Downstairs at Blaine’s Black Forest Steakhouse is an increasingly rare sight – prime cuts of meat sitting on a shelf in a refrigerated room, the floor lined with pink Himalayan salt blocks and a UV light flickering overhead.
As time goes by – up to 40 days – moisture in the beef evaporates naturally, concentrating the flavor, while enzymes in the meat break down the tough connective tissue. The result is why the most frequent comment from customers is, “This is the best steak I’ve ever had.”
Owner Jack Niemann estimates only one in about 2,000 restaurants dry ages its beef nowadays, with most preferring the cheaper and easier wet aging process, where cuts of meat are sealed in vacuum bags and only the enzymatic process causes aging.
“Dry aging is becoming a lost art,” Niemann said.
The biggest strike against dry aging is its cost. Beef loses about 20 percent of its weight due to shrinkage and another 10 percent to 20 percent when the hard crust that forms during the aging process is cut off and discarded. The refrigeration and labor costs are not inconsiderable, either, and there is the faint possibility of spoilage, which the UV light helps to prevent (it kills bacteria).
Nevertheless, dry aging is something Niemann is proud to offer his customers.
“We don’t opt for the cheaper, we opt for the better,” Niemann said. “You get results when you do things right.”