Monday, May 9, 2016

Wet aging our beef (and BBQ show and tell)

Our home butcher doesn't like to age our beef for more than 3-4 days as he has quite a complicated system to rotate his mobile cool-rooms to each customer.  If he let us hang our meat for longer he would need more cool-rooms and would have to put his prices up, so we don't mind fitting in with his schedule.  This does mean that our beef is not as tender as if it was hung for longer.  Some people will hang a beef carcass for up to two weeks!

eight acres: how to wet age beef
wet aged rib fillet

 We have found a couple of different strategies to still get tender meat.  Both involve what is known as "wet aging" the meat.  Wet aging means aging the meat in vacuum packs after it is butchered, as opposed to dry aging which is hanging the meat in a cool-room before its butchered (read more about it here).  This is a technique that has only been possible since plastic bags and vacuum sealers have been available.  The first few times we had beasts killed we wet aged all the good steaks (rib fillet, eye fillet, sirloin, rump) in vacuum bags in the spare fridge for about six weeks before freezing them.

This most recent time we were in a bit of a rush and the spare fridge broke down, so we just put all the steak in the freezer.  We weren't sure if the wet aging actually made a difference or if it was worth the effort.  Well the first eye fillet we ate answered that question!  It was tough.  Not inedible, but not as enjoyable as those cuts usually are.  We started getting some of the good cuts out of the freezer and leaving them in the fridge to age before we used them.  We even sealed the two remaining eye fillets from that first pack and aged them too.  When we opened them up again a few weeks later the meat was tender and tasty.  That's when we knew it really was worth the effort.


eight acres: how to wet age beef
our aged rib-fillet cooked to perfection

If you butcher at home and can't dry age the meat for long, then you have the wet aging option if you get a vacuum sealer (which makes your meat last longer anyway).  For the cuts that you don't cook quickly or that you mince, it doesn't matter so much, but for the good steaks, it is worth doing.  If you don't have the fridge space to age everything before freezing, you can just keep a few steaks in the fridge aging before you use them (we have steak once or twice a week, so we just get another pack out of the freezer each time we eat one).

Seeing as we are talking about steak, and Ohio Farmgirl recently shared her smoker and explained some of the American BBQ culture, I thought I would also take this opportunity to show you our BBQ.  I know, I know, its just a "gas grill" and not a proper American BBQ, but its pretty handy!  Because you can put the lid down, and it fits our big roasting dish, I use it to cook nearly everything in summer (in winter I use the woodstove).  That way I hardly ever use the electric stove in our kitchen for anything other than storing our baking trays and the kitchen never overheats in summer.  I make roast meat and vegetables, bread, cakes, biscuits, quiches, steak and sausages all in the BBQ.  We got the biggest size so we could fit a turkey in there (which we did the day we bought it!).


eight acres: how to wet age beef
our BBQ (now I notice the nasty oil stain beneath it,
we only keep it on this veranda because it was already stained,
otherwise its probably better to keep it on the gravel outside)

I would love to also have a smoker like OFG, and we've been thinking about either building a permanent smoke house or something more portable.  I think we can also put woodchips in our BBQ, but I haven't tried that.  I love smoked food, especially cheese and fish and bacon.

Have you tried wet aging?  How long do you hang your beef for?  Have you smoked food in your BBQ?

5 comments:

  1. yay! so glad i could show you our smoker. THANKS for the tour of your grill! and i would like a steak, please. your dinner looks terrific.

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  2. No experience with wet ageing, but I'll keep it in mind if we get any vacuum sealed bags of meat in future. We're thinking of buying in bulk and not sure if they offer this.

    Our BBQ is quite ancient now and gets used once or twice a year. We have a tray that catches all our drips - does your Webber? Just wondering if that's residue stains underneath? Maybe because you use it more than we do! ;)

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  3. We have only every done hanging for a long time before cutting up and our last lot was 5 weeks hanging and it is the best one yet.

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  4. Over here it's not unusual to have beef hung for 28 days. I've just butchered some that was all process within a week, but that's because I don;t have a cold room. Luckily it's a young animal so pretty tender anyway.
    A real BBQ has to have charcoal I'm afiard, but I agree a gas one is pretty handy.

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  5. This is really interesting Liz as I've heard of the wet aging but never done it. We built a cool room a couple of years ago and now wonder how we ever managed without it as we like to hang our sheep, pork and beef for much longer than the butcher wants to. I bought a vacuum sealer 2nd hand, and also wonder how I ever lived without it. :) So glad to read that you think exactly as I do regarding cooking in the gas Weber all during the hot months. It's wonderful isn't it? Now that the cool weather has finally arrived here in South Aust, I've moved the Weber into the shed and we barbecue once or twice a week on the flat barbie or over an open fire in the yard. The wood fire in the kitchen is burning 24/7. I bought Brian a hot smoker for Christmas and we're enjoying delicious smoked (home grown) chicken, and am yet to try brining and smoking some pork chops. Here in the Barossa Valley the smoked meats are a German tradition.

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Thanks, I appreciate all your comments, suggestions and questions, but I don't always get time to reply right away. If you need me to reply personally to a question, please leave your email address in the comment or in your profile, or email me directly on eight.acres.liz at gmail.com

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