Until the 1970s, when corporate agri-business began taking over our food system, almost all beef was dry aged. But today it is rare to find anything but wet aged beef in our grocery stores. Once an animal is processed the carcass is hung in a cooler until it reaches an internal temperature of 4C — this takes approximately 24 hours. At that time it is cut up and vacuum packaged into the major muscle groups and sorted into boxes according to the type of cut (whole tenderloin, rounds, etc.). It is then shipped to major retail stores and restaurants where they age it in the vacuum bag — hence “wet aging”. This anaerobic (oxygen free) aging process is much different than dry aging beef in an aerobic (oxygen rich) environment. We find that wet aged beef has a different flavour than dry aged — slightly sour and it does not have a real beefy flavour. Dry aged beef is very flavourful and the hanging process removes excess moisture. It also makes the meat much darker in colour and more tender to eat.
So when you go to your favourite restaurant and see beef that has been aged for 28 days — it’s most likely been in a vacuum bag for that time period. Just ask the chef or meat manager at your local retailer whether the meat they are offering is wet or dry aged — they will think you are a real beef connoisseur.
Having the opportunity to purchase beef products that have been dry-aged is well worth the investment.