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Old 02-15-2012, 02:17 PM   #1
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Steak well past its prime?

My friend has a theory that steaks get better as they age in his refrigerator, even up to the point that they just begin to smell a little bit "off" odor. He says this is better than buying a freshly butchered stake and eating it the same day.

I've experimented a bit, buying steaks that were on the last day of their "use by" and offered as a 50% off at the market. I might have even let them go a couple days past the "use by" date.

I'm no expert (far from it) but I think his theory works. As a result I have no reluctance to purchase such steaks put on sale to get them out of the store by the "use by" date.

Discuss?

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Old 02-15-2012, 02:38 PM   #2
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As beef ages, enzymes break down the flesh and connective tissue to make it more flavorful. The meat also loses moisture. Aging is considered controlled spoilage so you have to be careful. Beef is aged under controlled conditions to maximize the benefit while preventing spoilage that would ruin the meat.
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Old 02-15-2012, 03:51 PM   #3
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read up on Dry aging, and it's very particular set of conditions. Not something I would try at home. Best reserved for larger primals of beef.
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Old 02-15-2012, 04:30 PM   #4
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That's my point, Tat. AFAIK dry aging is used on the beef sides before the butcher cuts them up and puts them in little plastic containers. (And what I'm suggesting isn't dry aging, not when it's in a plastic package.)

And yet my friend swears by letting the package go to at least the "use by" date and I'm pretty sure he does it much longer. (A week?) I haven't gone much beyond a couple days, but I don't worry about the "use by" date much anymore at the market, because unless they're really messing up there won't be any meat on the store shelf that is past "use by" date.

I'm just saying that steak at the "use by" date might be better than one that got cut off the side that very morning. And even if it's not the safest idea going many days past the "use by" date it seems to work, at least to me it seems to work.

My friend who suggested this is an Internet friend. I've never met him in person but I've seen so many pictures of his cooking and the results, and discussed it with him so many times that I really respect his knowledge as an accomplished amateur chef (mostly grilling, smoking, barbecuing, meat stuff).

It's just a discussion point. Maybe I'm wrong but I thought it would be interesting to toss it into the DC discussion pit and let the fierce chefs rip the idea to shreds.
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Old 02-15-2012, 04:38 PM   #5
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I hear ya, GC.

While I can kinda see where your friend is coming from, you won't see me doing it, and not really because it's wrong, but I couldn't let a steak sit that long without it getting eaten.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:12 PM   #6
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I think your friend has a valid point Greg.

I was raised in a "mom & pop" meat market/grocery store circa 1948-1963. Dad's meat was the best available, and his meat case was beautiful to behold. People came from miles around to buy meat there, and although his high prices were reflective of the quality and personal service, he did a wonderful business. Nothing was "prepackaged" and there certainly wasn't such a thing as an expiration date on the hand wrapped packages.
Because my Dad was also frugal, the steaks that we enjoyed eating as a family, were the ones that were "too dark" to sell. I've always said I didn't know meat was red, or that grapes came on stems till I was married. He often said the customers were missing out on the dark steaks and I later learned he was so right when I left home and started buying Super Market packaged meat. I often buy steaks in the marked down bin like you and your friend. Dark steaks always have more flavor.
Thanks for the opportunity to walk down memory lane.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:23 PM   #7
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That's my point, Tat. AFAIK dry aging is used on the beef sides before the butcher cuts them up and puts them in little plastic containers. (And what I'm suggesting isn't dry aging, not when it's in a plastic package.)
The same concepts of dry aging apply though. The difference is that left in the plastic wrap it will spoil, whereas if you are properly dry aging it you can keep it good for months before you cook it up.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:23 PM   #8
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Yeah Kayelle, in fact that is what I'm referring to, keeping the steak to the point that there may be noticeable color change. I used to associate that with a "yuck factor," it's so old that the color is all messed up. I don't let the color bother me anymore.

I hear that many (some? all?) meats are packed with extra oxygen to keep the color red, much redder than you would get with plain air. Is that right?
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:31 PM   #9
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Yeah Kayelle, in fact that is what I'm referring to, keeping the steak to the point that there may be noticeable color change. I used to associate that with a "yuck factor," it's so old that the color is all messed up. I don't let the color bother me anymore.

I hear that many (some? all?) meats are packed with extra oxygen to keep the color red, much redder than you would get with plain air. Is that right?
I think they use nitrogen. I believe that oxygen would cause darkening much faster.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:32 PM   #10
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I hear that many (some? all?) meats are packed with extra oxygen to keep the color red, much redder than you would get with plain air. Is that right?
True. Many places (aka not proper butcher shops) manipulate the meat or packaging in some way to keep the meat redder. When I want a nice steak I head over to our co-op and the steaks there are not as red as the ones I can pick up at Safeway.

The co-op steaks taste better too

I have always wanted to do dry aging. I don't really have what I need to do it properly though, sadly. I don't want to take the risk of hodge-podging it since I have a strong preference for not giving myself food poisoning.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:43 PM   #11
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The same concepts of dry aging apply though. The difference is that left in the plastic wrap it will spoil, whereas if you are properly dry aging it you can keep it good for months before you cook it up.
Very little meat at the supermarket is dry aged, and if it were and then cut and placed in a plastic container, you no longer are dry aging. Dry aging requires a low humidity, low temperature environment with air circulation around each primal. In the process, the meat will lose a large percentage of its weight. Few, if any, supermarkets are set up to dry age.

Wet aging is more suitable for the home and comes close to achieving equal results. All that is necessary is purchasing primal cuts in Cryovac, and leaving them as is in a referigerator for a period of weeks in their original package.

While I believe that the best and least expensive meat in a supermarket is found in the reduced meat section, I would pass on any that is off color. It is near its end.
Once cut into serving pieces, meat will spoil instead of age.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:55 PM   #12
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I think they use nitrogen. I believe that oxygen would cause darkening much faster.
Yeah that sounds better, nitrogen not oxygen. Maybe I was thinking of oxygen making hemoglobin in blood red...

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I don't want to take the risk of hodge-podging it since I have a strong preference for not giving myself food poisoning.
Here in the topic I'm discussing aging in the package within reason, and I'm also assuming a safe storage temperature. My basis is that the supermarket has safety experts who have determined what the safe package life is for the product, and that they have built in a margin for error. Of course we don't know what that margin is.

The concept is that maybe that steak right in the package might get better after spending a few days in your refrigerator, rather than just assuming that the freshest package purchased on the first day it was laid out in the store would be the best tasting steak. I think it's quite possible that the latter, freshest while best, might be a misconception.
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Old 02-15-2012, 05:56 PM   #13
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It's not oxygen or nitrogen that's injected into packaging to keep meat red. They use carbon monoxide.

Edit: they may not use it anymore, but they did at one time.
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Old 02-15-2012, 06:32 PM   #14
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Kayelle, that's even better! And I recall that people who have been subjected to carbon monoxide poisoning, their skin turns red.

I too don't know what they use these days, if anything.
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Old 02-15-2012, 07:31 PM   #15
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They gas meat cases with Nitrogen, yes. Plastic wrap steaks are not gassed with anything. . .the high sided containers, with the single film across the top(I am not sure what exactly they are called)those are ones that have been gassed. NOT the simple styro flat pack containers, with the sponge in the bottom, but the high sided, all plastic containers.

As for individual steaks, dry aging is a moot point, by the time you trim the green, you wouldn't be left with much of a steak, that is why it is for large primals, and when sold in stores, you can normally see the area it is being stored, and it's all cut to order. . .at least that's how it is here.
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Old 02-15-2012, 08:39 PM   #16
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i've found that there's a trade off with home aging steaks. while the steaks definitely get more tender, they don't taste as goood. a freshly cut chunk of cow definitely tastes better, imo.

a real dry aged steak comes from the middle cuts of a much larger piece, and there's a lot wasted that's unuseable. dry aging at home seems impractical since, as tatt said, it's done with a larger primal cut.
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Old 02-15-2012, 09:02 PM   #17
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i've found that there's a trade off with home aging steaks. while the steaks definitely get more tender, they don't taste as goood. a freshly cut chunk of cow definitely tastes better, imo.

a real dry aged steak comes from the middle cuts of a much larger piece, and there's a lot wasted that's unuseable. dry aging at home seems impractical since, as tatt said, it's done with a larger primal cut.
If you have the know-how and plan on cooking for a lot of people, it works great. If you're cooking for one person, not so much.

It's like getting a nice big prime rib. Costs $150, but with how many people it feeds it comes out to $15 a plate.
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Old 02-15-2012, 09:40 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by visionviper View Post
If you have the know-how and plan on cooking for a lot of people, it works great. If you're cooking for one person, not so much.

It's like getting a nice big prime rib. Costs $150, but with how many people it feeds it comes out to $15 a plate.
If you have the know how, it doesn't matter for how many people you are cooking, I can go get a whole 0x1 or 1x1, do my thing, portion and hold/freeze.

Am I going to go through all that for one/two steaks at a time, heck no. I go to the butchers, say, "Hey Butcher, lemme see your cut ends(not end cuts)", and look at the marbling, and have him whack me off a couple.


Like I said earlier, A steak is kinda like a Guinness, if it's in the fridge, it's there to be consumed, and the sooner the better.
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Old 02-15-2012, 09:42 PM   #19
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yeah, i guess if you're really motivated to do it yourself, and for a large group it works.
i'd rather pay $20 + per steak and have a pro do it properly.
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Old 02-15-2012, 09:58 PM   #20
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BT I'm not discussing real dry aging (at home or anywhere). I'm discussing pop aging in the package. This is junk cooking! I was just curios for the take of my cooking expert friends here at DC.

This topic has nothing to do with real dry aging of meat, at home or anywhere else. I'm just suggesting that what happens in the package after you take it home from the supermarket might not be all bad, and that maybe those "last day" sales are a good way to save money and get a tasty steak too.
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