come to the end of its shelf life.
- Dry Aging: Beef that is dry-aged is allowed to hang unwrapped for a period of time under controlled humidity, temperature, and airflow in a professional grade refrigerator. The meat loses a large quantity of moisture, which concentrates the flavor, reduces the original weight by nearly a fifth, and tenderizes the meat. Only the best cuts of beef graded Prime or Choice are aged in this manner, so the cost can be quite high.
- Wet Aging: Wet aging is similar to dry aging except that the beef is wrapped while it ages in order to prevent the loss of moisture. It is aged in controlled conditions in a professional refrigerator. Because there is no loss of moisture, the flavor does not become as concentrated as with dry aging.
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