Cooking with Dry Aged Beef at Home: Should You Salt and Marinate?

Salting and marinating are two hot topics for food enthusiasts of all skill sets. What do these steps actually do to the meat, and are they absolutely necessary for the enjoying the best dry aged beef at home? While the answer is ultimately up to the cook, a bit of information may help you decide how best to prepare your favorite cuts. McAllen Ranch offers steaks and roasts from ranch-raised, grass fed cattle. The dry-ageing process assures tender meat and rich flavor from the start. With dry aged beef, the processes of marinating and salting become purely taste-based. Incorporate the flavor of delicate herbs or robust spices if you like, but you can skip the overnight soak and enjoy gourmet meals with dry aged beef at home!

Salt is a heavy topic for gourmet chefs and home cooks. Some swear that salting beef at all damages the consistency. Others heartily argue that salting just before cooking is absolutely necessary for ultimate juiciness. Still others think beef should be salted hours in advance. These opinions may truly matter for more delicate meats such as lamb and poultry but not for high-end beef. Salting ahead of time aims to create osmosis and break down tougher proteins to produce a tender texture in the finished steak. The salt first dries out the top layer of the meat. The juices from this layer first lay atop the cut, and then later seep back in.

Advocates of longer salting insist that it produces juicier results and better depth of flavor. Opponents say that it renders the outer layers tough and can prevent meat from browning properly. These cooks salt meat just before cooking to “lock-in” the flavor without drying the beef out. Either method can tenderize tougher cuts, but it is not necessary for meat that is already tender. If you already have a great cut of dry aged beef at home, you only need to salt it if you want the flavor of salt.

The same is true for marinades. These concoctions of wet and dry ingredients often form the backbone of popular beef recipes. Marinades may be used on nearly any cut of beef – from slow cooked Sunday pot roasts to quick grilled steak. A typical marinade contains an acid to tenderize and an oil to lubricate. Bolder red wines have long been favored as marinade components due to their ability to give beef a rich, tangy flavor while tenderizing tougher cuts.

Beer is becoming a modern staple as well. The heavy malt flavors of dark beers grant beef a somewhat earthy flavor that goes well with mushrooms and root vegetables. Vinegar and citrus juice are the acids of choice for tougher cuts. These ingredients impart meat with their individual flavors as they break down connective tissue over time.

Tough cuts are the only ones that really require a marinade for tenderness. A marinade with heavy acidic qualities is undesirable for meat that is tender to begin with. Marinades for these cuts should be more about imparting flavors and less about softening the tissues. Oil is the liquid of choice in such cases. Olive oil will hold the flavor of herbs and spices while lubricating the surface for the cooking process.

While high-end beef doesn’t need to be marinated or salted before enjoying, it certainly can be! The choice is completely up to the cook. Feel free to salt and marinate your dry aged beef at home as you choose. If you think beef has a better flavor and texture when prepared one way or another, keep with it! In the end, it’s really up to your own preferences and what you want from your beef recipe. Keep a good supply of McAllen’s beef on hand, and enjoy dry aged beef at home whenever and however you like it!

Posted on Dec 13, 2012

Filed in The Beef

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