Calling all the passionate carnivores out there! Are you an avid meat lover? Well, if so, we invite you to join our club! Here at Sciacca we take our meat very seriously, this is why we believe in treating every cut with warranted respect. The technique of Meat Aging is a rather unique practice that not every restaurant in Malta exercises.

Luckily, our meat aficionado clientele can be rest assured, because we have confidence in such a culinary method, because it elevates both taste and texture of the meat, bringing it to a whole new level, so really can’t blame our passion in meat preparation. Without any further suspense, let’s get down to the brass tacks, what is the process of meat aging all about?

What is Postmortem Aging?

Postmortem Aging is the technical term to describe the aging method. It is also sometimes referred to as ‘conditioning’ or ‘ripening’. It’s basically a natural method which intensifies the tastiness and overall quality of meat, particularly when it comes to rib and loin cuts.

Aging is achieved by subjecting carcasses – whether primal or sub-primal cuts – to controlled, refrigerated storage conditions. Typically, such beef cuts are precisely chosen since these are generally the desirable parts of a steak. While carcasses from any species could be aged, the process is usually limited to beef, owing to the comparative youth of pork, lamb and veal.

It’s good to point out that aging is a naturally occurring process which happens in all muscle tissues, whether vacuum packaged, in the form of carcasses or wholesale cuts. During the conversion of muscle to meat, natural enzymes found in muscles, breaks down specific proteins in muscle fibres. This fragmentation of protein strands called myofibrils, results in better-quality tenderness of the rib. Tenderization happens at a relatively fast rate until 3 to 7 days post-mortem, and then the grade of amplified tenderness decreases with time.

What’s the difference between Dry and Wet Aging?

Wet Aging is a relatively new method that developed along with developments in plastics and refrigeration. Cuts of beef are vacuum-sealed in plastic and shipped to the market in this technique. The actual aging ensues within the 4-10 days between butchery and sale during the meat’s shipment.

In contrast, the process of dry Aging constitutes large cuts of beef aged for anywhere from several weeks to several months before being clipped and cut into steaks. This process not only helps the steak mature in taste, but makes it much more tender than it would be when completely fresh. The main difference between wet and dry aging is, while both enhance tenderness, only dry aging deepens flavour. And because this is the method we specialise in, we’ll be focusing on the practice of Dry Aging.

It’s all about the Dry Aged Beef

This is a long-established method of placing an entire carcass in a chilled room for 21 to 28 days at 32-34°F and 100-85% relative humidity, with an air velocity of 0.5 to 2.5 m/sec. Although fluctuating extensively in commercial practice, all three conditions, are significantly important in the proper aging of carcasses.

While aging at a higher temperature can fast-track tenderness development, amplified microbial growth becomes a serious issue at higher temperatures. What’s more, the quantity of humidity should be observed meticulously, because too much will allow inconsistent microbial growth, whereas too little will cause disproportionate shrinkage.

Air velocity is of course equally crucial since it acts as a medium for the elimination of moisture from the refrigerated zone. Insufficient air velocity will allow unnecessary moistness to shrink the product, and consequently, off-flavours as well as spoilage, will occur. Then again, if the air velocity is too high, this will result in disproportionate surface drying, resulting in weight and trim losses.

Discover the richness and bold flavour of dry aged beef 

Fresh beef is aged for at least a few days and up to several weeks in order to allow naturally present enzymes to metabolise the muscle tissue, resulting in advanced consistency and taste. Exposed to air so dryness can further augment the meat’s flavour, dry aged meat is juicier and has a smoother, yet beefier flavour.

While this type of beef is very rich in taste, we understand that it’s an acquired taste. When sampling this calibre of meat, one must keep in mind its level of concentration and rich mineral content. That’s why we understand that some of our patrons only consume 150g of it, since its flavour is indeed rather bold. So in actuality, this type of food is very dependent on each person’s particular palate. In fact, here at Sciacca for clients who have never tried dry aged beef and are interested in exploring this gastronomic delicacy, we generally serve them a small sample for tasting, then it’s really up to the client to order accordingly.

How Long does it take to age?

Being so subjective, it’s almost impossible to define the point where taste is considered sublime or putrid. That said, there’s a universal agreement stating that 30-40 days of dry aging will bring out some unbelievable characteristics, and deepen beef flavour. You can think of it as a high definition variety of a standard steak.

It’s good to acknowledge that a dry aged beef is an entirely different gastronomic experience when compared to traditional beefy steaks, frequently revered by true carnivores. Undeniably, the safest contrast would be to liken dry aging to a chunk of matured pungent cheese or a glass of finely aged wine.

What kinds of meat should be aged?

Commonly, several aspects determine how significantly meat will profit from aging. Yet, a certain amount of aging does ultimately mature all beef. Nevertheless, some muscles respond better than others; so, the eye part of your ribeye will have a better tenderness response than the cap on your ribeye.

Furthermore, out of all proteins, beef is the most adjustable in terms of tenderness. Usually, pork, lamb and veal are already tender to begin with, and it simply boils down to poor cooking methods that ends up toughening them.

Here at Sciacca we believe the dry aging method is not only sophisticated but ultimately boosts palate and flavour to the maximum. If like us, you appreciate a quality cut of meat and would like to reap the rewards from our tenderizing process, book at table at Sciacca situated at the stunning capital city of Valletta and come enjoy superbly intense meaty savours!

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