What You Should Be Asking A Butcher The First Time You Buy Aged Steak

When it's steak night, you need to be discerning about what you're buying. You don't want to waste your money on a subpar cut or piece of meat and be disappointed come dinner time. When buying meat for your next steak dinner, look for the USDA Prime Grade shield, which is young beef cattle. The meat has "abundant marbling," which is what you want in a steak for that juiciness and buttery flavor and is best for high, dry heat like searing or grilling. If your budget would be stretched by USDA Prime Grade beef, USDA Select cuts of meat have less marbling and would benefit from tenderization, whether that's marinating or braising, according to the USDA.

If you have a local butcher shop, though, they should be able to help you discern what you need based on your tastes, budget, and intentions. According to BBQ Champs Academy, a good butcher will guide you and be happy to answer your questions about their product. And, if you feel like you're ready to explore the funky world of dry-aged steaks, your local butcher should be able to help you out.

A butcher is your ideal guide to the world of aged steaks

Purchasing a dry-aged steak is not like rolling up to your Costco or Wegmans and making guesses as to how well-marbled that vacuum-packed piece of meat is. A butcher will be able to guide you in the right direction, but you need to know what questions to ask. Speaking to Food & Wine Magazine, Ryan Prentiss, former executive chef at Detroit's Prime + Proper steakhouse, said you should be asking your butcher for how long the steak has been aged. Prentiss recommends trying a steak that's been aged anywhere between 15 and 30 days, while Chef Joe Cervantez says that dry-aged steaks are at their best between 23 and 28 days. Asking from where the meat is sourced is also recommended, as some butchers process the animal in-house, while others receive parts and remove cuts as needed, according to BBQ Champs Academy.

If you're new to dry-aged steak, many chefs recommend starting out by trying steaks aged for less than a month. Why? Aged steak is an acquired taste. The longer a steak ages, the funkier and stronger the flavors get, according to Napoleon Grills. Some have described the flavor of aged steak close to bleu cheese or nuts, per The Aging Room, which are strong and often divisive flavors. 

No matter if you're new an aged steak newbie or prefer your steak as funky as your Camembert, your local butcher will be able to get you the steak and flavors you prefer.