Grill masters swear by wet aging when it comes to having the ultimate tender brisket.
So what is wet aging, and how can you try it yourself?
Wet aging meat is the process of letting enzymes inside the beef to naturally allow the protein strands to break down. This process must happen in a controlled environment over many days.
This break down of protein strands is the secret to tender beef that no amount of rubs, injections, or cooking techniques can replace.
In this article, I explain the simple steps to wet age meat so you too can serve delicious, melt-in-your-mouth dinner to your family and friends.
How to Wet Age Meat
STEP ONE: Choose the meat
Brisket is tough when its first put in a package for sale. As it sits in the meat cooler, it begins to soften up, but as with any meat, it will only stay fresh for so long so you must know the date it was put in that package to know just how long you need to wet age the meat.
A “sell-by” date on a standard package of meat will not help you here. You need to know the “kill date” that meat processors print on every case they sell.
You can either buy directly from a butcher who should have no problem showing you the “kill date” printed on the case of meat, or buy a whole case of meat from your local grocery store. If purchasing an entire case is not affordable, ask if the store can show you the case date from the original packaging.
Without an exact date, wet aging becomes a guessing game, so take the time to find a source for your beef that provides this critical information.
STEP TWO: Aging the meat
Keep the meat in the original cryovac packaging, which keeps out any air and potential for bacterial growth. If you see air inside the package, cook or freeze the meat right away before it spoils.
Mark the date you begin this process on your calendar and a reminder of the date you need to check on or cook the meat. Place the meat in the lower portion of a refrigerator and let it rest. If possible, place the meat in a fridge that you do not open often and is set between 32-34 degrees Fahrenheit.
You want the meat to sit undisturbed between 30-60 days, with an ideal goal of around 45 days for best results. With practice, you will find the perfect length of aging that suits your taste.
This step is why knowing the date your meat was processed is essential, as you are starting your countdown from the date of processing, not the date of purchase.
After 60 days you risk spoilage of the meat, so always cook your beef before this time frame is up.
Important note- as the meat ages in the fridge, air bubbles will form inside the cryovac packaging as the proteins break down. These bubbles are a normal part of wet aging, so don’t let this alarm you.
STEP THREE: Open and cook the meat
When you reach the date you desire to cook the meat, remove the package from the refrigerator and open it up.
The meat will have a distinct smell, but that smell should in no way be bad. If the odor is pungent and “off,” the meat has gone bad and throw it away.
Rinse the meat under cold water and apply any seasonings, rubs, or other barbequing techniques you usually use before cooking.
As you can see, wet aging is not a complicated process. Knowing the date your meat was processed, and having some patience will result in a delicious, tender brisket every time.