By Michelin-starred chef Shaun Rankin, of Ormer Mayfair
Personally I think there is nothing better than entering a restaurant and seeing beautiful cuts of meat hanging in a dry ageing cabinet. They are fabulous sales tools, resulting in the customer already knowing what they want before they even sit down at the table.
Buying the right meat I like to make sure the meats come into my kitchens around the 21-day mark. Most restaurants serve out on a 35 to 50 day window, allowing them to rotate the stock efficiently. I would recommend using two cabinets, so the meats can be rotated allowing you to control your orders. Use one cabinet for meat 21 days and up, and the second for holding the products that are ready. Of course, if you wish to take your meat further in age, from 50 to 100 days, then no problem. A great tip is to melt some lard and brush it on the ends of the meat, as this will reduce shrinkage.
Make sure you label the meats clearly with the date Dry ageing is all about consistency and creating the correct environment. The most inconsistent part of the whole process is of course the meat! This is because no two pieces are the same, just as no two cattle are the same. Dry ageing is also about keeping the good bacteria inside the meat and not allowing bad bacteria in. What you are trying to achieve is a natural breakdown of the structure and fibres. This process will lead to tender, firm and well-flavoured meat with that distinct aged flavour. Typical signs of bad bacteria include green showing on the flesh and spores of unhealthy mould. This is when you will know that your cabinet settings are not correct and there is too much moisture inside. Straight away remove the meat, cut the edges off and start the process again. I tend to work on the basis of my temperature being 2°C and humidity being around 55%. There’s so much more you can try out in a meat ageing cabinet, from making your own chorizo or charcuterie to drying your own hams on the bone.
The meat ageing cabinet Choosing the right equipment for the operation is essential. If you’re dry ageing meats, or making your own charcuterie, you need a cabinet you can rely on, such as the new model from Precision. A meat ageing refrigerator needs to deliver the perfect temperature-and humidity-controlled environment for meat ageing. The temperature needs to be accurately set between 1ºC and 4ºC and humidity controlled between 55-85%. Himalayan Rock Salt will enhance meat flavour and optimise the cabinet’s humidity regulation. Looks are important – stainless steel construction provides not just a hygienic solution but a professional appearance that can be used back or front of house, as a meat ageing sales tool.
Shaun has collaborated with British refrigeration manufacturer Precision to produce a Guide to Meat Ageing. For a free copy visit www.precision-refrigeration.co.uk.