The best meat to dry age depends on different variables and factors within each animal. The most traditional product to dry age is beef with common cuts including the strip loin, the ribeye, and the sirloin. These cuts age well because the flavor and texture improve significantly. Most butchers typically age full or sub-primal cuts for the best effect and adhere to the old-world butcher’s technique to get a cut of steak with the best texture after a certain timeframe.
Why is beef the best meat to dry age?
Intramuscular and intermuscular fat are two different types of fat found in beef that help the dry age process. This is one of the main reasons we find beef the best meat to dry age.
Intermuscular fat are large pockets of fat that sit between the different areas of muscles. Some cuts of meat, like a rib roast, are supposed to have those areas of fat that melt and add flavor as it cooks. Other cuts of beef, like a filet mignon, can be butchered and trimmed so there’s very little exterior fat. The filet also has very little intramuscular fat or marbling because of where it’s located within the animal and because it is a muscle that is limited in use by the animal.
Intramuscular fat, or marbling are the white flecks inside the steak that melts into the meat while cooking, giving the steak incredible flavor and juiciness. The juiciest steaks contain a well-trimmed exterior of white fat and lots of marbling throughout the cut.
Factors that affect beef marbling include the breed, the feed, muscle use, age and cut. High quality breeds, such as Angus, Herefords, Shorthorns, Japanese Wagyu, and Kobe receive higher marbling scores because of the way in which they metabolize food.
Cuts of beef
The USDA grading system features eight different grades and rewards marbling; Prime, Choice, Select, Standard, Commercial, Utility, Cutter, and Canner. USDA Prime has the highest marbling content and costs the most, choice is accessible in a retail outlet like a grocery store. Select, while not quite as good as Choice, is a more affordable option. Standard grades or lower typically winds up in ground beef products and in cheap steak restaurants.
The presence and type of marbling in meat is important for several reasons. As a result, marbling adds tenderness, which is a preferable mouthfeel. Some fats are undeniably unhealthy for consumption, but the intramuscular fat that creates marbling that is higher in healthier fats like oleic acid, can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
Other than beef, what is the best meat to dry age?
There are other animals such as pork and fish that certainly benefit from the dry age process, but the fat content does not play as much of a role. And, because these animals cannot be dry aged for as long as beef, the tenderness is not as important as the enhancement of its flavor. You can read more about some other meats to dry age in the Steak Locker dry age cabinet we like to dry age in our previous posts: dry aged pork recipe, dry aged turkey and dry aged fish recipe.