There is definitely a difference in the quality of taste between fresh and aged steak, which is why we value aged meat more. Aged steak is often recommended as some of the best steak you can buy.
Today we are going to find out why it tastes so good and how it is aged. Steak and fish are our stock in trade, so the more we know about our trade, the better we can serve our customers.
So in a world where freshness is key and getting ingredients to market in the shortest time possible is king, why wait a month for a steak?
When the meat is first being prepared, rather than being sorted into the different cuts and sent to the butcher, it is first aged in carefully controlled conditions. Those conditions are cool temperatures with high humidity. This allows enzymes in the meat to break down amino acids and sugars in the muscle and turn them into rich flavour.
The time it is aged depends a lot on who is doing the aging. Typically, steak is aged for 28 days but it can be aged for longer. The longer it is aged, within reason, the more flavoursome it is. There is a natural limit to how long meat can be aged before it spoils and typically a 28 day aged steak is the ideal.
This aging time gives those enzymes time to break down muscle glycogen, collagen, fat, protein, amino acids and carbohydrate in the meat. Muscle glycogen is a form of sugar buried deep in the meat. It takes time to break this down, but when it does, it floods the meat with sugars, which provide that deep, rich flavour.
Collagen is a fat that holds the muscle fibres together. As this breaks down, the meat becomes more tender. Another characteristic of aged meat. The best bit though is glutamate. This is an amino acid naturally present in meat that provide amazing flavour. So much so that it is refined as part of MSG which is used to give flavour to many ready meals.
As a side effect of aging, the steak loses around 5% of its moisture, making the remaining flavour more concentrated. While 5% doesn’t sound a lot, it makes a lot of difference in terms of flavour!
This process takes time and some very specific conditions. That’s why aged steak is a premium product. But, the flavour it delivers is well worth that investment!