The meat of a newly butchered animal is usually hard and not very tasty. Aging is that variable period during which meat is left to rest at the suitable temperature and humidity conditions to gain softness and develop flavours and aroma. A chicken or a very young animal only requires a few days, but for larger animals it all depends on race, age, and meat storage temperature. A regular steak preserved in a cold store – that maintains the right temperature and humidity – takes 10 to 20 days to reach the supermarket shelves.
The new trend in meat aging has a name: dry-aging. It is an innovative technique that has spread in no time from the United States to the rest of the world. It is complex and costly, but quite appreciated by gourmands. It is essentially a form of bone-in aging and subsequent seasoning in cold store at a controlled temperature. The process triggers natural meat drying cycles, allowing it to lose about 20% water, with a related increase in salt concentration. Such method causes physical-chemical changes in the meat, first of all the oxidation of fatty acids and enzymatic lysis that releases aromatic amino acids. The meat thus acquires excellent sensory properties, is more flavoured, soft, and with a beautiful marbled look. Its cut colour is dark red, and it has a compact texture. Once cooked, it exudes incredible perfumes: experts suggest to prepare it on a grill, lightly seared.
The so-called wet-aging technique is also used worldwide, with small pieces of meat left to age in their own juices, vacuumpacked. The third method, experimented for the first time ever in Italy by Eataly’s Consorzio La Granda, is high-humidity aging, in cold stores kept at a constant temperature of 0-1°C (32-33.8°F).