100 Techniques

Technique #81: Dry-Age in the Refrigerator for the Ultimate Beef

Every butcher knows that dry-aging meat in a refrigerator makes it more tender and flavorful.

Published Aug. 12, 2023.

This is Technique #81 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master

Each technique is broken into three sections: why it works, key steps, and recipes that use it. Learn these recipe building blocks and you'll be set up for a lifetime of cooking success.

Jump to a Section

Most meat now is “wet-aged,” a process in which it is vacuum-sealed in plastic and shipped to market; the aging takes place during transportation.

Beef that is wet-aged doesn’t lose moisture or weight and doesn’t need to be monitored as carefully as beef that undergoes dry-aging, making the process more commercially economical.

Beef dry-aging in the fridge
Beef dry-aging in the fridge.

The Importance of Rest

But wet-aged beef has less concentrated flavor than dry-aged beef. In modern dry-aging, butchers refrigerate large cuts of beef for 30 days, 60 days, or even longer. As moisture evaporates, the flavor of the meat becomes more concentrated. Enzymes in the meat start to break down connective tissue, resulting in a more tender texture. The breakdown of muscle protein, meanwhile, forms free amino acids and peptides, which impart a richer taste.

By letting meat from the supermarket age in a home refrigerator for a short period, you can capture some of those dehydrating and flavor-enhancing effects of dry-aging. We particularly like this technique for traditionally dry-aged cuts, including top loin, tenderloin, and porterhouse, rib-eye, and strip steaks. 

Use the Right Tools

Since home refrigerators are less humid than commercial dry-aging units, wrapping the meat in cheesecloth prevents excess dehydration while allowing air to circulate over the meat. And since home refrigerators aren’t as cold as commercial units, place the meat on the back part of the bottom refrigerator shelf, where the temperature is coldest. 

With home-kitchen equipment, it’s best to err on the side of caution for food safety reasons, so we recommend dry-aging for three to four days. Your home dry-aged meat will boast beefier, more savory flavor and more tender texture—at a fraction of the cost.

The Science of Dry-Aged Beef

Besides dehydration, one of the other processes in dry-aging is proteolysis, or protein breakdown. Enzymes (calpain and cathepsin) in the meat slowly break down proteins, forming flavorful, umami-rich amino acids. They also soften stiff muscle tissue, tenderizing the meat.

Step by Step: How to Dry-Age Beef in the Refrigerator

While the process definitely takes time, the results are worth it. With concentrated, beefy flavor and succulently tender texture, you and your dinner guests will agree it's the best route to perfect meat. Follow our step-by-step guide below.

Step 1: Pat Dry

Pat beef dry thoroughly with paper towels.

Step 2: Wrap 

Wrap beef loosely in cheesecloth.

Step 3: Place on Rack 

Place meat on wire rack set in rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels.

Step 4: Rest 

Store in coldest part of the refrigerator (usually back of lowest shelf) for 3 to 4 days.

Step 5: Trim 

Before cooking, trim fat and shave off any exterior bits that have completely dried out.

Step 6: Cook 

Cook beef to desired doneness, let rest, and carve.


Meat Illustrated

Increase your meat-counter confidence with this must-have guide packed with 300+ kitchen-tested recipes.

Recipes That Use This Technique

You’ve invested a good chunk of time into dry-aging your own beef, so make sure to put it to good use in these recipes that specifically call for the fruits of your hard work.


Top Loin Roast

An unconventional cooking method yields excellent results with an overlooked roast.
Get the Recipe

Bacon-Wrapped Filets Mignons

Could we get the bacon crispy and the meat perfectly cooked on the same timetable?
Get the Recipe

Ready to learn another technique? Choose from our list of 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

This is a members' feature.