Picture the scene: you’re at a classic steakhouse, the kind with tall leather banquettes, wood-paneled walls and maitre d’s in white tuxedo jackets. The extensive wine list intrigues you, the Bearnaise sauce calls your name, and the dry aged steak must be tasted. If it’s ten dollars more than the filet mignon, surely it’s the best cut on the menu.
But... ever wonder what you’re paying for?
Meat Fabrication class focuses on the different ways to concentrate flavor in meat, and dry aging- hanging large cuts of beef in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room for several weeks- is one of them. Historically, meat products were preserved either with a heavy, dry salt cure or through this dry aging process. The former method gives us prosciutto and jamón serrano (how thankful are we!), while the latter produces the valuable dry aged steak. However, the reason an aged steak is so expensive is because dry aging is actually a form of controlled spoilage; the outer section will have to be trimmed off to reveal the flavor-concentrated center. Once trimmed, the remaining steak is sublime but expensive because so much meat has been lost to spoilage. When you order an aged steak, you pay for more complex flavors, yes, but you’re also paying for a large portion of meat that isn’t on your plate.
This discovery will not deter me from ordering aged steaks in the future; I’m just amazed to learn the elaborate preparations and efforts that haute cuisine requires.