The Truth About “Dry Aging” Wild Game Meat
The Truth About “Dry Aging” Wild Game Meat
The single most important aspect in maximizing the
potential of your wild game meat
It is a well-known fact that the countries finest steakhouses “age” their meat. In the domestic meat world that’s really overkill because cattle, pigs, and sheep all have very under developed muscle structure, especially when compared to wild game animals. We need to understand that most wild birds and big game animals are the equivalent of Olympic athletes. They fly thousands of miles during migration or run up and down 10,000-foot mountains for a living. Mature game animals are tremendous physical specimens. The only natural way to break down their highly developed structure and make the meat tender, without resorting to meat hammers and artificial tenderizing agents, is to give nature time to do her work, at temperatures that discourage bacterial activity. This whole process is referred to as “dry aging” and although it may sound complicated…its actually quite simple.
“Dry aging is nothing more than the dehydration of excessive amounts of internal muscular moisture, (capillary blood and water). Without this moisture, these highly developed muscle systems lose their strength and eventually break down. Additionally, by removing the capillary blood, you rid the meat of the aggressive, so-called “gamey” flavor, often associated with wild game meats.
Capillary blood is found in muscles and it is basically the broken down bi-product of what that animal has consumed. The body filters all the nutrients from the food and discards most of the heavy waste. However, there is still the remaining residue from that food source within the capillary blood. So, when you harvest that big old buck, that’s been feeding on sage and bitterbrush for the past six years, that bi-product is very evident in the flavor of that meat.
Many folks want to soak meat in some ungodly concoction so the good stuff goes in and the bad goes out. Well, that simply doesn’t work. Yes, if you add enough of what I call, “culinary band-aides” you can mask just about any tainted flavor. But then you’ll never really experience the fabulous potential of properly handled wild game meat. I refer to this as the, “teriyaki, habenero, honey, sake/soy glaze syndrome”, where basically everything you cook tastes the same. Plus, when you soak a piece of meat, you are actually helping the fiber structure stay intact, so that big old buck will be as tough as ever and all your dinner guests will just keep thinking that all venison is tough! Both your guests and the meat deserve better.
Tips for Dry Aging –
1. When you break down your animal, leave the meat in muscle groups, (back straps, top sirloin, top round etc.)
2. DO NOT PRE CUT YOUR STEAKS! (By the time you’ve dry aged a pre-cut steak, there will be nothing left.) Plain and simple…dry aging takes time, time for the moisture to escape and time for the fibers to break down. Be patient…it WILL be worth it!
Dry Aging Steps –
1. Defrost your meat slowly in the refrigerator.
2. Once defrosted unwrap, dry off, and place on your rack.
3. Place it in the refrigerator. DO NOT COVER THE MEAT.
4. Spread the meat out so they don’t touch. Good air circulation is important.
5. Leave the silver skin on for the dry aging process; you will eventually have to trim all that off anyway after dry aging along with the dried outer “glaze”.
6. Once you’ve aged your meat enough, trim off the outer glaze and THEN go ahead and cut your steaks.
Note: The bigger the chunk of meat you age, the greater your yield.
You can check to see if your meat has been aged long enough by squeezing the meat with your fingers. A properly aged piece of meat will yield to the pressure of your fingers. One that hasn’t been aged, will bounce back like a rubber ball. Also the color of the meat will go from eggplant purple (fully saturated) to the color of a piece of veal (blood removed). The time needed for aging a particular type of meat, (as well as additional information and tips on getting the most out of your wild game meats), can be found on my website at wildeats.com/recipes.
Dry aged meat cooks a little faster than fresh meat so be sure and undercook it and always allow the meat to rest
I guarantee if you try dry aging you’ll never go back. Even your ground meat will benefit greatly from being placed in a colander in a bowl, covered and left in the refrigerator overnight. The amount of blood that comes out will blow you away. You won’t have to deal with gray hamburgers anymore.