Aging Meat in Plastic and in the Kitchen

Appears in
On Food and Cooking

By Harold McGee

Published 2004

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Despite the contribution that aging can make to meat quality, the modern meat industry generally avoids it, since it means tying up its assets in cold storage and losing about 20% of the meat’s original weight to evaporation and laborious trimming of the dried, rancid, sometimes moldy surface. Most meat is now butchered into retail cuts at the packing plant shortly after slaughter, wrapped in plastic, and shipped to market immediately, with an average of 4 to 10 days between slaughter and sale. Such meat is sometimes wet-aged, or kept in its plastic wrap for some days or weeks, where it’s shielded from oxygen and retains moisture while its enzymes work. Wet-aged meat can develop some of the flavor and tenderness of dry-aged meat, but not the same concentration of flavor.