You Should Be Dry-Aging Your Meats at Home—Here's How
Use inexpensive tools to serve super-flavorful, tender proteins—like a $10/lb. short rib that tastes like wagyu carpaccio.
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Allow me to guess that you do not currently have a 900°F commercial broiler or a six-foot charcoal grill sitting at home. Still, I believe in your ability to create tender, steakhouse-quality proteins with caramelized crusts.
The trick? Dry-aging, which improves flavor and texture while making cuts easier to cook simply and beautifully.
Dry-aged meat at a restaurant or grocery store can cost twice as much as its younger counterparts, but you can do it at home, better—and for free.
Dry-aging makes meat taste better
Exposing meat to cold, circulating air for an extended period of time gently dehydrates it, concentrating flavor and increasing the ratio of fat to muscle. This process also tenderizes, allowing naturally occurring enzymes to break down the meat's carbohydrates, proteins, and fats into super-flavorful sugars and amino acids like glutamate (e.g. natural MSG).
Have you ever pan-seared a steak only to have it come out grey and bland? That's where dry-aging can help you: the dry and flavorful surfaces of aged proteins are extremely easy to caramelize in a pan.
The required tools are inexpensive and versatile
All you need to dry-age at home is your refrigerator, a wire rack, and a sheet pan.
Refrigerators have an air circulation system to ensure freshness. By aging meat on an elevated wire rack, uncovered and near your refrigerator’s fan, air will circulate all around the meat, keeping it dry and cool. The sheet pan just goes underneath to catch drippings and keep your fridge clean.
This setup minimizes moisture and heat, safeguarding against rot.
Buy two quarter-size sheet pans on Amazon for $12 and two elevated racks that fit perfectly inside, also $12 on Amazon.
Add salt to significantly increase the dry-aging effect
Salt is the only seasoning that consistently and effectively penetrates through food, adding flavor, tenderizing, and drawing out excessive moisture. I always sprinkle sea salt generously on meat before aging it. Looking for even more flavor? Brush salty and savory fish sauce on its surface.
For even more intense, umami goodness, I brush meat before aging with a salty wash of soy sauce, anchovy paste, crushed black peppercorn, and grated garlic. The result is aged meat with a mouthwatering aroma redolent of jerky.
Note: It’s important to avoid any oil in your seasoning, as fat creates a barrier preventing moisture from escaping as salt penetrates inwards.
Dry-aging elevates many proteins and inexpensive or unusual cuts
Rib-eyes, porterhouses, or strip steaks will be delicious after a week or so in the fridge, but I also like to experiment with less expensive cuts of beef. Short ribs, for example, are rarely seared and served medium-rare, but I think they are exquisite after aging about five days.
Beyond beef, DIY dry-aging works wonders with a variety of proteins. I like to give duck breasts, chicken wings, and racks of lamb a salty, spicy rub and about three days of maturation.
Even a whole fish benefits from one to two days of air-drying with a bit of salt rubbed along its exterior. Afterwards, drizzling it with olive oil and roasting it whole on the wire rack in an ultra-hot oven for ten minutes will guarantee a marvelously tender result with a charred and crackly exterior.
Don’t want to cook? Serve dry-aged meat raw
The intense flavor and supple mouthfeel of aged meet makes it great to serve raw. I love serving a few ultra-thin slices of dry-aged beef with olives and salt as a simple and decadent appetizer. For a more filling snack, I’ll pile a few slices atop toasted sourdough or eat them with soft-boiled eggs and delicate lettuces.
A rib-eye, brushed with fish sauce and aged for 10 days. It’s lost about 10% of its weight, the fat has cured, and it’s a beautiful deep red just under the exterior.
Cook it like a pro
When you're ready to cook, forget charcoal, sous-vide machines, and blowtorches. You can get an extraordinary sear out of any dry-aged meat on the stovetop because its dehydrated surfaces are extremely easy to caramelize.
My hosting trick is to create this delicious crust well before any guests have arrived. Right before eating, I'll finish the meat quickly in the oven with no smoke, splatters, or stress.
To do this, heat a pan with a bit of oil or fat (I like to use a bit of cured fat from the dry-aged meat itself) until it’s smoking hot. Then add your meat, cold from the refrigerator, and sear each side for about two minutes, pressing gently down with a spatula or kitchen towel, and moving the cooking meat around in a circle to soak up any rendered fat.
At this point, you should have a succulent steakhouse-quality sear with a raw interior. Set your meat back on the wire rack and sheet pan, on your kitchen counter, and clean up. Later on, five to ten minutes before you’re ready to eat, slide the pan and rack in a 450°F oven and finish cooking to your desired doneness.
You won't need to rest the meat much, because it finished cooking from room temperature. Just slice it and garnish with flaky salt. Mmmmmm.