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Just what is a dry aged steak supposed to taste like?

danhole Feb 16, 2009 11:29 AM

We splurged and went to a pricey steak place last night. One of the main reasons I chose this place was because of the dry aged porterhouse. I thought it was supposed to have a great flavor and be exceptionally tender. I got it medium rare, closer to rare. First one was more on the medium side, so I sent it back, without tasting it. Second one came out just right, but no flavor, at all, period. Didn't taste beefy, moist, nothing. Somewhat tender, but not what I was expecting. I had the au jus on the side and it also was flavorless, and watery. I brought most of it home, and will add some seasonings to it tonight. I have an au jus concentrate that is far better than what I was served. Was this just a bad experience or was I expecting too much?

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  1. HaagenDazs RE: danhole Feb 16, 2009 11:48 AM

    Hmm - in comparing the taste I would say that it does indeed have more flavor. Some compare it to an aged cheese - kind of a nuttiness. There are different stages of aging though... how long do they claim they age? As far as moisture... well in DRY aging they allow the moisture to evaporate. Moisture from a steak comes from fat within the meat. I hate to accuse, but were you a half-bottle of wine into dinner by the time the entrees arrived?!

    4 Replies
    1. re: HaagenDazs
      danhole RE: HaagenDazs Feb 16, 2009 12:05 PM

      I believe our server said they dry age, in house, for 3 weeks. And I had one glass of Cab that I nursed the entire evening. My husband had a delmonico, not dry aged, and his also had no flavor.

      1. re: danhole
        HaagenDazs RE: danhole Feb 16, 2009 12:07 PM

        Did they use salt? Some folks find that salting a prime steak is (if it was indeed prime) unnecessary. I think that's a load of crap actually, I think a steak always needs salt, but it might indicate why there was less flavor than you're used to.

        1. re: HaagenDazs
          danhole RE: HaagenDazs Feb 16, 2009 12:17 PM

          Couldn't taste any salt, at all. It was so flavorless that in desperation we asked for some butter and smeared that on the steaks. I have never asked for steak sauce for any steak, and especially not one I am spending over $40 for, but it crossed my mind.

          1. re: danhole
            HaagenDazs RE: danhole Feb 16, 2009 12:28 PM

            Well who knows... maybe that was it.

    2. alwayscooking RE: danhole Feb 16, 2009 12:01 PM

      Dry aged beef should taste much more meatier than the typically wet aged beef found in the grocery. It may have a sweeter or nuttier flavor as the previous poster noted.

      I doubt that any wine you had been drinking would have altered your taste buds. The moisture and flavor of the meat is in the in the cells and connective tissue - not the fat (which in beef doesn't really have much flavor but can taste burned when cooked). Proper cooking should allow the meat to come to the right temperature to preserve any moisture within the cut.

      If your meat was just blah then it wasn't a very good cut. The fact that it had no flavor or moisture means that they started out with a poor cut of beef and then cooked it incorrectly. And then charged you for the privilege.

      1. ipsedixit RE: danhole Feb 16, 2009 12:35 PM

        The difference between wet aged and dry aged beef is like the difference between farmed and wild salmon.

        Dry aged should have a more concentrated, pronounced "beef-y" taste to it.

        As far as it being tender, that really has more to do with the marbling and the grade (was your porterhouse "prime"?) than with the aging process.

        Sorry to hear about your experience. Maybe write to the restaurant and explain your displeasure.

        8 Replies
        1. re: ipsedixit
          danhole RE: ipsedixit Feb 16, 2009 01:22 PM

          No, my porterhouse was not prime, but my husbands delmonico was. I had been assured by several people, some even on CH, that even though the steak was choice it should have been excellent.

          We did contact them this morning via email, and the Managing Partner called this afternoon. He was quite distressed to hear about our experience and is sending us something to make up for the experience. He said this was highly unusual and our steaks should have been far better than what we were served, so he promised they would make it up to us and that he would personally make sure that we had a perfect steak the next time. So we will see.

          1. re: danhole
            ipsedixit RE: danhole Feb 16, 2009 01:38 PM

            By the way, there is a difference between beef that is tender and one that is merely soft or mushy.

            Wet aged beef (stuff one buys at the market or most run-of-the-mill steak joints) tends be more soft, or even mushy.

            Dry aged beef is tender, not mushy. It still has a nice chew to it, and does not impart a sort of "meatloaf-y" type of mouth-feel.

            And good to hear the restaurant is trying to make amends.

            1. re: ipsedixit
              danhole RE: ipsedixit Feb 16, 2009 02:00 PM

              I don't like mushy, which is why I really don't like ribeye, because, to me, that is on the mushy side, but this was not as tender as I expected. It had a little too much chew to it.

              1. re: danhole
                BobB RE: danhole Feb 17, 2009 07:23 AM

                Makes me wonder whether they ran out of the dry-aged stuff and served you a fresh one, figuring most people wouldn't know the difference anyway. Their bad luck they got caught by a 'Hound!

                1. re: BobB
                  b
                  bulavinaka RE: BobB Mar 2, 2009 11:38 AM

                  I was suspecting the same thing - maybe they didn't want to eat the cost of another dry-aged so they heated up a "regular" steak in its place. It could also have been inadequate/improper aging or an inferior cut as well.

          2. re: ipsedixit
            kchurchill5 RE: ipsedixit Feb 18, 2009 07:53 AM

            I would write something to the restaurant, yes ipsedxit ... aged beef is more pronounced in flavor and is usually very flavorful and juicy. I can't imagine why not. Furthermore the au just as well should of had flavor. Which means, I would question the cook. And tender is the cut, but still a good quality aged beef should of been good all around.

            I get it from one source now and then for a special dinner or party and everyone can immediately tell the difference. Tasteless isn't right.

            I would speak my displeasure to the establishment.

            1. re: kchurchill5
              danhole RE: kchurchill5 Feb 18, 2009 08:18 AM

              If you look at the entire thread you will see that we contacted them first thing Mon. morning, and got a response early in the afternoon. He was dismayed that about the steaks and said he would make it up to us . . . now I am waiting for something to come in the mail to see what that means. It was not a cheap meal by any means.

              1. re: danhole
                kchurchill5 RE: danhole Feb 18, 2009 09:03 AM

                I missed that sorry, well hopefully better next time.

          3. Soop RE: danhole Feb 17, 2009 07:42 AM

            The most noticeablt thing about a dry aged steak IMO is the smell. A fresh steak will smell iron-y, whereas an aged steak will smell slightly sweet. Obviously, you can't have seen that stage.

            TBH, I'm a fan of both; they're different. I have to say though, I'm racking my brain, and I can't really find the difference in taste in my mind. And I ate it on Saturday. Oh yeah, ok: I had 12oz of dry-aged sirloin cut in to 4 steaks (by me) and then marinaded in extra virgin oliveoil and sea salt and cracked black pepper. They were quite thin, and very tender before they were cooked when I was rubbing the oil in. I guess they just tasted a bit nicer than usual.

            And HD, hell yeah, I've never met a steak that didn't benefit from proper seasoning.

            Also; in defence of the ribeye, it's a wonderful cut, but it can go wrong. I've never been disappointed with a professionally cooked ribeye, though it can be tough cooking at home to render out the fat so you don't get that kind of... weird smell. And taste.

            1. l
              lcool RE: danhole Feb 17, 2009 10:08 AM

              ?greater mouth feel,depth of flavor,tender satisfying chew.A REALLY GOOD steak gone better.less aroma-less blood less livery-more beefy.DELISCIOUS
              Hard to quantify with words,your steak didn't sound that way at all DISAPOINTING

              1. Caroline1 RE: danhole Feb 17, 2009 10:18 AM

                You were had. But I will say there is a range of flavor differences in the kind of beef that is dry aged. Dry aging is only the process and no guarantee whether it is grass fed beef, corn fed beef, organic beef or beef rife with mad cow disease. My personal preference in dry aged beef is USDA Prime, at least organic, and preferably grass fed with lots of yellow tallow fat still left clinging to the well charred exterior and medium rare interior. There are very few restaurants capable of delivering that, and I can do it at home for half the price, if not less, and that includes buying the steaks at my local very upscale butcher shop.

                19 Replies
                1. re: Caroline1
                  Soop RE: Caroline1 Feb 17, 2009 11:12 AM

                  Carloine, it's true that a steak has varying tastes, and that if you want something done right etc...

                  But how do you get the steak to cook that way at home? Have you got a really hot grill (broiler)?

                  1. re: Soop
                    Caroline1 RE: Soop Feb 17, 2009 12:46 PM

                    I use a cast iron frying pan like these:
                    http://tinyurl.com/5ogc5h
                    and preheat them to really hot, add a thin film of cooking oil, sometimes I use olive oil, if I don't want the olive oil flavor I use peanut oil, and in either case a thin film OR just paint the surface of the steak with the oil using a pastry brush. Then I sear it on each side to crispy char (has to go really really fast so that means preheating the pan until it smokes when empty!), then when I turn the steak to char the second side, I place the pan with steaks in a 325F oven for the appropriate time according to the thickness of the steaks and the desired doneness I'm after. If a guest asks for their steak to be "well done" I just hand them a can opener and a can of Alpo! '-

                    )

                    But if you have a charcoal grill (real charcoal, as in no briquettes or gas grills, that gives the absolute best flavor, but it has to be a grill on which you can raise and lower the grate that the steaks sit on. For really well charred on the outside, you want the grate close to the coals, and the coals have to be well packed and very very hot, as in just getting a white ash coating over the top charcoal. I used to have a really old fashioned traditional Japanese hibachi that did magnificent steaks for two! It somehow left home when I wasn't looking. <sigh> If you want medium instead of rare or medium rare, then I suggest removing the charred rare steaks to a pan and finishing in the oven unless you're a real master at managing live charcoal, which I'm not..

                    1. re: Caroline1
                      Soop RE: Caroline1 Feb 17, 2009 01:00 PM

                      pretty cool... I like my way, but a change is nice, and I've enjoyed that way before.

                      1. re: Caroline1
                        HaagenDazs RE: Caroline1 Feb 17, 2009 01:00 PM

                        I've found that the cooking surface also makes a tremendous difference in final steak quality for charcoal grills. I recently started using a Lodge cast iron grill grate on my Weber charcoal - the difference is night and day compared to the grill grates issued with the Weber.

                        Also, the "grill on which you can raise and lower the grate that the steaks sit on" isn't as necessary as you might think. Someone who really knows show to grill on a Weber will know that piling the charcoal to one side of the grill gives you not only close proximity to the coals when you need it but also a safety zone when you don't. This is of course a completely different style of grilling compared to a hibachi style grill.

                        1. re: Caroline1
                          danhole RE: Caroline1 Feb 17, 2009 01:01 PM

                          <<If a guest asks for their steak to be "well done" I just hand them a can opener and a can of Alpo! '->>

                          LOL! How true! At this restaurant there was a disclaimer that said something to the effect of "If you order your steak well done we cannot guarantee the quality you will receive." Of course I didn't and I still didn't get the quality I expected so go figure!

                          1. re: Caroline1
                            BobB RE: Caroline1 Feb 17, 2009 01:09 PM

                            Caroiine - a tip re: oils. I use the same method you do, a very hot iron pan with just a touch of oil (in fact I pour a very small amount of oil in and then wipe it around with a paper towel, leaving nothing behind but a shine), and find that for high heat tolerance combined with a totally neutral flavor, grapeseed oil beats peanut. Both can take the heat, but peanut has much more pronounced flavor, and I don't want to taste the oil at all when I'm searing a steak.

                            It's expensive, but since this is practically the only thing I use it for, and I use very little, it lasts a long time.

                            1. re: BobB
                              Caroline1 RE: BobB Feb 17, 2009 03:45 PM

                              I have't tried grapeseed oil, but this is a really interesting subject, Bob. There is an curious discrepancy among Chowhounds as to whether peanut oil or safflower oil is flavorless. Some absolutely swear that safflower has no flavor but peanut oil is overwhelming. And others, I among them, swear the opposite. I cannot abide the flavor of safflower oil in any form or on anything. So I think people fall into camps of who is "flavor blind" to what. I don't do a lot of shopping in health food stores, and in these parts that seems to be where you have to shop if you want to buy grape seed oil. Or it's also possible I'm just ignoring the shelves that house it in my local super markets. If it ever jumps out at me and waves, I think I'll pick some up! '-)

                              1. re: Caroline1
                                MMRuth RE: Caroline1 Feb 17, 2009 03:47 PM

                                I really like using grapeseed oil. While I live in Manhattan and find it readily here, I've also found it at regular grocery stores in the South and the Midwest.

                                1. re: MMRuth
                                  alwayscooking RE: MMRuth Feb 17, 2009 03:52 PM

                                  I also use grapeseed oil as well as rice bran oil which has a higher smoke point. Both have a very light flavor.

                                  1. re: alwayscooking
                                    Soop RE: alwayscooking Feb 18, 2009 12:15 AM

                                    I've been to a gourmet cookshop where the guy was espousing the virtues of grapeseed oil in a little diffuser bottle.

                                    Pesonally, I think I know my pan well enough; I heat it to a certain point and then place the steak. The oil is purely what the steak is marinaded in, and none goes on the pan. I 'seal' it on both sides, turning once, and then put the whole pan under the grill. This is the best way I've yet found. (with my equipment)

                                2. re: Caroline1
                                  BobB RE: Caroline1 Feb 18, 2009 04:36 AM

                                  I found grapeseed in my local supermarket. Way up on the top shelf, but it was there. Check around, you might be surprised.

                                  I agree about different people's tastes - I find that peanut oil has a strong flavor, which can be a good thing in the right dish. On the other hand, I find canola to be quite tasteless, while I've heard others say it tastes fishy to them. I can't detect that at all. De gustibus...

                                  1. re: BobB
                                    Caroline1 RE: BobB Feb 18, 2009 07:35 AM

                                    Had a similar thing happen regularly when my kids were teenagers. The family would go to a Mexican restaurant, the standard bowls of tostados and salsa woul be be brought to the table with the menus. We quickly learned that if my husband and daughter said the salsa was mild, my son and I wouldn't be able to eat it, it would be so spicy for us. And the converse was also true. I'm beginning to suspect there may be some long-standing genetic predisposition in all of us toward flavors in oils, chiles, and who knows what else? Maybe something strange in our mitochondrial DNA! Life is so mysterious. '-)

                                    1. re: Caroline1
                                      BobB RE: Caroline1 Feb 18, 2009 07:46 AM

                                      Cilantro is probably the best-known and most well documented of these. To a certain percentage of the population it tastes like soap, while the rest of us find it pleasantly herbal.

                                      Your salsa story is intriguing, though - I can understand that a salsa some find mild can be too hot for others, that's just a measure of capsaicin tolerance, which comes mostly from practice (my friends have learned, for example, that when I say a dish is "nicely tangy" it means most of them will need to keep a dish of yogurt close by!), but I've never heard of a situation like you describe, where one thing is too hot for A but mild for B, while another is too hot for B but mild for A. I'm scratching my head trying to understand how this could even happen.

                                      Best theory I can come up with is that while the objectively measured heat level of a dish (in Scoville units) is a measure of the amount of capsaicin present, it is also true that different chili peppers hit different parts of the mouth differently, and maybe you & your son are more sensitive on certain areas of your tongue, while your husband & daughter are more sensitive on other areas.

                                      1. re: BobB
                                        Soop RE: BobB Feb 18, 2009 08:14 AM

                                        OH! Bobby, I hate corriander too! It smells like lactic acid/milky to me - do you have anything I could read about it, I had no idea it was well-known!

                                        1. re: Soop
                                          BobB RE: Soop Feb 18, 2009 08:16 AM

                                          Try this site: http://www.ihatecilantro.com/taste.php

                                    2. re: BobB
                                      k
                                      KTinNYC RE: BobB Feb 18, 2009 08:21 AM

                                      The "fishiness" of canola oil is revealed when exposed to extremely high heat.

                                      1. re: KTinNYC
                                        BobB RE: KTinNYC Feb 18, 2009 08:23 AM

                                        Ah, thanks! I've never considered using it for high heat cooking, I stick to peanut and grapeseed for that.

                                3. re: Caroline1
                                  b
                                  bulavinaka RE: Caroline1 Mar 2, 2009 11:36 AM

                                  You always have great tips, and I totally agree on your methods. The old cast iron skillet is a wonder tool in the kitchen. I pretty much do the same when cooking indoors - I'll coat the aged steaks with a thin film of olive oil.

                                  To mimmick your outdoor method, we've learned over the years that it's nice to have two grills (we use the Weber 22.5" kettle grills). One for high heat, usually with one hot and one really hot zone, and one for lower slow roasting, usually with the coals set off to the sides. Also, we like to set a cast iron grill on the high-heat kettle to not only for the grill marks, but also for the heat retentive properties.

                                4. re: Soop
                                  alwayscooking RE: Soop Feb 17, 2009 12:54 PM

                                  See currently active thread:

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/596623

                              2. danhole RE: danhole Feb 17, 2009 11:30 AM

                                The worst part of all of this is that this is a national chain that is well respected. I am not going to name it until I see how they are going to respond to our complaint, but they get great reviews. I wonder if the reason it was so bad is that it was the tail end of Valentines weekend. Maybe the best steak were all gone and we got the bottom of the barrel? That shouldn't be, but it may be a reason. I would suspect that mine was bad because I sent the first one back, but my husband was also bad and his was a prime cut.

                                Last night I made an au jus with garlic, butter and fresh cracked pepper, reheated the steak and it was much better, but only because of the au jus! I brought so much of it home, I will be eating it again this evening.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: danhole
                                  Soop RE: danhole Feb 17, 2009 12:06 PM

                                  Hey, I'm eating another one now, and it definitely has more of an umami taste. Really nice. Eating plain with 1 fried egg (organic) and fried shallots

                                2. danhole RE: danhole Mar 2, 2009 11:16 AM

                                  Here is the finale to this saga:

                                  http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/600512

                                  1. b
                                    bnemes3343 RE: danhole Mar 2, 2009 11:39 AM

                                    This is why I almost never go to a steakhouse, no matter it's rep. I've yet to visit one that can make a steak as good as I can at home. And this is really astounding to me. This has to be one of the simplest things to make right and they are supposed to specialize in it. Yet your medium-rare steak comes out medium well and/or there is no flavor.

                                    2 Replies
                                    1. re: bnemes3343
                                      BobB RE: bnemes3343 Mar 2, 2009 01:41 PM

                                      I've had some amazing steaks at good steakhouses, but yes, I can do a damn fine one at home too so I rarely choose to go to them. When I do it's usually a business dinner where I didn't get to pick the restaurant.

                                      1. re: BobB
                                        danhole RE: BobB Mar 2, 2009 01:51 PM

                                        I make a darn good steak at home, but this was a special splurge. I probably should have blown it off but thought it would be nice to be waited on, and not have a kitchen to clean up afterwards. Also my DH wanted to treat me to a special night.

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