For the dedicated and discerning carnivore, dry-aged beef jumps out as an irresistible menu item and is often a signature dish for the restaurant and chef. While high-end butchers and DIY rigs are an option for the at-home chef, the concentrated flavors and exceptional tenderness associated with serious steakhouses are usually the result of dry-aging tackled in-house. Setting up an aging room in your restaurant isn't as easy as the flipping of a switch, but chefs and diners agree the results are worth it. Here are the biggest things to consider when building a dry-aging room.
Proper Temperature and Humidity
To age finely marbled beef over a span of weeks or even months, the most obvious consideration is ensuring it won't simply rot away and become unusable. The desired temperature and humidity ranges are similar, but one of the major differences between a dry-aging room and a standard walk-in cooler is the tolerances of the thermostat units which dictate how the compressors cycle require a much narrower operating range to age safely. A couple degrees or minor variance in humidity may not sound like a big difference, but the considerable time the meat is exposed could allow dangerous bacteria to grow if not adhering to accepted conditions.
Know the Mold you Want
It might sound counter-intuitive given the aversion to bacterial growth, but there are actually specific mold species whose growth we do want to promote. As the beef ages, the exterior crust formed via moisture loss creates an environment in which this mold and the natural enzymes combine to break down natural fibers, enhancing flavor and increasing tenderness. The keys to creating a controlled environment that eliminates bacteria and accelerates moisture loss are adequate air circulation and UV lighting. Large fans mounted or standing throughout the room circulate air at a high volume across the surface of the beef, while UV lights can kill airborne bacteria before it propagates.
Use Proper Storage Tools
With the climate of the room taken care of, the logistics of storing the meat require planning as well. When aging, the beef itself typically remains in large and heavy "primal" cuts before being trimmed, and the right storage options provide food-safe materials, sufficient air circulation, and are easily cleaned. The traditional route is to hang beef from the ceiling on hooks, but this often requires the installation of elaborate (and expensive!) overhead track systems and not all restaurant buildings have a ceiling structure that can support the load.
An increasingly popular alternative is modular shelving, such as our MetroMax line, which allow chefs, butchers, and restaurant managers the flexibility to assemble the storage solution that best matches the dimensions of the room, while confident that the beef will have adequate circulation throughout the aging process on all surfaces.
Building a dry-aging room is no small undertaking and every restaurant owner or manager will need to do some research when planning out the particulars, but once the aging process is underway we're sure your diners will find it worth the wait!