Dry-aged beef is a delicacy that has been gaining popularity in recent years. With its unique flavor and texture, it’s no wonder that more and more people are seeking out this type of meat.
But with any new food trend comes questions about safety. Can dry-aged beef make you sick? The answer is not as simple as a yes or no.
In this article, we’ll explore the process of dry-aging beef, the risks associated with consuming it, and how to enjoy it safely.
So sit back, grab a glass of wine, and let’s dive into the world of dry-aged beef.
Can Dry Aged Beef Make You Sick?
Dry-aged beef is safe to eat when it’s created with a controlled process. Butchers and steakhouses age their beef in refrigerators that are free of harmful bacteria and keep cold, dry air circulating. This process creates a protective crust on the meat, making it difficult for the beef to spoil.
However, there are still risks associated with consuming dry-aged beef. When meat is dry-aged, it’s stored at a temperature of around 34 degrees Fahrenheit and then left to age for up to 21 days. This process increases the amount of moisture in the meat, which results in a juicier, more flavorful steak. However, it can also increase the risk of foodborne illness, especially if the meat isn’t cooked properly.
The reason for this is simple: bacteria grow faster at lower temperatures than they do at higher ones. So when you cook your dry-aged steak on a grill or pan (instead of in an oven), you’re increasing the risk that harmful bacteria will survive and make you sick.
The USDA recommends cooking all meats to an internal temperature of 145 degrees F, but if you’re concerned about safety, it’s best to err on the side of caution and cook it until it reaches 160 degrees F or higher!
What Is Dry-Aged Beef?
Dry-aged beef is a process that has been used for centuries to enhance the flavor and tenderness of meat. It involves taking a large cut of beef and placing it in a controlled, open-air environment for several weeks to several months. During this time, the meat is exposed to air, which pulls out moisture and allows natural enzymes in the beef to break down the muscles slowly over time, making it more tender.
The surface of the beef dries and creates a crust over the muscle, but the inside stays moist and red. The meat is also subjected to various molds and yeasts that land on it, which all play a role in the final flavor profile of the beef. The longer the meat is aged, the stronger the flavor becomes.
While dry-aged beef is safe to eat when created with a controlled process, there are still risks associated with consuming it. Bacteria grow faster at lower temperatures than they do at higher ones, so if the meat isn’t cooked properly, harmful bacteria can survive and make you sick. It’s important to cook all meats to an internal temperature of at least 145 degrees F, but for added safety, it’s recommended to cook dry-aged beef until it reaches 160 degrees F or higher.
The Process Of Dry-Aging Beef
Dry-aging beef is a process that involves hanging large cuts of beef in a temperature- and humidity-controlled room for anywhere from 21 to 120 days. During this time, the moisture in the meat is drawn out, which results in a more concentrated flavor. The process of dry-aging also allows natural enzymes in the beef to break down the muscle fibers, making the meat more tender.
The ideal temperature for dry-aging beef is around 34 degrees Fahrenheit. This low temperature helps to slow the growth of bacteria, which can cause spoilage and foodborne illness. The humidity in the room is also carefully controlled to prevent the growth of harmful mold and bacteria.
As the meat ages, a protective crust forms on the surface, which helps to prevent spoilage and keep the meat fresh. This crust needs to be carefully trimmed off before the meat can be cut into steaks.
One important factor in the dry-aging process is mold. Molds are naturally present in the environment, and they play a critical role in developing the unique flavor of dry-aged beef. However, not all molds are safe to eat, so it’s important to use caution when handling and consuming dry-aged beef.
Dry-aging beef is a complex and expensive process that requires a lot of space and specialized equipment. It’s typically done by professional butchers and high-end steakhouses, although some home cooks have attempted to dry-age their own steaks with varying degrees of success.
The Risks Of Consuming Dry-Aged Beef
Dry-aged beef is not immune to food poisoning. Although the controlled process used in butchers and steakhouses ensures that the beef is free of harmful bacteria, there is still a risk of foodborne illness if the meat is not cooked properly. The low temperature at which dry-aged beef is stored and aged can increase the risk of harmful bacteria surviving and making you sick if the meat is not cooked to a high enough temperature.
Some of the pathogens and spoilage bacteria that may develop and survive during the aging process include E. coli (STEC), Salmonella spp., Staphylococcus aureus, Listeria monocytogenes, enterotoxigenic Yersinia spp., Campylobacter spp. and Clostridium spp. If the surface temperature of dry-aged meat exceeds 3°C during the aging process, mold may grow on the surface, and some of these molds naturally produce mycotoxins – toxic compounds that can have harmful health effects.
It is important to note that dry-aged beef is not different from ordinary raw meat in terms of its potential to cause food poisoning. However, when dry-aged beef is properly stored, aged, and cooked to a high enough temperature, it can be enjoyed safely without any risks to your health.
How To Safely Enjoy Dry-Aged Beef
If you want to safely enjoy dry-aged beef, there are a few things you can do to minimize the risk of foodborne illness. First and foremost, make sure that the beef you’re buying is from a reputable source and has been properly dry-aged. Look for meat that has been aged in a controlled environment with cold, dry air circulation.
When cooking your dry-aged beef, it’s important to use a meat thermometer to ensure that it reaches the recommended internal temperature of 145 degrees F. If you’re concerned about safety, cook it until it reaches 160 degrees F or higher. This will help to kill off any harmful bacteria that may be present.
It’s also important to avoid cross-contamination when handling raw meat. Use separate cutting boards and utensils for meat and other foods, and wash your hands thoroughly before and after handling raw meat.
Finally, be sure to store any leftover dry-aged beef in the refrigerator within two hours of cooking. Leftovers should be eaten within three to four days or frozen for longer storage.
By following these guidelines, you can safely enjoy the unique flavor and texture of dry-aged beef without putting your health at risk.