Thursday, May 5, 2016

Crazy Sous-Vide Meat Aging Experiment

I had this wild and crazy idea for another experiment. In search of the wild and crazy I came across an unusual technique called Warm Aging. The technique uses a SOUS-VIDE Circulator to promote the activity of the Calpain and Cathepsin Enzymes in the meat through the manipulation of temperature. Say What? Exactly!!! Words can't even come close to what I was thinking. I knew I had to explore this technique through experimentation. I am not a scientist nor do I possess the intellectual skills to completely understand the process but I know how food is suppose to taste and look. So here we go!!! 


Experimentation will require due diligence and thoroughness. That's if you want do it the right way. Will this experiment be scientific? Probably not but I will do my best. I will have to do a blind taste test of course. My wife and kids will be my guinea pigs. I will prepare 4 steaks and compare them to each other.  
One steak will be warm aged, steak two will be salted 3 days out then warm aged etc etc...To mix it up a bit I will use fish sauce which is another technique to tenderize meat which gives a simulated Dry-Aged meat feel. And last a Nekkid steak. All and all these tests are flawed because we are talking about taste which is subjective. Anyhow I will do my best to be fair and thorough. All the steaks will be Sou-Vide and pasteurized. All the steaks will be weighed Raw, Post Sous-Vide and Past Sear. Note: Salt and Pepper is the only thing I will use post Sous-Vide.

It's worth mentioning that Warm Aging meat is discussed briefly in the Modern Cuisine books too. Since I do not have the books I can't comment. 
That's right you're looking at Fish Sauce in the picture to the left. I have read without much detail that you can use Fish Sauce to create a tender piece of meat or more accurately simulate a dry aged steak with robust beefiness. I read about it HERE and as you can tell there's not much info on the why. I wanted to include it in the experiment to contrast the differences between Warm Aging & Fish Sauce Aging. I will try to give you my non-Scientific reason why this works. It's all about the Glutamates (natural MSG) which are savory compounds and your tongue loves them. They make all cooked protein taste good. 

Fish sauce as well as Worcestershire sauce contain anchovies (more in fish sauce) and a compound called nucleotide. Nucleotides plus glutamates means over the top awesome beefy goodness. 

So whether it's Soy, Worcestershire or fish sauce the glutamate component plus the nucleotide that's found in anchovies will amp up the taste of beef. Ok so that's me giving you a synopsis what I have researched. I still have no hands on experience with these techniques. But it's coming. 


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So What is Warm-Aging?


The story goes like this.... By bringing up the temperature of the meat to 103 f (I have read 104 f is also used) Degrees for X amount of time you increase the activity of the Calpain and at 120 f (I have also read that the upper range is 122 f) the Cathepsin. These are the same enzymes that are present during traditional Dry-Aging that is done in Refrigerators. Of course with Warm Aging the process is hastened. Tender meat is the by product of the enzymatic process. Ok so far this process is really sounding good. 


In midst of writing this post I am feeling ecstatic about the whole process and can't wait to get started.

So is this really Dry-Aged meat? I can answer that with an emphatic NO!!!  It's more like a Faux Dry-Aged Meat. I am OK with Faux as long as it tastes good. Real dry age meat loses moisture and and the flavor becomes more intense. Don't forget after trimming Dry-Aged (cutting off the mahogany layer) your yield is less too. Heck I am giving you my opinion on something I haven't even tried yet. Stand by it's coming. 

There is hardly anything written on the subject of Warm Aging. I have come across forums that discuss this in great detail though. Most of it is above my head or understanding. But for the most part I grasped the important stuff. The food science sources are mostly silent on the subject with the exception of this one paper I read.

Food Science Paper- Click the link to the left for some Food Science Stuff. 


After perusing the forums and combing over the available sources I am moving forward with my experiment. I have outlined the steps below. 


  • The paper above asserts that the Enzyme Aminopesidases break down the products of calpains and cathespins into smaller flavorful molecules. Hmmm food for thought. I guess I will keep the temp down to maximize these enzymes. 


  • After reading countless papers, forums and blogs I have a Cooking Hypothesis that I will explore. Steak 1- will be Warm Aged (Nekkid), Steak 2- will be Warm Aged too but I will use .60% Salt for the dry brine for 3 days. Why dry brine? Dry brining holds on to more moisture during the cook and more importantly tastes better (see my other experiment HERE).


  • I am going to Warm Age Steak 1 & 2 at 104 F degrees (40 c) for 90 Minutes. I chose not to Warm Age at the additional temp of 120 f degrees for X amount of time because there have been reports of Bad Flavor by products from the Cathepsin which are most active at that temp. Additionally the 104 f degree temp will avoid overheating the alanyl & arginyl aminopeptidases and aminopepsidase and kick the Calapain into over drive. And before you ask I know this is in the danger danger zone but it will only be there for a short time....Less than 4 hours. The same great enzymes that will transform this steak into something special is heated at the temps that accelerates the growth of pathogens; therefore I will pasteurize the meat using Baldwins tables. I chose 90 minutes because the steak is not very thick...only 1 3/8 inches. Had it been a much thicker piece of meat I would have opted for a longer cook time. Note: some people have opted for a pre-sear or quick dunk in boiling water (in the bag) to kill off the surface pathogens. Not a bad idea mind you but I chose a different path. If I plan on pasteurizing it during the cook and searing it afterwards I found this step unnecessary. 


  • Steak 3- will be coated with 3% of Fish sauce and Vacuumed sealed for 3 days. Steak 4 will be completely Nekkid. After Steak 1 & 2 have reach their 90 minute mark I will crank up the temp to 131˚ƒ degrees and add Steak 3 & 4 and cook until they are all pasteurized. After the cook I will Cold-Shock and refrigerate until the sear. Note:  Steak 3- Fish Sauce was brushed on and placed in vacuum bag than briefly placed in freezer. Concerned about the fish sauce being sucked in to the machine during vacuum sealing I froze the fish sauce on the surface of the meat. If you have a chamber Vac Machine this step is not necessary. 

Results below with Review


Note: All steaks after Sous-Vide, Cold-Shocked and refrigerated for about an hour. Prior to weighing they were wiped dry. Salt and Pepper were the only spices I used. All steaks were seared at the same. All given a 5 minute rest before weight was taken. 


Steak 1- Initial thoughts when removed from Vacuum Bag- No smell at all.

After Sear- Very Tender, Nice beef Flavor absolutely delicious. 


This steak received 4 1/2 stars because it was so tender.


Steak 2- Dry-Brined with .60% and vacuumed sealed and refrigerated for 3 days. 

Initial thoughts when removed from Vacuum Bag- No smell at all. 

After Sear- Very flavorful due to the pre-salting. Better than number one. Nice Beef Flavor absolutely delicious. Meat was very very tender. Detected more moisture. 

This steak was the favorite and received 5 stars because of taste and tenderness. 


Steak 3- Fish Sauce Aging applied (brushed on) at 3%. The steak was vacuumed sealed and refrigerated for 3 days. 

Initial thoughts when removed from Vacuum Bag- Very pleasant beef smell. Note: the other steaks did not have this marvelous smell. Prior to Sear I sprinkled on just a tad more salt and lots of pepper. 

After Sear- I knew right away that this was something special. No fish smell at all. Very pleasing strong beef smell and taste. Extremely pleasing to the palate. Not as tender as steak one or two but better than steak 4. Freaking awesome tasting steak. This was my daughter's favorite!!! If I had to define what UMAMI is I would equate it with this steak. 

This steak received 4 1/4 stars because it was not as tender as steak 1 & 2. It had the best beef flavor though. This steak was barely under steak #1. 


Steak 4- NEKKID 

Initial thoughts when removed from Vacuum Bag- No smell at all. Sprinkled on Salt and pepper. 

After Sear- When you compare this steak to the other three you will find this steak was very boring. No flavor. Salting and Peppering after the Sous-Vide only mildly helped with flavor. Significantly more dense than steak 1-3. Had I not compared it to the other three steaks I would have said this was a good steak. 

This steak received 1 1/2 stars because it paled in comparison to the others.

My star rating for these steaks are as follows.


Steak 2 - 5 Stars
Steak 1-  4 1/2 Stars
Steak 3-  4 1/4 Stars
Steak 4-  1 1/2 Stars

Future experiment will be Fish Sauce Aging combined with Warm Aging. My hypothesis for this experiment which is based on the above results should produce the ultimate steak. 

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