Juicy, fresh, green grass straight from the pastures makes up the wholesome diet of Irish Hereford cattle between March and October. Once slaughtered, they undergo a process called dry ageing, for which the meat remains on the bone and is hung to mature for 21 days.
Until approximately 40 years ago, this was the most common method for rendering meat palatable. The process fell out of use when meat producers discovered the advantages of wet ageing, which is now used for 99% of all slaughtered animals. It involves boning the meat and vacuum-packing it immediately after the slaughter. The advantage: no weight is lost, and the process requires less storage space and time, making it considerably more economical. The disadvantage: the flavour of the meat does not get a chance to develop.
During dry ageing, on the other hand, the meat remains on the bone while it matures. After the cattle are slaughtered, the half carcasses are cooled down from 37 °C to 7 °C at a rate of 1 °C per hour. Only after they reach the desired temperature are the halves divided into forequarter, hindquarter and back. Today, the relatively cumbersome process of dry ageing is only applied to the high-grade back cuts. Rib eye, strip loin, T-bone and porterhouse steaks generally spend 21 days hanging in a dedicated dry-ageing chamber at 85% humidity under controlled conditions. This yields particularly juicy and flavoursome meat.
The rib eye comes from the frontal section of the back piece; it is known as entrecôte, Scotch fillet or club. As one of the most frequently used muscle groups, it is perfect for sautéing. Contrary to popular belief, it derives its name not from the fatty “eye”, which is not always pronounced, but from the three or four muscles that form the cut: the rib eye centre, enclosed by the rib eye cap (which is particularly rich in connective tissue) is the largest of them, and if you look closely, it resembles an eye. This piece also constitutes the end of the roast, i.e. the round part of the rump, and is frequently referred to as “round roast”. The conical fillet of the rib eye is the shortest muscle of the entrecôte. It is only part of the piece if the cut is made between the eighth and tenth rib. Strictly speaking, the rib eye cap is part of the entrecôte; it is considered to be especially rich in connective tissue, rather than a particularly lean piece of meat, however. Thanks to its fine marbling, rib eye steaks are juicy and incomparably flavoursome. Especially male connoisseurs love it.