Things to Know About Purchasing Beef

The processing of beef factors into how it tastes. Here are some things to know about the beef we buy, whether it’s in the package at the supermarket or on the menu at your favorite restaurant.

Dry-Aged or Wet-Aged Beef?
Aging allows natural enzymes to break down the hard, connective tissues in meats. There are two aging techniques and they yield different flavors and textures: dry-aging and wet-aging. Dry-aging is the older method of aging beef.

Merrimans grass fed beef

Dry-aged, grass-fed beef filet is served at Merriman's Waimea.

Differences in Processing
Dry-aging is done by hanging the carcass in a controlled, closely watched, refrigerated environment with 85 percent humidity and plenty of cross-ventilation. During dry aging, moisture is evaporated from the muscle, shrinking the meat by up to one-third and creating a greater concentration of beef favor and taste. Beef to be dry-aged should have a substantial amount of marbling (fat evenly distributed throughout the meat) to be effective. The process involves storage space and supervision for up to four weeks.

Wet-aged beef is “ripened” in it’s own juices in a vacuum-sealed bag. It is less costly and by far the most used technique for aging beef today. It takes less time (a few days) and none of the beef quantity is lost in the process.

Comparing Product
Dry-aged beef is more pungent in flavor and more aromatic; it’s generally regarded as a superior-tasting beef. Because of these attributes, some chefs require it at finer restaurants. It is sold to consumers at gourmet markets.

Wet-aged beef dominates the commercial market. It is the beef we typically buy at the supermarket and eat every day, whether preparing it at home or enjoying it at moderately-priced restaurants.

Where to Get Dry Aged Beef on the Big Island
On the Big Isle, it’s sold at Island Gourmet Market at Queens’ MarketPlace in Waikoloa. The market sells only dry-aged, grass-fed beef and offers a dozen different cuts. If you buy beef in bulk, you can custom order a side of dry-aged, grass-fed beef from Kulana Foods in Hilo, 959-9144. For details on ordering beef in bulk, check out our recent blog, “Going Beyond the Farmers Market.”

Mauna Kea grass fed beefDry-aged, grass-fed beef is also sold at fine Big Island restaurants and resorts, such as Merriman’s Waimea and the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel. For example, the Mauna Kea Beach Hotel’s Manta restaurant serves dry-aged, grass-fed beef filet for dinner a variety of ways, including with housemade fries, Mauishire Steak Sauce and garden herb chimicchuri (pictured). To find out if your favorite restaurant serves dry-aged beef, ask when making your reservations.

Enjoy Dry-Aged Beef at Taste of the Hawaiian Range
Attendees at Mealani’s Taste of the Hawaiian Range enjoy dry aged, grass-fed beef at all the chef tasting stations. Beef served at Taste of the Hawaiian Range is dry-aged for 21 days at Kulana Foods in Hilo, the harvesting plant donates its services for the event. With each culinary station receiving 100 pounds of meat, Kulana is dry-aging about 3,200 pounds of product in 2010.

Flash-Frozen Beef
Meat is rapidly frozen during flash freezing. The process enriches all the flavors, juices, vitamins and minerals and allows the beef to keep perfectly for long periods. The beef remains frozen until it is thawed, ensuring the freshness and quality from when it was originally frozen. When buying frozen meat, ask if it was flash frozen for optimum quality.

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