Wet Aged - Dry Aged [Moved from Washington DC board]
Could someone explain the taste difference between these two terms for ageing meat, mainly beef?
Who in the DC / Baltimore area offers em?
Wet aged is a skam to retain more moisture in the meat allowing the producer to sell it at a greater weight. And we're talking 2 percent more weight at that. The result is not nearly as tender as a dry aged steak.
Wet aging is where the steaks are vacuum sealed in plastic. As Ryan noted, the meat will retain moisture.
Dry aging is where the meat hangs in a temperature/humidity controlled room and literally decays some on the outside, which is trimmed away. This causes moisture to be lost and produces what many think, including me, a richer and more tender steak.
The Prime Rib and The Capital Grille (both have locations in D.C. and Baltimore) dry age the steaks.
The previous poster has it right. In either case, the enzymatic/microbial/whatever action that takes place is the same, with the major difference between the two being the residual moisture content. As an analogy, think of the difference between a raisin or a sun-dried tomato, and the same type of raisin/tomato after a bit of soaking to reconstitute. The only difference is the moisture content, but there is a textural and flavor difference. One is not necessarily "better" than the other, but they are different. The usual verdict is that dry aged has a more concentrated flavor, but that benefit is offset by the "wastage". The weight is reduced (and thus the effective price per pound goes up) both from the moisture reduction, and from trimming off the crusty parts that result from the outside surface being exposed to the air, much like the exposed cut surface of a partially used loaf of bread dries out, while the rest of the loaf is still fine. The length of time the beef is aged, and the temperature at which it is aged probably make more of a difference in tenderness than wet or dry.
My take? Wet or dry is not a differentiator of quality. Somebody commited to quality who understands how to use the process of their choice can produce an excellent steak using either method. Due to the expense, "dry aging" has gotten a patina of being better, but I would claim that the real value lies in finding a butcher or a chef with a commitment to producing a quality steak. In this case, focus on the end product, not on the means used to achieve it.
I agree with you on just about everything you said. I do feel that dry aging produces a steak with a nicer mouthfeel. A wet aged steak feels a bit mushy. But a dry aged steak gets a bit too mineral tasting after about three to four weeks for my taste. I have really liked some wet aged steaks that were then allowed to dry for a bit to firm them up. I think this may be what Brandts steaks does since I have found them to be tender but not mushy and they do a very long wet aging. I will have to ask them when I see them at the Fancy Food Show tomorrow.
I really like the wet-aged ribeyes at Wegman's although they obviously aren't as good as the dry-aged. They still put other supermarket steaks to shame and are quite reasonable. Eat them close to the "sell by" date.
Better yet, eat them well past the sell-by date.
I have bought non-aged rib (prime) at Wegmans and dry aged it myself with good results. And by the way the best part is that outside part you trim away, which I eat as I'm trimming. Hmmmm. Call me wolfman. Admittedly I salt and pepper it heavily when I start the dry age process, which probably helps. And I only do it for a few days, which sounds like it wouldn't work, but it seems to for me.
Please note, this thread has been moved here because it is less about finding steak in Washington as it is about the distinctions in the aging process. If anyone has any recommendations for Washington venues for great steak, please respond on the Washington DC board.