Most any form of beef that can be cooked by a high dry heat method, can as well be improved by aging. Thin cuts such as flank or skirt tend not to do well by the “at home” aging process. Tougher cuts such as, shoulder or shank often require a wet method for cooking after being aged. The ideal cuts, well that would be a rib roast or a tenderloin, go figure! Fact still remains, if you put down your hard earned cash on any slab of beef, aging will vastly improve the taste and quality of your end product.
Water makes up 85% or more of your steak or roast. The aging process will allow a dehydration of the meat which ultimately concentrates the flavor. In fact, a 10 lb. roast can weight as little as 8 lbs. after just one week of aging. In addition, the time span required, enables slow working enzymes to further break down connective tissue rendering a more palatable texture. Salts used in this process can be a bit of a catalyst during aging and lend a bit of an anti-bacterial effect, prohibiting mold growth and microbe proliferation.
Your roast in hand, one could simply set it on a dish and pop it in the fridge, but that would not maximize air flow and generally encourages cross contamination if pathogens are present. Thanks to a certain culinary show on a popular cable network, I was introduced to a great way to accomplish our objective some years back and have since improved on the mechanics over the years.
To begin, select a plastic container considerably larger than the size of your typical roast and remember bigger is better if you have the space in your refrigerator. Drill holes about an inch and a half apart using a inch bit and starting about one inch from the bottom of the container and continue around the complete perimeter. This will allow the container to hold any liquid that may pool even when you move the it around. Continue up the sides in about inch and a half rings until you reach the top. In the lid use a basic inch and a half grid as well. Using a dish towel, wipe down the inside of the container and lid to remove any loose debris.
In your workspace, lay out (2) 24 inch long pieces of double thick cheesecloth in a cross pattern. These strips should be a little wider than the roast itself. Using a course salt, generously sprinkle all sides of your cut. Don’t worry about over seasoning, this is a small surface to mass ratio. Now place the roast upside down in the center of your cheesecloth and bring up both ends of the first strip, then the other. Holding your loose ends together with one hand place the beef in the bottom of the container loose ends down. The weight of the meat will keep the cheesecloth in place. Secure the lid in place and move to the bottom of the refrigerator, typically the coolest place in the unit.
After 24 hours, check on your investment. By this time you will have some moisture in the cheesecloth which allows us to turn the meat over without an unravel. You may have a bit of an odd odor, but not a rotten smell. Don’t worry this is normal. Turn your roast over every day until you are ready for the oven. If time allows, a week will get you a great end result, however as little as 2 days will make a noticeable difference.
At the end of the aging cycle, remove the roast from the chiller and over to your work station. Have a large cutting board and your favorite trimming knife ready to go. I prefer a boning knife for this, however use the knife you are most comfortable with as that makes it the safest to use. Remove the cheesecloth from the meat while still in the aging box and bring your improved beef to the cutting board for trimming. The aging process will darken the exterior and dry out some spots which would turn to jerky if left to the heat. Remove any leathery or hard parts and you are ready to roast or slice into steaks, but that is another article.
The results are well worth your troubles and not just for the trendy steakhouse.