Beef: Wet vs Dry Aging
Dry aging is the traditional method of aging beef. The beef hangs in open-air at temperatures below 42 degrees, but just above freezing. There it will stay for an industry standard of 5 days to a few weeks. A longer aging process means the meat will be more tender, flavorful, and command a higher price. This extra tenderness is due to natural enzymes in the meat breaking down the muscle tissue over time. The exterior of the beef also loses moisture which converts the texture and flavor of the meat to a more desired product. Dry aging does result in a loss of over all product weight.
Wet aging is done in sealed, vacuum packed bags or sealed containers and held under refrigeration. Wet aging beef is a good choice for commercial applications because the beef will not lose weight which saves money and can be aged enroute to the customer for faster delivery. An example of wet aged beef might be the whole New York or Rib Roast you find vacuum packed, unfrozen, and value priced in the supermarket. The downsides of this practice is the beef does not get the benefit of the extra time required in the process of quality aged beef and usually are marinaded with salts and tenderizers.