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Dry aged vs Prime?

I will be cooking beef tenderloin and I have found it difficult to find a both dry aged and prime cut in St. Louis. Granted I could mail order beef but I would prefer picking out a cut at a bucther shop then online. So, having to pick between either - which is more important?

ps - any butcher suggestions would be most helpful.

pps - moderators, I have posted on the Midwest board but alas have had very few responses so please dont delete!

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  1. I'd go for the dry-aged over the prime. Tenderloin is a mostly lean cut...I can't imagine much difference in marbling between choice & prime, so I would definitely opt for the added flavor of dry-aging.

    1. Folks, if you know a local source to buy steaks in St. Louis, please post a suggestion on the Midwest board: http://www.chowhound.com/topics/346120

      Your general opinions on tenderloin belong here on the General Topics board.

      1. I would choose dry aged over prime any day.

        1. I used to work in a steakhouse where everything we served was prime and all of our steaks were aged except for the Filet. I distinctly remember a seminar on dry-aging run by our owner and butcher and them saying that we did not age the Filet because the cut "doesn't benefit much from the process." I can't remember why, though. I believe it had something to do with the fat (and the fact that there is less of it).

          (the again, the first responders post makes a great deal of sense for similar reasons.)

          2 Replies
          1. re: nc213

            I've always heard that the grade on filet doesn't really make that much of a difference, that on that particular cut all the grades will appear similar. They grade the whole carcass but certain cuts have the same characterisitics no matter the grade. Most restaurants I know (although probably not a steakhouse) use choice or even select.

            1. re: coll

              Filet is all about tenderness and not so much about flavor.

          2. Bern's in Tampa ages Prime filet mignon and Chateaubriand to make it "... more flavorful and sweet than the usual filet." If I had to choose I would opt for dry aged first and both if you can find it.

            Link to Bern's:

            1. I've never heard of anyone dry-aging anything other than prime -- seems counter-intuitive to me. Dry-aging can make a great piece of beef sublime, but don't imagine it would do much for a lesser grade. Has anyone actually eaten aged choice beef? If so, was it wonderful? I'm curious.

              1. All things being equal, I'd rather have a dry-aged steak than not, but I'm not sure they even dry age non-prime beef. If you are going to spend the money on dry-aging, and buying a dry-aged steak, I would assume you would only use the best beef. For a tenderloin, which is more about the texture and tenderness than the flavor, I'm not sure I'd spend the extra money for a dry-aged tenderloin (assuming its prime) than a wet-aged prime tenderloin.

                4 Replies
                1. re: ESNY

                  Yes, non-prime (mostly high-end choice, esp grass-fed beef, which is always leaner than feedlot beef) is definitely dry-aged. Google "dry aged choice" and you'll find some suppliers.

                  1. re: Hungry Celeste

                    I was curious, so tried Googling "dry aged choice" and, as you said, there are places that provide it. More interesting than that, though, was the first hit that came up - an abstract of an article in the Journal of Animal Science on a controlled, scientific study of "consumer" (it appears that they were actually comparing the tastes of meat buyers) preference, comparing wet and dry-aged beef (both choice and prime). The results indicate that either there was no difference (in the case of choice) or that wet-aging was preferred. I wouldn't have expected that.

                    1. re: FlyFish

                      I'm not surprised about the average person preferring wet over dry aged actually. If you aren't a big steak eater or a huge fan, I can see you liking a wet-aged steak better. For instance, my mother loves this steakhouse which wet-ages their meat because the meat is soft and tender. I think it tastes terrible and the meat is mushy. I'd rather have the minerally goodness and better texture of a dry-aged steak and am more than willing to pay for it.

                      1. re: ESNY

                        You are aware that dry aging is just a superior version of wet aging. It was used almost everywhere, but then wet aging was cheaper, so most places tend to wet age.

                        DRY AGING
                        intensifies flavor

                        WET AGING
                        does NOT intensify flavor

                2. "Dry aged" and "prime" are 2 totally separate issues.

                  "Prime" is determined on marbling. A "choice" steak has less marbling than "prime." Tenderloin is by nature a lean cut... therefore you will (or should) never technically find a "prime fillet mignon."

                  You could however technically find a 'dry aged' tenderloin. If your butcher has a 'dry aging' fridge, it would be in there. That being said, I've never seen or heard of dry aged tenderloin either at a steak house or at a butcher.

                  You can also techincally 'dry age' in your own fridge... while clearly not the same as the real thing, it is possible. Check out the 'Good Eats' episode on steak... he does some dry aging in his fridge.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: mr_fro2000

                    My understanding (and if there are any meat inspectors out there I'll defer to their knowledge, but I've done a bit of reading about this) is that the USDA grade applies to an entire carcass, not to individual retail cuts, or even to the primals. The procedure is that the inspector cuts between the 12th and 13th ribs and inspects the muscle that we know as the "rib eye" and then grades the entire carcass based on the marbling there. So, if that's the case there certainly could be, and many of the mail order houses claim to be selling, prime tenderloin, or even prime chuck, though I've never seen anybody label it as such.

                  2. I've got a similar question: I can purchase dry-aged choice rib eye, or prime (but not dry-aged) rib eye steaks locally. I'd love to have dry-aged prime, but I can't afford the shipping costs to order the steaks from Lobels. Any guidance on which option is better?

                    1. If you can't get both, ask your butcher for a dollars worth of each, cook them, and decide which one you prefer.

                      Actually... can't you ask a butcher to order it in, or age it himself?

                      3 Replies
                      1. re: Soop

                        He could age it himself, but I didn't give him enough lead time. He needs 21 days and I've only got eight.

                        1. re: pequalsmd2011

                          Ah, I see. Why is 21 days so important? If you age it for 8 days, surely it's just 2.625 times less tastier than the 21 days?

                          1. re: Soop

                            The benefits of dry aging may not occur in a linear fashion. Perhaps a certain minimum amount of time is required before there is any perceptible effect. I'm sure the beef experts out here can tell us.

                      2. I just recently dined at a top steak house is Toronto. They dry age many different cuts in house, up to 50+ days. Our waiter described each of the various cuts for us. He explained that they do not dry age their prime tenderloin as it does not benefit from the process due to its extreme leanness. Another thought, when large cuts of meat are dry aged properly they are trimmed throughout the process, as the parts exposed to the air actually go bad. An entire tenderloin is comparitively much smaller than other cuts, so there might not be much left after trimming.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: haggisdragon

                          When you dry age, the exposed surfaces of the meat get really dried out and have to be cut off. That's why it's dry aged in large chunks with the fat on -- you can cut away the corroded fat. If you were to do a whole tenderloin, you'd be trimming off very valuable real estate.

                          Dry aging, as the name suggests, concentrates the flavor because of the moisture loss. So the meat weighs less than if it were wet aged, plus the outside that must be trimmed, and you have the reasons why it's more expensive. You also need a special room.


                          1. re: haggisdragon

                            50 days??? wow. Please tell me the name of the resto.

                            1. re: foodiesnorth

                              My choice would be dry aged 21-28 day prime..... rib eye bone in. best flavor The flavor in beef comes from the fat when you are grilling and so prime for the marbleing and aging for more flavor. But if you can only find dry aged choice go with that but not filet they are tender but without the flavor of a ribeye

                              1. re: wineman3

                                You guys really need to look into dry-aging your own beef. It's easy to do if you have a "beer fridge" that doesn't have other food in it. You can do it with any grade or cut, but it's better if you have something like a rib roast or strip loin roast that has a good fat cap and bone to protect the meat from drying out. I usually do a strip loin (NY steaks). Basically you rinse off the meat, dry it, and wrap it in paper towels for a few days to absorb some of the excess moisture and then let it continue to age as long as you want. Trim off the dried stuff when you are ready to use it. I also use choice grade as the prime around here is not much better and it's allot more expensive. You can use smaller cuts but there is more surface area so you tend to lose more meat percentage wise. Trust me you can do this yourself (I have degrees in animal science and microbiology and 25 years in the food indusrty). I have gotten my friends to do this and they never buy dry-aged beef any more.

                                Look for more details on the internet.

                                1. re: pdxgriller

                                  Just an aside--I sometimes age beef at home, and while it's true I haven't typically aged it for such a very long time, I have found I immensely enjoy eating that "dry trim" stuff, straight off the joint as I trim it, maybe with a touch of salt. Anybody else tried that?