Dry-aged steaks are different from fresh-cut steaks. During the dry-aging process, we’ve removed a significant amount of moisture to concentrate and enhance the beef flavors. Some beef cuts lose as much as 25% to 30% of their weight in water.
One consequence is that they will quickly become dry if you overcook them. So we recommend cooking dry-aged steaks no more than medium rare. Keep in mind that a dry-aged steak will not be as “bloody” as a fresh-cut steak cooked to the same doneness.
Here are our 7 top tips on how to prepare your dry-aged steaks to perfection.
1. If your dry-aged steak is frozen, then thaw it slowly — preferably in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days prior to cooking. Then remove from the refrigerator an hour before cooking to allow it to reach room temperature.
If you don’t have 3 days to slowly thaw your steak, then thaw it more rapidly by placing in a bowl of cold water.
2. Wait until just before cooking to season generously with salt. If you apply salt too soon, it will pull moisture out of the meat. And when the surface of the meat is wet, it is more difficult to sear and seal the steak. Also, be generous with the salt, because some of it will come off the steak during the searing and resting phase of cooking.
3. Quickly sear both sides of the steak with high heat, either on the grill or in a very hot pan. Searing will caramelize the meat surface and seal in juices. (Searing in a pan avoids the possibility of excessive charcoal flavors from the grill.)
The secret to a good sear is to make sure that the surface of the steak does not have any unwanted moisture, which is present when the steak is still cold (condensation) or when salt is applied too early.
4. After searing, transfer the steak to a lower, indirect heat until the desired doneness. If you have a large grill, build the fire on one side. Sear on the hot side, and then move to the cooler side to cook with indirect heat.
5. Use tongs rather than a fork to handle your steak. Every time you puncture the steak, it breaks the sear and juices escape.
6. Use a meat thermometer to determine when the steak is cooked the way you want. Insert the meat thermometer from the side of the steak to its center, and leave it there until you are ready to serve.
If you don’t have a meat thermometer, you can use a chef’s trick to estimate doneness. While gently touching your index finger to your thumb, press the meat around the base of your thumb. This firmness is what your steak should feel like when it’s cooked rare. Now touch your middle finger to your thumb, and press the meat around the base of your thumb. This is how firm your steak should be if you want medium rare. Using your ring finger will give an approximate firmness for medium. And using your little finger will give you well done (but we’re not going to ruin a dry-aged steak by cooking it well done, right?)
7. Allow the steak to rest on an almost-too-hot-to-touch plate for about the same amount of time that it was cooked. This is one of the most important, and most frequently ignored steps. Resting allows the juices to redistribute and settle before cutting. If you cut too soon, all the juices will end up on your cutting board or plate, and not in the steak.