UMAi Dry Bag – Is it really dry aging?


Dry aged beef.

It’s the result of a process. That process is defined as follows:

“Carcasses, primals and / or subprimals are stored – without protective packaging – at refrigeration temperatures for one to five weeks to allow the natural enzymatic and biochemical processes that result in improved tenderness.”

What does this mean?

1) ANY aging process which employs a protective package does not fit the definition of ‘dry aging’. Cheese cloth is not considered protective packaging – use it if you must. (though we don’t recommend it)

2) Any process that does not allow for ‘natural enzymatic and biochemical processes’ also does not qualify. The primary aspect of dry aging is not simply the evaporation of moisture from the surface of the beef as the creators of the UMAi product would have you believe. The primary aspect is the allowance of circulated air, technically oxygen, which assists with the aerobic biochemical process.

3) Autoxidation of oleate (the fatty acid found in beef muscle) is one of the primary biochemical processes that occurs during aging. This breakdown of oleate is responsible for the resulting volatile compounds found in beef whether dry or wet aged. The primary compound is heptane. Of particular note is the fact that significantly more heptane is found in dry aged beef than wet aged. The reason? Oxygen.

The underlying importance is found in the difference between the dry aged and wet aged beef as discussed in our previous post – Dry Aged Beef – Is it really better? You’ll find a couple of interesting references included in that post which point to a potential link between wet aged beef and the increase in the prevalence of cancer among those who regularly eat red meat.

With the above three-part definition/ explanation of the dry aging process well in mind, we can more accurately describe dry aging as an ‘aerobic enzymatic and biochemical process’ and wet aging is an ‘anaerobic enzymatic and biochemical process’.

So how does the UMAi Dry Bag hold up to the definition above? It doesn’t.

The UMAi Dry Bag is a protective package. It allows moisture to evaporate thereby keeping your beef dry, which is great. None of us really like our beef wallowing around in a bloody serum-y mess.

The real issue with the UMAi Dry Bag, is that it doesn’t let oxygen in and that’s an epic fail! In fact, the UMAi Dry Bag requires that you use a vacuum sealed bag similar to a Foodsaver bag to get all the air out.  You cannot claim to be dry aging your beef when using one of these bags.

The truth is, the UMAi Dry Bag is just another form of wet aging. Yes, we understand that the moisture from the beef gets out and that results in an intensification of flavor - probably even an improvement in flavor over typical wet aging. However, without the ‘natural enzymatic and biochemical process that occurs because OXYGEN can get to the meat, you don’t have a dry aging process.

We think the name ‘Dry Bag’ is a bit deceptive. By including the word ‘dry’, some are led to believe that they can accomplish dry aging with this product. That’s just not true! Can you age your meat in an environment that’s more suitable for aging than the typical wet aging? Absolutely. Have you found a great short cut for dry aging that’s better or safer than the normal method? Absolutely not!!

As an aside, we’d like to clarify the following:

Placing a few steaks in your refrigerator for 1-5 days is NOT, by definition, dry aging. It may help reduce some of the moisture in the beef, thereby intensifying its flavor, but it will likely not improve tenderness if you are getting your steaks from the grocery store. They’ve already been wet aged for 14-21 days and have achieved 80-90% enzymatic breakdown. Therefore, steak in the fridge for 1-5 days… by definition, that’s not dry aging.

How you choose to age your beef is up to you. We encourage you to keep aging your beef, no matter which method you choose, because it does make for a more tender result. You may choose the UMAi Dry Bag, or you may prefer the traditional approach. You can watch our video to see how easy it really is.

Then again, you may not have the set-up to tackle a true ‘dry aging’ process. Maybe the UMAi Dry Bag makes more sense for your circumstances. We understand. What we don’t understand is how anyone using the UMAi Dry Bag can legitimately call the end product ‘dry aged’.

Interested in reading the rest of our dry aged beef discussions?  You can find them all in this short list!

For some great additional discussions, check out The Food Lab over on Serious Eats.