Article date: 20 Sep 2010
Discover why maturing rib-eye steaks for 28 days adds succulence and flavour – a tradition which simply can’t be rushed.
Since we introduced our 28-day-matured British Isles rib-eye steaks, customers have been tucking into this dish to make it one of the firm favourites on our menu. That said, it has also left them gently chewing over a question: just why does the ageing process make such a difference to taste, tenderness and succulence?
Well, beef is a food steeped in history – one with time on its side. After all, the domestication of cattle first occurred around 8,000BC, so chefs throughout the ages have had plenty of time to discover the route to achieving the perfect steak.
Matt Elsdon, responsible for the selection of the new steaks, helps to explain: “While I don’ t want to get all ‘Heston Blumenthal’ about it, a fair degree of science lies behind the benefits of the ageing process. “Put simply, the meat contains muscle structure. The maturing process allows the meat’s enzymes to break down this muscle structure naturally. “The longer the meat is allowed to mature, the more the enzymes are able to tenderise the meat.” In the fast-paced, must-have-it-now, must-have-it-cheap society in which we live, there has been a growing trend to cut this maturing process, typically to around 15 days, allowing much of the tenderisation to take place, but not allowing it to mature fully. Think of it like this: a wine may well be fine, if you drink it straight away, but many vintages will mature in the bottle with age, allowing the more complex flavours and subtleties to develop.
So, while shorter-matured steaks are absolutely fine, a really distinctive quality can be achieved by extending the maturation process.
There is plenty of debate among food buffs, particularly in America, about the optimum time for which a steak should be matured for maximum taste – with restaurants and butchers offering steaks matured for two months or more. Matt follows the commonly held view, though, that 28 days provides a great-tasting steak.
“It’s undisputable that the longer the enzymes have to work, the more tender the meat will become. However, once you have matured the meat for 28 days, the additional gains to be made become increasingly marginal. If you were to taste a steak matured for 28 days against one matured for 30, you are unlikely to notice any difference. However, the difference with a steak matured for just 10 days will be really noticeable.
“Maturing for 28 days gives you consistent results, a distinctive eating quality and a superb tenderness.”
The cut of the steak also has an important impact on the flavour. Rib-eye steak will, by the nature of its cut, always have a higher level of internal fat, giving you two textures of meat, with the eye of fat in the middle sublimely melting into the meat, enhancing flavour and juiciness.
Two more key ingredients to a great steak are the provenance and welfare of the animal itself, as Matt adds: “All of our rib-eye steaks are sourced from farmers in the British Isles and selected from farms which meet only the very highest animal welfare standards.
“This means that the animals will have been grazed outdoors for the majority of the year, coming in only during the winter months, when grass is not
growing and the elements are harsh. “You may be surprised at the diversity and
size of the farms from which your steak will have come, with some of the farmers rearing as few as 10 cattle a year, while others may raise 500+ a year.”
We believe that this approach to the careful raising and selection of cattle, together with the controlled and unrushed maturation period, leads to a great-tasting steak. All that is left is the skill of the chef to cook it just as you like it.
So, if you haven’ t yet tried our rib-eye, please do give it a go. We think that you will find it worth the wait.