When we first opened Delmonico Steakhouse, Chef Emeril said that he wanted to serve dry-aged prime beef. We all kind of looked around as if to say, Is he for real? Doesn't he know it's expensive, and time-consuming, and a huge initial investment? Yes, he knew. But that's what he wanted his steakhouse to be about: a great dry-aged prime steak. And that's what he got.
We did a lot of research going in, and knew the basics of running a dry-aged program. But we had a lot to learn. We initially set up one aging room next to our main walk-in. We then had to correct the humidity. Then the temperature. Then add fans for circulation. Then add black lights to inhibit the "bad mold." As I said, it was a learning process. Shortly after we got the aging room exactly how we wanted it, we realized it was already too small for the amount of business we were doing. So we created another room, and ran through the process all over again.
During all this of physical experimentation and discovery in the aging rooms, we were also figuring out the right combination of wet-aging to dry-aging for our prime beef. People asked, "Why are you using prime beef if you're wet- and dry-aging it? Isn't that a waste?" Emeril's answer was, "Because it's the best." So over the last eight and a half years that we've been open, and with the prime market at an all-time high, we are still committed to being a prime beef house – because it's the best!
Dry-aged meat is an acquired taste. Everything about it is different. It smells different, it looks different, it cooks different, and it tastes different. Some people don't like it, and some people love it. One of the big differences is that in the aging process, the meat loses a lot of moisture, so the meat tends to be less bloody. The meat shows up less red, and some people look at it and think that the steak must be over-cooked, because it is simply not as red as they're used to. If they go by taste and texture, though, they'll see that it's been cooked to temperature. Seeing isn't always believing with dry-aged steak.
The other big difference is in the cost. It's extremely difficult to take an already high-cost item, put it on a shelf for three to four weeks, lose up to 40% in trim and waste, and make a profit from the remaining 60%. That's why the menu cost of dry-aged steak nearly always exceeds that of other steaks or meats.
For those of you who enjoy a great red wine paired with the spectrum of steaks, how do your selections for dry-aged steak differ from those for wet-aged steak?
Joyce Funk — Tampa Florida — September 6, 2007 1:51pm ET
Donald C Young — des moines,ia — September 8, 2007 12:36pm ET
Jason Thompson — Foster City, CA — September 18, 2007 9:28pm ET
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