DIY dry aged beef from the IDEAS Hub's Culture Club
Colin Peter, Technical Manager, IDEAS Hub
What do you get when a bunch of hungry culturists (cultists?) and makers want to taste dry aged beef without spending a lot of money? You get the DIY Dry Aged Beef Machine! Inspired by the designs from Alexis Ainouz, the Culture Club at the IDEAS Hub decided to give it a shot and put our creativity (and stomachs) to the test.
But you may ask, what is dry aged beef? Essentially, it is beef that has been kept at near-freezing temperatures to dry for several weeks. Two things happen to the meat; firstly, it loses its water via evaporation and develops a tough crust on its outer surface. Meanwhile, enzymes called calpains begin to break down the deeper tissues of the meat, tenderizing it and converting the proteins into glutamate or what the Japanese call, 'umami' flavour. This makes the beef develop a stronger flavour. As it tends to lose about 40 - 50% of its mass, it also tends to be more expensive per kilo.
Anyway, enough digression - let’s get back to the DIY Dry Aged Beef Machine (henceforth known as The Machine for both convenience and awe). The Machine is essentially a styrofoam box filled with some dessicant to dehumidify the internal environment, temperature and humidity sensors to ensure a consistent environment, as well as fans to circulate the air. To maintain the low temperature, we stored the beef in our office refrigerator - fears of stinking up the IDEAS Hub were allayed as we smelt no unpleasant odours while waiting for the result. As an added plus (we are tech nerds, after all), we used an Arduino Uno we had lying around to do the data logging and display.
We started with 1.905 kg of beautiful Argentinian ribeye. After aging for a month, the beef lost 900g of its weight in water. Why a month? The flavours only start developing after two weeks and once the beef ages past 50 days, the flavour starts going funky and even then, we hear that it has its own fans too.
This brings us to our next question - did it work? In short, yes! It was as if our collective taste buds had died and gone to heaven. The meat was tender and juicy with amazing flavour. It truly was the most delicious steak we’d ever tasted.To add to the victory, we also had kombucha, milk kefir and mushroom marmalade (very mushroom-y and certainly not marmalade!).
If you’d like to get dry aged beef in Singapore without the hassle of building your own rig, it’s possible to purchase fresh beef from Huber’s at Dempsey and pay an additional fee for them to age it for 30 to 90 days. Be sure to purchase more than a kilo as you lose some meat to the outer crust. Otherwise, feel free to come by the IDEAS Hub to see our build and take it for a test-run, or even build one of your own! In the meantime, we’ll be scheming our next experiment - making our very own cheese and a DIY cold smoker. Does anyone have a fridge to spare?
At The Culture Club, we explore fermentation, bacteria and all those lovely little organisms that make food delicious - to join our monthly meetups, sign up here. IDEAS Hub website.