Always Keep a Dried Out Steak in Your Fridge
About a month ago I found a two-for-one deal on tri-tip steaks, and I bought a whole bunch. Having recently read an article claiming one can dry age steaks by simply leaving them in the refrigerator for an extended period of time, I decided to try it out. Things didn’t go exactly as planned, but they did go well, and I now have a new favorite cheap little luxury: The dried out fridge steak.
Technically the steak is dry aged, in that it is placed in a dry, temperature-controlled environment and left alone for a bit, which reduces the moisture content, tenderizes the meat through enzymatic action, and allows it to develop funky, nutty flavors not found in fresh beef. The loss of moisture is why steakhouses and butcher shops mark up the price on dry-aged steaks—one that was originally 16 ounces can clock in at as low as 11 ounces after aging.
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Why doesn’t the steak go bad?
Letting raw meat sit for an extended period of time, even in the fridge, feels naughty and dangerous, but it’s quite safe. Again, it’s a matter of moisture. Bacteria and other nasties thrive in wet environments, and the cold, circulating air in your fridge dries out the surface of the steak, creating a protective layer that’s inhospitable to bacteria. Sprinkle on some salt (which is naturally anti-microbial) and it’s is extremely unlikely your meat will spoil. (There is a slight chance a small layer of fuzzy white or blue mold may appear, especially if you keep a lot of funky cheeses in your fridge, but you can just wipe that off with a little vinegar.)
When it comes to dry aging, the amount of meat you’re working with really makes a difference. Large cuts of meat, such as those suggested by Serious Eats here, contain enough moisture to hang out in a dehydrated environment for long periods of time without becoming tough and chewy. This is not the case with smaller, individual steaks. After only a week in the fridge, my tri-tips (both salted and unsalted) had a jerky-like exterior that only got tougher when I tried to sear them, or even just slowly roast them in a low-temp oven. (The lack of moisture also made these steaks impressively easy to overcook.) The interior, however, was flavorful, a little funky, and tender.
Why you should definitely dry out a steak
I don’t recommend cooking a small steak that’s been aged in the fridge. It’s just not moist enough. I do, however, recommend shaving a dried out piece of meat into little steak petals. These thin slices of dried, salted meat feel and taste like something between carpaccio and bresaola, with a microscopic layer of beef jerky around the perimeter. Dried out steak can—and should—be thinly sliced with a mandoline (or very sharp knife), and used to make charming little beef toasts (I make mine with caramelized onion butter and horseradish cream), or scattered over salads, pasta dishes, and soft scrambled eggs.
Elegant and Fancy Dried Out Steak
Steak (I used tri-tip, but experiment with different cuts. Start cheap.)
Sprinkle kosher salt on every inch of your steak to create a glittering crust. You should still be able to see the meat through the crystals, but don’t be shy. Place the steak on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet and set the baking sheet in the fridge. Leave it alone for a week.
After a week, remove the steak from the fridge and slice it as thinly as possible with a very sharp knife or mandoline slicer. Eat it. I recommend starting with steak and eggs. Dried out steak will keep in your fridge pretty much indefinitely, though it will get dryer and dryer with each passing day. (That’s okay. You can always grate it like parmesan.)
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