Q. Once you dry-age beef in the refrigerator, can you freeze it?
Thelma Maxwell, Fort Wayne, Indiana
A. Yes. The only issue to consider is the quality of the meat after freezing, especially if you freeze it for a long period of time.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) says most anything can be frozen for a long period of time and remain safe. The quality, however, might suffer.
When beef is dry-aged, it loses moisture, the enzymes break down and it shrinks. The upside is that dry-aging makes the flavor more concentrated and the meat tender.
Before freezing, trim away much of the hard and dried layer of meat and fat. Freeze the dry-aged beef within seven days of dry-aging. Wrap the dry-aged beef (be it individual steaks or a whole roast) well in heavy duty plastic wrap or butcher paper. Place it in a plastic sealable bag with the air squeezed out. You can cryovac the beef, too.
Aging beef is, well, an age-old process. When meat is aged for a long time, the process needs to be well-controlled.
At most grocery stores, beef is aged just a short time — typically the time it takes the meat to get from the processing plant to the store. Many upscale and specialty meat markets sell dry-aged beef, while other stores wet-age their beef for several weeks. At Fairway Packing in Detroit, they use a combination of wet aging and dry aging.
What’s the difference between the two?
Dry-aging: Beef is set on racks to air-dry at a humidity-controlled 34-36 degrees. After about 11 days, enzymes begin to break down. Moisture is lost, and the meat shrinks and turns dark. Flavors become more concentrated, and the beef becomes very tender.
Wet-aging: Beef is stored in its vacuum packaging. Moisture isn’t lost, but the meat is tenderized. The flavor is not as intense as dry-aged beef.
It’s possible to dry-age beef at home for a short period of time with decent results.
Here’s what to do:
▪ Make sure the temperature of your refrigerator is at 40 degrees or below. Use a thermometer to make sure.
▪ Use good quality meat. Buy big roasts or thick steaks.
▪ For individual steaks, wrap whole roasts or individual steaks in several layers of cheesecloth and set the meat in the refrigerator for five to seven days. The cheesecloth is unwrapped and rewrapped on the meat daily. Or place the meat on a rimmed platter. Pat it dry well with paper towels and set it in the refrigerator. Dry age meat that’s not wrapped in cheesecloth for at least two days for the best results.
▪ After dry-aging, shave off any dark layers and dried fat. Season the meat all over with salt and freshly ground black pepper or use your favorite seasoning or rub. Once the meat is seasoned, let it rest at least another hour (at room temperature) or in the refrigerator up to six hours.
BEEF TENDERLOIN WITH WHISKEY MUSHROOMS
2 beef tenderloin fillets (5 to 6 ounces each)
Medium coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon canola oil (use more if you’re making 4 or more fillets), divided
1 tablespoon butter
8 ounces small crimini mushrooms, wiped clean and quartered
1/4 cup whiskey (preferably Maple Bourbon whiskey)
1 package beef demi-glace (such as Meijer Gold brand)
1/4 cup water or red wine
1/3 cup reduced-sodium beef broth mixed with 1 teaspoon cornstarch
Heat oven to 375 degrees. Remove the beef from the refrigerator at least 30 minutes before cooking. Pat the fillets dry with paper towel. Season both sides with salt and pepper.
In a large skillet, heat about half of the canola oil. When it’s hot, add the beef fillets (don’t crowd them) and sear on both sides, about 2 to 3 minutes or until well-browned. Transfer them to a sided baking sheet and place in the oven to finish the cooking, about 12-15 minutes for medium rare, depending on the thickness. Remove from the oven and transfer the fillets to a platter and keep warm.
Meanwhile, in the same skillet you seared the beef, heat the remaining canola oil and butter. Add the mushrooms and sauté until they release their juices and brown, about 5 to 6 minutes. Continue cooking until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add the whiskey and cook, while stirring, until most of the liquid has absorbed again.
To make the sauce, follow the package directions and add water or red wine and the beef broth. Bring to just a boil and reduce heat to a simmer until it reaches a sauce consistency. If the sauce is too thick, thin it with water. If desired, pour any juices on the baking sheet from the beef into the sauce. Serve fillets with the sauce. Serves 2.