What’s the difference between wet aged beef and dry aged beef?

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Aging beef is an important part of developing its flavor and tenderness.  Unaged Beef is considered to be tough and less tasty by most beef fans.  There are two methods generally used for aging beef:

Wet Aged Beef is the most common.  Once the meat has been butchered and separated into primals, steaks, or other cuts, it is carefully wrapped (usually in sealed plastic) and aged under controlled, refrigerated conditions. 

The amount of time depends on the purveyor….many meat producers only wet age their beef for a few days in order to save time and money.  Game meat is also frequently wet aged prior to sale.

Dry Aged Beef is believed by many to offer better flavor and texture than wet aged beef (although this may in part be due to the fact that most wet-aged beef is not aged for very long), but is harder to find, and significantly more expensive.  This is because dry aging beef takes much longer than wet aging, and during the dry aging process the beef loses moisture (shrinking) and must be trimmed. 

Dry aging takes skill and very specific facilities to ensure the aged beef is still safe to eat.  In essence when buying dry aged beef you’re also paying for all the meat lost while it aged, plus the time, space & expertise that went into aging it.

A note about burger meat: ground meat & hamburger patties are generally not aged or ground from aged beef for safety reasons.  There is a chance that  bacteria that developed on the surface of the meat while aging (which would be quickly killed if the meat was prepared as a steak or roast) could be mixed into the middle of the ground meat, where they have a higher chance of surviving the cooking process.

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