This past fall, some friends and I bought 2 head of cattle from Shannon and Danny at Nature’s Green Acres [details of the butchering of my quarter are here]. I picked up my quarter after 14 days of dry aging. My friends had theirs cut at the meat shop after roughly 24 days. A recent discussion with the farmer about our experience with each approach led to a taste-test of the two side-by-side. Today was the day for the throw-down. Was 14 day or 24 day better? That was the question.
We did two preparations: a plain meatball and a rib steak. Although there were significant variations between the two meatballs, they were deemed more attributable to a) the grind and b) the fat content. The 14 day was fattier as I included far more fat, and I ground it coarser. The 24 day was ground finer, far leaner, and yielded an extremely juicy meatball. Neither had a perceptibly different complexity of flavor on the nose or palate.
On to the steak. I figured if there was a difference in texture, it’d show up here. But again, our conclusion was that the thickness, and cut [although both rib steak, no two steaks on an animal are perfectly homogeneous] contributed to the differences in experience rather than the age. Did we find one more tender with a greater concentration of flavor? Not really. Certainly not significantly so.
My conclusion: as with the big game calves I hunt, my choice is for less dry aging for the following reasons. 1] the animal’s already tender as a calf, so further tenderization is not needed; 2] concentration of flavor is not a goal of mine in my meats – delicately flavored calf meats is fine with me, and 3] dry aging creates waste via trim loss, something I can’t get behind with such a marginal benefit on the experience end. I’m certain that older animals or different palates would see this differently, but this is how I currently see it. Another important conclusion: both the 14 day and 24 day were both fantastic.
Many thanks to a good friend who hooked us up with the 24 day, and the 1975 Margaux.