Dry-aged beef is known for taking on slightly funkier flavors, which Morton describes as musty or almost cheese-like and Lim dubs nutty and earthy. But this flavor transformation doesn’t happen with wet-aged steak, which, Lim says, “retains the ‘fresh’ meat flavor.”
For Flannery, since most beef sold in the U.S. is wet-aged, these flavors are far more familiar to most consumers. Indeed, if wet-aged beef undergoes a flavor change, it’s usually a bad sign.
“In dry-aging, the flavor changes (mostly) due to two things: The evaporation of moisture from within the meat, and microbial growth on the exterior of the meat,” she says, noting that the longer one dry-ages a steak, the more intense these flavors will become. When a wet-aged steak changes flavor, she says, it’s mainly due to the buildup of lactic acid, which can give it metallic or off flavors.
On the contrary, properly wet-aged steak just tastes more like itself, according to Morton. “Dry-aging changes the flavor, some would say enhances, others exaggerates,” she says. “Wet-aging is the ultimate in setting the true beef flavor profile and bringing it to life!”