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.
pretty wet aged brisket already trimmed and ready for the smoker
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.
another brisket I dry aged on the smoker getting all prettied up with smoke
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.
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What is the oldest packing date you will want to accept if you plan on aging 45 days?
Thank you for your wonderful insight!
Based on what your packing date is, count forward 45 days – and that’s your limit. Doesn’t matter when you get it, as long as you know that packing date (it’s printed on the case), know it’s never been froze and know it’s been kept in refrigeration.
Before reading your article (which is very good), I bought a cryo brisket at Sam’s. It has an expiration date of 7/13 but has been at just above freezing in the fridge. It is now 8/22. Would you smoke it, or toss it? We are less than 45 days from expiration. I just don’t know the packing date.
I would open it and give it a smell. You’ll know if it’s gone bad by smelling it.
I wet aged one brisket prime angus brisket . got lucky because i didnt know the kill date now im hooked. Thinking about buying a whole case of briskets for the upcoming bbq season. Do u wet age then freeze then unthaw week off the competition. Love your site its awesome and the bdi injector has been a xmas present to most of bbqing buddys . thank you
Yeah, that’s what you do. You want them to go about 30 days in a fridge you don’t hardly open. Then you can throw them in the freezer until you are ready to thaw and cook.
Hi Malcom, What if I bought a Brisket and froze it for a later date. Can I still wet age after it thaws? Thanks,
It did not occur to me to ask, that is exactly what I did with a brisket I brought from Texas and froze for several months I hope it turns out ok.
My brother in law brought me a 1/2 cow from his farm in Minnesota. The processor hung it for 12 days, then froze everything. The steaks are all tough and the brisket is like eating the sole of my boot here in Texas.
I just pulled out two nice sized briskets from the freezer and am going to thaw them out and give this a try. But to be clear, considering that the meat was hung for 12 days, I should let it set in the fridge for another 4 weeks (but not to exceed 60 days total), correct?
Wet aging only works till it is frozen. The freezing process kills off the natural emzines that tenderize the meat
Quick question on this. If I have a 45 day wet aged brisket would it still benefit from injection? The last couple I used Minors beef base and auju for injections and came out very good. I was thinking to do the same and wasn’t sure if the wet aging would effect that decision. Thanks for all you do and share with us!
When I wet age, it’s usually for a contest and I always inject at every contest – so inject away!
Thanks for all the great info Malcolm. I’ve got a 14lb prime Angus brisket in bottom of refrigerator, it’s been there for about 2 weeks now I know how long to leave it before I cook it.
Ordered a SRF brisket and it came frozen. Have a cookoff on April 1st and was wondering if it’s ok to thaw and let wet age in frig till then?