Proper aging is a true art form based on time and temperature. Simply put, the higher the temperature the less aging time.
Several top end restaurants prefer to age as close to the 41 degrees Fahrenheit USDA limit as possible which speeds up the aging process but still allows ample time for the body moisture to evaporate from the carcass. When aging, two key things are happening. One is that the body moisture is evaporating from the carcass and as it is with our wild game animals this allows the “game” flavor to leave the carcass as well. Also the muscle fibers begin to break down causing a more tender product. The colder you store the meat the slower the muscle tissues break down. Let’s say for example you choose to age at 34 degrees F, not much above freezing, it will take some time for the muscle tissues to break down in these cold temperatures however the evaporation process will occur at basically the same rate. You could age longer and evaporate more body moisture. If you age at a higher temperature the muscle tissue will break down faster so you will not need to age as long and this will leave more body moisture in the carcass.
As for the best temperature for taste – it’s all a matter of preference. We’ve explained what is happening during the aging process but it is up to you to experiment to find out what works best for your taste. To start, one guideline you can use is to age three days for every 100 lbs of carcass weight at a temperature between 34F and 41F and see what flavor and tenderness is right for you.
One key product needed for proper aging is a method of accurately controlling the temperature. Take a look at the Koola Buck Portable Walk-in Coolers. They are perfect for reliably cooling and preserving your meat.
– Brad Lockwood