Craft Butcher Dry Ageing Away Day
Last year, Craft Butcher were invited to attend a dry-ageing event arranged by Williams Refrigeration at Perrys of Eccleshall in Staffordshire. As well as tasting some amazing dry aged beef we also put shop owner, Stephen Hill, through his paces by bombarding him with questions! Here are our learnings from the day.
NCB Executive Council Officer Stephen is known locally as something of an expert in dry-ageing. Using the Williams MAR1 dry meat ager single door cabinet he dry ages beef anything from 35 days to 9 months, depending on the customer’s requirements. Done carefully it’s possible to age beef even longer. At the time he was dry ageing a beef joint for 18 months for a Michelin starred chef. The Williams MAR carefully controls not only the temperature but also the humidity of the cabinet.
“I got into dry ageing because it fitted my goal of always looking for opportunities to add value. It is more tender than regular matured beef, has a rich ‘umami’ flavour with real depth. Overall, it is the perfect ‘treat’ product providing a special dining experience. Butchers need to make a point of difference between themselves, and other retailers, and expertly dry-aged beef is one way of doing this.”
Benefits to butchers:
Expands product range: The different flavour profile to standard beef creates a ‘new’ product range. The inclusion of Himalayan salt blocks in the MAR1 enhances this flavour, as well as helping to control the humidity within the cabinet.
Introduces new customers to the shop: Stephen believes that producing and offering dry aged meats enhances his reputation as a craft butcher also it adds theatre and interest in the shop. More importantly, it has introduced new customers – most being younger and more affluent.
More profitable: A common myth is that it causes excessive amounts of wastage, which if not costed can seriously reduce margin. Using Williams equipment Stephen says that he gets the same amount of waste from his dry aged product, regardless of how long he’s aged it for, than he does on his standard ‘wet aged’ 35 day matured beef.
Trying to dry age beef that has been matured for too long: This produces an unpleasant ‘farmyard’ taste, which customers might perceive that the beef is spoiled. Beef shouldn’t be matured for more than 14 days before starting to dry age, in fact Stephen feels 10 days is the ideal maturation time.
Not emptying the water tray frequently enough: The early stages of dry ageing produce excess liquid due in part to the salt blocks which are part of the Williams cabinet and system. It’s very important to empty, clean and replace the water tray every two days for the first fortnight. If water is allowed to spill the excess moisture will result in ‘sticky’ beef.
Trying to age beef that has been vacuum packed: This interrupts the natural maturing process making the meat unsuitable. Dry ageing should take place on the bone for best results.
Opening the cabinet door too much: A dry aged cabinet is a carefully controlled environment, maintaining the optimum temperature, air flow and humidity for dry ageing to take place. Frequently opening the cabinet changes the environment, allows bacteria to enter and can cause spoilage. To minimise the risk Stephen recommends choosing a single door cabinet.
Shelf life of dry aged beef
Once it is removed from the meat ageing refrigerator, Stephen says that at up to 5 days, the shelf life of dry aged beef is around half that of his standard matured beef. For this reason, Stephen cuts to order and asks customers when they intend to use it. Often they are planning for a weekend meal so it makes sense to promote this type of beef just before the weekend.
Dry ageing other meats
Stephen currently has four MAR1 cabinets in which he successfully dry ages many other meats, including game birds, goose, lamb and venison. The only two products he’s found that successfully age together are beef and lamb.
Cooking advice for customers
Dry aged beef cooks around a third more quickly than standard beef. Stephen always suggests to reduce the cooking time as well as rest time, as dry aged cuts have less juice so the advice is not to over rest.
National Craft Butchers recommends Butchers contact our food hygiene advice line or their local EHO for technical advice on safely dry ageing in their shops. For more information see the Williams Meat Ageing Guide: www.williams-refrigeration.co.uk/guides/product-guides/the-williams-guide-to-meat-ageing