If you’ve ever had an amazing cut of dry-aged meat, you know the magic of perfectly aged meat. Those cuts that keep us coming back start with a solid refrigerator. What kind of refrigerator you need depends on your expectations and your needs. Refrigerators vary widely in their functions, bells and whistles, and support devices.
What are the things you’ll want to keep in mind?
A good meat refrigerator, at its core, is a dedicated space where the device itself or you (with external aides) can control factors such as temperature, humidity, condensation, etc. Viewing panes are nearly a must, as are built-in or external thermometers. The right size device for your space and meat stock is also essential, as are the needed supports, depending on your skill level.
Not sure which meat fridge to choose from? There are so many options that it’s easy to get lost, spiraling down a deep rabbit hole of options. We’ve got you covered with a thorough review of three very solid options that you’ll want to consider. Also, we offer a strong case for dry-aging meat at home. Finally, you’ll find a comprehensive guide to dry-aging your meat at home.
Ready to dive in? Not sure how to find the best fridge for dry aging meat? Check out our options below!
Steak Locker is a fridge known for its elegant design, with a few bells and whistles you’ll also love, such as the great temperature control to keep your steaks fresher longer. Steak Locker also features two high-end digital inverted compressors to ensure longevity and safety, as well as multiple steak locker management with its Steaklocker Smart Application. What’s the low-down on this fridge? Let’s check out some of the pros and cons of a Steak Locker.
The Steak Locker features strong, secure, cloud-based server technology to guarantee that you always have trustworthy data on your steak locker. Meat is sensitive, which makes having a lock on your device an especially important option if you think there is a chance of security or contamination issues.
Chefs, by definition, have spent time and talent perfecting their craft. The input of chefs is an invaluable facet when developing any device. The guarantee of professional chef design delivers added confidence in your dry-aging journey with a Steak Locker.
You can track your meat dry-aging with visual reports that include inventory, nutritional information, yield management, and a HACCP plan. Whether you’re experienced and serious about your craft or just getting started, visual reports are an invaluable tool when tracking your meat’s dry-aging journey.
Steak Locker offers security for multiple lockers with unlimited accounts and intuitive alerts to issues. Lockers can be monitored 24/7. Lockers carry the highest ETL & UL ratings and are NSF-approved.
Steak Lockers are equipped with smart sensors that offer immediate safety notifications and feedback. The Steak Locker is compatible with an exclusive app to help you control smart sensors with feedback. Steak Lockers are also compatible with Google Home Integration and can be controlled away from home.
Steak Lockers can also be used for curing, cheese aging, charcuterie, and many other purposes. If you want to do more than cure steaks, this is an added bonus over devices that are geared towards beef alone.
Aging meat with Steak Locker helps avoid the high cost of purchasing similar cuts outside. With Steak Locker, you can enjoy all the class and culture and well-aged steaks in your own home. This is sure to make you a hit with family and friends!
Steak Locker is not only packed with performance but is made of sturdy stainless steel. The steel luxury design blends well into any interior design space and features a UV-resistant tempered glass door and telescopic rails.
The Steak Locker’s 34-inch cabinet is an easy fit indoors or outdoors and doesn’t require a water connection. Your Steak Locker also includes an uplink controller, digital smart compressors, removable chrome shelves, a custom digital panel, a replaceable carbon odor filter, and compatibility with US or EU power standards.
- Convenient to use
- Made of durable stainless steel
- Includes visual reports
- Designed by chefs
- Cooling and humidity issues
- Water Leaking
SteakAger PRO 20
Looking for a steak ager that won’t take up half the room? Kobrand Products’ compact SteakAger PRO 20 beef dry-aging system is an “all-in-one” steak fridge aimed specifically at home-use. SteakAger PRO 20 emphasizes its cost-efficiency, compact, sleek design, steak perfection, mobile integration, and smooth innovation. So what do you get with a SteakAger PRO 20? Let’s dive into some of the highs and lows of a SteakAger.
Who doesn’t love a good dry-aged steak without the expense and hassle of going to a premier steakhouse? The SteakAger PRO 20 makes it easy to cut costs and commutes with steak that you can enjoy any time. This is also a great option when providing steak for events. When compared to providing similar cuts in public, you’ll find that the cost difference is significant. With a good steak ager, no one will be able to tell the difference.
A big consideration when selecting a meat fridge is how much space it will require as sizes can vary widely. The SteakAger PRO 20 is small, (W X D X H) 17.5″ X 20.1″ X 20.1,” and stylish enough to become a nice countertop device (also nice if you want to watch your meat curing). With the SteakAger PRO 20, you can enjoy the fact that this steak ager doesn’t bring with it radical designs to clash with your decor.
The reversible smoke glass door and black cabinet give it a neutral design that will fit well with any interior.
Dry-aging requires a specific humidity, airflow, and temperature balance to age beef without causing decay. The SteakAger PRO 20 claims mastery of this science and the ability to deliver this technology into the home.
The SteakAger PRO 20 prides itself on its ability to dry-age two 10-12-inch beef cuts (up to 24 lbs), giving you the flexibility to experiment with different steaks, levels of flavor, and tenderness until you find your ideal. These dry-aged steaks are perfectly preserved for vacuum packing and stocking.
The SteakAger PRO 20 comes integrated with a free monitoring app that works with Bluetooth and WiFi. This mobile integration makes it easy to check on your steaks at the touch of a screen.
The SteakAger PRO 20 is proven, calibrated, and ready to use as soon as it arrives. The SteakAger Pro 20 has innovative cooling technology and runs quietly.
- Has a free monitoring app
- Flexible with different kinds of steak
- You can use it as soon as it arrives
- Pricey for limited functionality
Whynter Freestanding Refrigerator
Thinking about dry-aging your steaks in a refrigerator? The Whynter Freestanding Beverage Refrigerator with Digital Control and Internal Fan could be the option for you. How is it? Let’s take a look at some of the pros and cons of this refrigerator.
The Whynter Freestanding Beverage Refrigerator comes with a sleek, neutral design that will fit in naturally with your decor. This Whynter features a stainless steel trimmed glass door, a smooth black cabinet, soft interior LED lighting control with a switch and tempered double-pane glass to provide UV protection.
The Whynter Freestanding Beverage Refrigerator’s small size makes it convenient to move and to fit anywhere so that you can track your meat where it makes sense for you. This is an added bonus if you’re short of space.
The Whynter comes equipped with a built-in door lock and two keys. This is an essential feature to ensure that your meat is securely stowed away. As meat is susceptible to bacteria, keeping the device locked and safe from cross-contamination is important.
As a beverage refrigerator, the Whynter is great at ensuring adequate coolness. Temperatures range from 34-43°F and can be adjusted on a touchscreen that displays temperatures in both Fahrenheit and Celsius. An internal fan forces air distribution evenly for efficient cooling throughout the cabinet.
The Whynter’s cabinet features 4 shelves that slide out fully and 1 chrome wire shelf that halfway slides out. These adjusting shelves make it easier to organize contents according to category.
The Whynter is a freestanding unit that won’t leave you bound to a larger setup. You’re free to move the unit as you like and can fit the unit in seamlessly with its surroundings.
A big concern with any device is its ecological footprints. The Whynter uses eco-friendly refrigerants so that you never need to worry about the fridge’s negative impact on the environment. Enjoying your favorite steaks without hurting the planet is a double win.
The Whynter unit can remember the previous temperature setting if power is temporarily lost and will reset at the same temperature when power is restored. This is a big plus, whether you’re in an area where power outages happen regularly or almost never. The delicate process of dry-aging doesn’t have to be ruined in a moment by inaccurate temperature resets. This is an especially big win if a power outage occurs when you’re out of town.
The Whynter device has an automatic defrost system, with condensation collecting in a drip tray below. Defrosting can be time consuming and irritating. Not to mention, having to remove dry-aging meat from a refrigerator for defrosting can be a huge setback as it disrupts the environment and the meat’s temperature, humidity, and bacteria exposure. An automatic function is a huge plus if you’re considering dry-aging on a regular basis.
- Coms with an automatic defrosting system
- Easy to store
- Adjustable temperature
- Sleek design
- Not specifically designed for dry aging
- Can be noisy
Why Dry Age Meat at Home
If you’ve ever tasted a nicely dry-aged steak (especially if reverse-seared), you know well the desperation to recreate the magic. You’ve likely seen the “expensive meat” section of the grocery store and dry-aged meat on that side of the steakhouse menu that makes your jaw go slack. Ever wondered why dry-aged meat is such a delicacy?
Dry-aging meat is an art, full of complexities and options, and requires a premium piece of meat. Dry-aged meat, because of the process required, is much more prized than non-aged or wet-aged meat. An important distinction to make when beginning your dry-aging journey is to distinguish dry-aging from wet-aging.
Wet-aged steak is generally the kind that you find in supermarkets and was invented in the 1950s. This involves vacuum sealing steaks (just as when you seal them to prevent freezer burn). Wet-aged steaks tend to have a more metallic taste. This is because wet-aging seals off oxygen and enzymatic changes.
Dry aging, on the contrary, has been around for centuries. Dry aging is generally the preferred method as drying aged meat bears richer, fuller, more complex flavors with exposure to oxygen and enzymatic transformations. Dry aging affects flavor and tenderness and requires great skill, care, and a good selection of meat.
With practice, dry aging meat at home yields great cuts of meat without restaurant expenses. It’s worth it financially and from a customization standpoint to learn to dry-age meat in the home.
Dry aging meat allows you to enjoy tender, flavorful meat anytime. Not to mention, meat dry-aged at home is a great way to entertain guests or entertain your family on a more regular basis with the savings you gain from not eating out. Ready to get started?
How to Dry Age Meat at Home
Dry aging meat is not without its costs, both in the required meat and equipment. Drying aging, in short, is going to take more than a box or a bag to do correctly, and the meat that you begin with will shrink in the process. However, for many, the outcome is worth the start-up costs to save money on steaks worth their weight in flavor and tenderness. Here is the comprehensive process to get you started dry-aging meat at home.
Choosing Your Meat
When dry aging, cut size is important. Dry aging dehydrates and shrinks meat. You’ll never want to dry age pre-cut steaks because you’ll be left with just a sliver of meat. You’ll want to dry age subprimal or bigger muscles that are not yet cut. Try a big slab of ribeye bone or a strip loin with the bone still in. You’ll want to find meat still on the bone as it will make a big improvement in taste, and you can cut the bone away when trimming the meat without losing any meat.
The importance of quality meat can’t be overstated. Choice grade or better and a minimum degree of marbling are best. Avoid very lean cuts (such as the “Round” cut). Lower-grade and lean meat fails to deliver intense flavors because of such little marbling. Fat delivers flavor, and little fat means you lack the fundamentals for taste. A good rule of thumb is to start with a large slab of top-grade, USDA Prime meat.
Steak is one of the most famous meats to dry-age. However, pork, poultry, fish, and venison can also be aged. Some devices are tailored specifically toward certain meat, so keep this in mind when selecting devices and meat cuts. When in doubt, consult your device manufacturer to determine compatibility.
If you want to ensure that you have enough, you can start with a large rib roast with at least three ribs. A cut with a thick layer of fat on the surface is also important so that only the fat shrinks as it ages. Experiment with different cuts, such as beef ribs. Grain or grass-fed is not an issue with dry aging, only a matter of personal taste.
Trimming rind is essential. Brisket isn’t the best option for dry aging as the thin cut may already be too thin to trim away and may not absorb the smoke flavor. When trimming steaks, be careful only to trim the exterior fat to the extent possible. You don’t want to cut the actual steak at this point, so keep your trimming slow and easy to ensure that the meat itself is preserved.
Once you’ve selected your meat cut, a final tip is to ensure that the meat is not wrapped or bagged but ‘naked’ as you place them into a fridge or aging device. Bagged meat would render it ‘wet aging.’
Starting the Process
Here are a few things to consider when setting up your devices:
If you are using a device other than a standard refrigerator, your device will include instructions that will be highly specific to your device. Be sure to read instructions carefully, consult the company with any questions or concerns. See if you can find demos (the company website or Youtube are a resource for product videos). When in doubt, consult the manufacturer.
If using a standard fridge, will need a fridge exclusively dedicated to the dry-aging process, a tray, a wire cooking rack, and a small fan. Avoid storing other items in the fridge as you’re creating an environment designed exclusively for aging meat. Cross-contamination is a big concern and could show up in flavors of your dry-aged meat. Other items will also skew moisture levels in the dry-aging process.
A tiny fridge could easily become inadequate if you’re thinking of curing a good selection of meats, as you can imagine. Avoid a fridge that is too narrow as this will constrict the airflow (which is an important component in the aging process).
If a fridge is too large and you’re only aging a few pieces at a time, humidity could build up and spoil the meat.
Wire shelves, rather than glass shelves, are important to ensure adequate airflow. A fridge is an investment, so make sure that you have a size that suits your needs.
If you’re using a standard fridge, set up your small fan inside, put a wire rack over a tray (the tray will collect condensation and dripping), and ensure that the rack is elevated enough to allow airflow on all possible sides of the beef. Place your naked (no bags or wrapping) cut of meat over the wire rack. Next, slide the meat, rack, and tray into the refrigerator, and wait.
When placing your meat in the refrigerator, make sure that it’s positioned directly in the middle of the rack and that the tray and rack support it completely all the way around.
While it’s acceptable to open the door to check on your meat occasionally, keep in mind that opening the door can invite other odors in and disrupt moisture levels.
Your fridge doesn’t have to have a glass door, but it allows you to check your meat aging progress. This is important, particularly if you’re just getting started, making it easier not to have to open the door and disrupt the aging climate you’ve set up to get a look.
Disinfect your fridge before your first use. A mix of water and bleach over all of the inside will do the trick.
Airflow is Crucial
Though we’ve already touched on this, airflow plays an essential role in the success of your dry-aged meat. Fortunately, it’s easy and affordable to ensure good circulation within your fridge. A standalone fan (those that can swivel are even better), for example, can ensure that air is always pulsing.
Humidity is another crucial factor and will need to be kept within the safe zone for dry aging. Certified Angus Beef® recommends a 75-85% humidity range. Too much humidity creates optimal conditions for bacteria growth, a spoiled flavor, and terrible odors. If humidity is too low, on the other hand, the meat will shrink too much. Too much humidity also causes drying, negatively impacting the muscle, forming air pockets, and gaps in the meat.
Many locations will not suffer from humidity issues as humidity up to around 80% isn’t an issue. In cold weather, you can safeguard against humidity by ensuring that the meat fridge is fully stocked so that water within the products will help create some humidity. However, if you live in extremely dry or moist areas, you’ll want to invest in a fridge with humidity controls.
Although humidity controls are an extra expense, you’ll find it’s the easiest way to control the humidity in extreme conditions. A big salt block within your fridge can help control humidity if the levels are just above 85%. The salt block can act as an air purifier that lowers humidity and controls harmful bacteria.
Refrigerator temperature is another crucial component of successful dry aging. Ensure that your refrigerator temperature is set above 29 °F and below 40 °F. An optimal range is between 36-39 °F. Even if your refrigerator has the temperature displayed, a standalone thermometer in the fridge is a good investment to double-check the temperature. Temperatures above 40 °F will lead to oxidation and rancid meat.
Starter meat is an aged piece of meat from a butcher shop or another provider that you can use to smear the fridge’s interior to introduce it to the correct bacteria. That exposure can help your fridge start the dry-aging process with the correct interior climate from the beginning.The microclimate within your refrigerator could take longer to optimize otherwise, which will result in tender, more intense meat with a slightly different taste compared to mature, dry-aged meat.
To understand the importance of good mold in dry-aging, it’s helpful to think of terroir in winemaking. Terroir means the unique local conditions in which the unique flavors and aromas are curated in certain wines. This creates taste and aroma profiles so unique that you can learn to identify whether a wine came from a certain city in California or Cicily.
Terroirs exist in the world of dry-aging as well. Your fridge mold is influenced by your local atmosphere, which will affect the flavors and aromas in your dry-aged meat. Even if your starter meat comes from a different location, it will evolve to reflect the influences present in your local area. Bacteria present on people opening the door, and handling the meat will also affect how your meat develops its unique flavors and aromas.
It goes without saying that all mold is not benign. Colored mold is generally nothing to worry about, but black mold is a reason to stop the aging process, disinfect the area, and start the process again. Many, however, tend not to like mold at all. The decision whether to allow mold, as long as it’s not black, is a matter of personal preference.
How Long to Dry Age Meat
Choosing when to stop the process is part of the art rather than the science of dry-aging meat. A general rule to keep in mind is that dry aging is focused on both tenderization and flavor enhancement. After roughly 28 days, the meat reaches maximum tenderness. After that point, continuing the process is more about flavor intensity and controlling decomposition.
There are other factors to consider as well, such as the meat cut you’re using, the kind of mold present, the intensity of your mold strains, the amount of mold present, and your personal preference. Though there is no simple answer to how long you should dry age your meat, 30 days is a good threshold for developing dry-aged flavors. You can leave it longer, however. Over time, you’ll get a sense of what your personal palate prefers.
Another consideration is how much of the meat you’re willing to lose. The longer you dry age your meat, the tougher and thicker your rind will be. This is how much you’ll need to cut out. Dry aging a long time will produce flavorful meat, but less of it as it shrinks more and more over time. A good rule of thumb is to try dry aging a shorter time before you try to dry age meat longer.
If you’re only looking for added steak tenderness, 2-4 weeks should suffice. Beef will be noticeably tenderized in 2-4 weeks. If it’s that famed, dry-aged flavor you’re looking for, 4-6 weeks is a good timeframe. If you love those extra flavors and aromas, you can age your meat 6-8 weeks or more.
If you’re very new to dry-aging, you can taste an occasional sample of the meat to decide how long to keep it inside. Avoid frequent taste tests, as opening the door many times will throw off the delicate balance of moisture, mold, and temperature.
Contrary to popular belief, you cannot dry-age steaks lined up on paper towels or cheesecloth in a refrigerator for four to seven days. This method can dehydrate steaks and intensify the flavor. However, beef must age at least 14 days for enzymes to tenderize fibers well. 21 days lead to complex flavors. One week in a refrigerator is not even close to long enough to dry-age steaks.
Keep in mind that dry-aging time depends on the type of meat. Duck, turkey, and fish tend to gain maximum results within three to four days. Chicken can dry age within one to two weeks (brining first is recommended). Venison and pork are optimized between three and four weeks.
You can also flash boil sensitive meats (such as duck) before dry aging to lower bacteria’s risk. Removing and cleaning fish meat each day can discourage bacterial growth.
Preparing and Cooking Dry Aged Meat
While it’s crucial to set up the dry-aging process well, the meat treatment afterward is just as important. There are two considerations you’ll want to keep in mind as you’re preparing and cooking your meat: food safety and palatability.
All is for naught if you don’t adhere to food safety. When you sear your meat, the meat’s surface immediately reacts with very high heat, and any bacteria dies. The middle of the steak is sterile and has never been exposed to bacteria, so it’s okay to keep it rare. You must cook the outside of the steak to kill that bacteria-exposed surface and be safe, however.
Bones are an important consideration when cooking. Because of bones’ rigidity and shape, they won’t completely come into contact with the heat. Furthermore, it’s not likely that the heat will contact the porous, hollow bone interior enough to bring it to a safe temperature of 165 °F. Bones, in short, remain susceptible to bacteria and mold.
How do you safely take care of the bone? You can either serve your steak with bones removed, cut them out, cook your steak as you normally would, or roast the bones at a very high heat (which will improve the taste) and serve them together with the meat.
Palatableness is how enjoyable your meat is to eat and is, by definition, a matter of personal preference. Flavor and texture are big concerns here, and, assuming you’ve aged the meat well and it’s not spoiled, you’ll likely want to concern yourself with the rind (the hard outer layer) that’s formed as it’s aged. The rind doesn’t soften when cooked, so you’ll want to remove it.
When your allotted time frame is up, remove the meat from the fridge. You’ll notice that the outside will be dry, and the colors will range from a purplish-brown to a deep red. You may notice mold. Trim the meat and exterior fat, cut the meat into individual pieces as you desire. A recommended thickness is 1¼ to 2 inches, though some prefer 3 inches or more.
When trimming the rind, be sure to remove all of it, as leaving it is a major barrier to a tender, delicious steak. You may see, however, that part of the muscle has turned brown. This is generally just oxidized myoglobin and is not harmful. Feel the darker areas to ensure that they don’t have the rind’s hardness, and they should be just fine to eat.
Regarding color changes, this brown color is likely just harmless oxidized myoglobin. However, if the meat was close to an air pocket or seam with mold, this is more concerning. Touch and smell should let you know. However, if you have doubts, it’s better to cut it out than to risk food poisoning.
Humidity, airflow, and temperature can be trickier to adjust and control without professional equipment. Thus, at-home dry-aging is usually less precise than when done professionally. Replicating your favorite restaurant or butcher’s steaks, therefore, can be difficult, if not impossible. You can, however, achieve a taste that you still love at a fraction of the cost.
Summarizing the Process
To summarize the dry-aging process, the time, expense, and care you take to create a well-aged steak will be well worth all you put into it. You will have saved yourself a lot of money and will receive a customized steak just the way you like it (no more praying the chef delivers on your requests). You’ll become the envy of family dinners and parties. You’ll also be able to revel in your newfound understanding of how your beloved develops best.
When dry aging, make sure that the device you’re using is a dedicated food space for your meat. This can’t be stressed enough. There are numerous reasons why this is important. A fridge that’s often opened and closed doesn’t preserve the safe, closed-off space to safely dry age. Temperature changes, harmful bacteria exposure, and flavor tainting are some of the biggest concerns.
On a similar note, don’t store other nonfood items in your fridge either, aside from a fan. As mentioned, the fridge is used to curate special molds, and nothing, even nonfood items, should come in and out, tainting the delicate mold atmosphere. Not to mention, other nonfood items can also cross-contaminate your naked meat, which will affect the fat’s flavor profiles.
This is largely a matter of common sense, but it’s important to understand the difference between a rancid and a heavily dry-aged steak. Like cheeses and wines, aging develops special tastes in steaks, and everyone has a favorite that they figure out over time. No one likes a rancid steak, however. Not to mention, the taste is hardly a bigger concern than the danger of rancid meat.
Avoid using whole muscles (such as subprimal) that can be cut away from the tough rind.
Finally, avoid seasoning meat before aging it or rinsing/washing meat after it’s aged. You’re welcome to season each steak as you prepare to cook it.
It’s not a quick and easy process to dry-age meat, but the best things in life are worth waiting for. If you’ve ever had a great piece of dry-aged meat, you’re sure to agree that it’s one of those best things in life that deserve all the patience, care, and nurturing to develop that famous tender, juicy flavor.
Now that we’ve explored your options for dry-aging meat refrigerators, made a case for this long, sensitive process, and covered a comprehensive guide, it’s time to get started! Good luck with your next little piece of heaven!