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Ageing methods

The more valuable half is hung up to age

Meat needs to age in order to become tender and flavoursome. After the slaughter, the metabolism fails; once the energy supply to the muscles ceases, the intermuscular protein solidifies. At that point, the meat is as tough as an old boot and virtually inedible. It needs to be left to age for an extended period of time, during which enzymes in the meat break down the hard muscle fibre and make it tender. There are different methods for ageing meat.

Wet-aged
99 per cent of commercially available meat is wet-aged produce. This method involves deboning the meat and vacuum-packing it immediately after the slaughter. It is then left to age for at least 30 days. OTTO GOURMET uses this ageing method if the meat is to maintain its original flavour.

 

Dry-aged
During the dry-ageing process, on the other hand, the meat remains on the bone while it matures. This intensifies its flavour. After the cattle are slaughtered, the half carcasses are cooled down from their body temperature of 37 °C at slaughter to 7 °C at a rate of one degree per hour. Only after they reach the desired temperature are the halves divided into forequarter, hindquarter and loin. The meat then spends 21 days hanging in a dedicated dry-ageing chamber at 85% humidity under controlled conditions. Today, some steakhouses in the United States allow their goods to age for 42 or even 56 days. A fillet only needs to mature for seven days before it is deboned; if it were left on the bone for three weeks, its flavour and consistency would be more akin to those of a ham.

The relatively cumbersome process of dry ageing is only applied to the high-grade back cuts. Until approximately 40 years ago, all meat was produced using this traditional craft. Nowadays, only rib eye, strip loin, T-bone and porterhouse steaks are sent to the dry-ageing chamber. The cuts are trimmed, the dried outer layer is removed, and they are prepared like a regular steak. On account of the high time and storage requirements of the meat and a weight loss of 30–50 per cent, these products are approximately 50 per cent more expensive than regular meat. But their flavour is well worth it. Tender, aromatic and with the intense, primal taste of meat – true dry-aged beef.

Sample our dry-aged products