Wet aging beef is the process of letting meat sit in the proper environment – over a set period of time – which allows the enzymes in the meat to naturally break down the protein strands.
I don’t know the science behind all the details of WHY and HOW it works, but it just makes sense.
Basically, wet aging works to make the brisket tender – before you ever start any injecting, rubbing or cooking.
Personally I use this process for brisket. You really can’t do it with pork.
When a brisket is first packaged it’s really tough, but if you let it sit in refrigeration, it loosens up. That’s why you hear people say to look for a “brisket that bends”. More than likely a brisket that bends has been in the meat cooler for a longer period.
Now, you can’t just grab any brisket out of the meat cooler and plan on aging it because you have no idea how long it’s been packaged.
Meat is only good for so many days fresh – and then it will spoil.
The only way to know when meat was packaged is to see the actual date it was packaged. From this date you can determine your window for wet aging. The kill/package date is printed on every case… and that’s the only way to know.
So you have 2 options:
- You can buy it by the case – which saves you a little money anyway.
- Or if you buy them from a butcher, a good grocery store or even a Sam’s club, you can ask the butcher to let you see the case. Most of the time they have no problem showing you.
Now that you’ve got your brisket and know the exact date it was packaged on, it’s time to wet age…
How to Wet Age Brisket:
It’s really simple: mark the meat packing date on your calendar. Place the brisket in a refrigerator towards the bottom, and leave it alone.
You want to keep the brisket in its’ original cryovac package. Don’t open the packaging or poke any holes in it. You don’t want any air to get in because if air gets in – so can harmful bacteria. And then your meat will spoil or someone will get sick. If air does get in, cook it or get it to the freezer immediately.
Ideally, it needs to be in a fridge that isn’t opened very often. Maintaining a constant temperature of 32-34 degrees is necessary for proper food safety.
Let it sit for 30-60 days. I actually recommend letting it go 45 days. That is where I’ve found the best results.
If you haven’t used the brisket by day 60 it needs to be frozen. Anything over 60 days and you risk spoilage.
As your brisket is aging, you will notice some air bubbles in the cryovac. That’s pretty normal.
Once you open it, it will have a distinct smell – but it shouldn’t be a bad smell. If you open that brisket and it clears the room… it’s gone bad. Believe me, you will know when you’re dealing with bad meat.
I always wash it thoroughly under cold water and then trim off any discolored meat… or anything that just doesn’t look right.
Then it’s ready to go!
And you’ve got a perfectly aged, tender brisket.
Try the wet age process and when you’re ready to cook it – go buy a regular brisket from the meat case. Cook them both at the same time and see the difference for yourself.
And if you want my method for cooking brisket, you can go here to see exactly how I cook a competition brisket, get my injection recipe and see how I make my burnt ends.