Can You Eat the Bark of Dry Aged Beef? Everything You Need to Know

Dry aged beef is renowned for its incredibly rich, complex flavor and tender texture But along with these desirable qualities comes the development of a thick, dried out outer layer known as the “bark.” This crusty covering leaves many wondering – can you eat the bark of dry aged beef? Or is it something that should be trimmed off and discarded?

In this guide, we’ll explain everything you need to know about the bark on dry aged beef, including what it is, whether it’s safe to eat, how to prepare it, and more. Let’s dive in!

What is Dry Aged Beef?

Before getting into the specifics of the bark, it helps to understand what dry aged beef is in the first place Dry aging is a process where whole primal cuts of beef are hung in a temperature and humidity controlled room for several weeks up to several months

During this extended hanging time, natural enzymatic and microbial activity break down the beef’s connective tissues, resulting in enhanced tenderness and development of the signature dry aged flavor. The beef loses moisture on the surface, concentrating the taste, while the interior stays nice and moist.

The dry aging process allows flavor compounds to fully develop in the meat, creating an intense, beefy flavor unmatched by wet aged or store-bought beef. It’s a time and labor intensive process, which is why dry aged beef commands a higher price.

What is the Bark on Dry Aged Beef?

The “bark” refers to the dark, hardened outer layer that forms on the exterior of dry aged beef. It develops as the beef’s surface dries out. The technical term for this outer layer is the “pellicle.”

The pellicle can range from 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick depending on the length of aging. It forms a protective crust, preventing moisture loss from the interior of the meat

Since moisture evaporates from the surface during aging, the pellicle contains very little moisture. This concentrated, intensified beef flavor within the bark.

Is it Safe to Eat the Bark?

The pellicle is completely safe to eat. During proper dry aging, the surface of the beef is exposed to ultraviolet light, which kills any microbes or molds that could form. So while the bark may look unappetizing, it is not contaminated in any way.

Many high-end steakhouses serve dry aged steaks with the pellicle fully intact, leaving it up to the diner whether they want to trim some or all of it off before eating. The safety of the bark allows this flexibility.

Should You Eat the Bark?

Whether or not to eat the pellicle comes down to personal preference. Many dry ageing experts consider the bark a delicacy that absolutely should be consumed.

The intense umami flavors concentrated within the crust make it highly prized. The texture is also appealing to some, as it provides contrast to the tender interior of the beef.

However, some find it unappetizing or simply prefer the meat without the bark. If you fall into the latter camp, it’s perfectly fine to trim off some or all of the pellicle before eating your dry aged steak or roast.

There’s no right or wrong way when it comes to preferences! Taste a small piece of bark to decide if you enjoy it or not.

How to Prepare and Eat the Bark

If you do want to eat the bark of your dry aged beef, here are some tips for preparing and consuming it:

  • Trim off any hard fat – Use a sharp knife to remove any large chunks of hard fat surrounding the pellicle. The fat may have an off flavor.

  • Consider grinding it – The bark can be tough to chew. For easier eating, you can grind it up to incorporate into burgers or chili.

  • Simmer in stews or braises – Adding bark to slow cooked wet dishes helps tenderize it and infuses rich flavor.

  • Sear and roast – Cook bark by searing in a hot pan, then roasting in the oven until browned and crispy.

  • Make stock – Simmer the bark in water to extract concentrated beef flavor for rich homemade stock.

  • Take small bites – The bark is dense. Take small bites and chew thoroughly to safely enjoy this intense beef flavor.

With some preparation techniques and cautious biting, the bark can provide incredible beefiness and textural contrast.

Benefits of Eating the Bark

Beyond the obvious flavor benefits, the bark of dry aged beef offers other advantages:

  • Nutrition – The bark contains concentrated amounts of protein, iron, zinc, B vitamins, and antioxidants.

  • Unique texture – The crusty exterior provides a crispy counterpoint to the tender interior meat.

  • Makes use of the whole product – Eating the bark reduces food waste by utilizing the entire cut of meat.

  • Saves money – Trimming off and discarding the pellicle means losing money you spent on that portion of beef.

While not everyone will want to eat it, the bark does provide nutritional and textural benefits worth considering.

Potential Risks of Eating the Bark

Of course, there are also some potential downsides to consuming the dried exterior layer:

  • Difficult to chew – The concentrated beefiness can translate to a very dense, leathery bite.

  • Unappetizing appearance – Some find the dark, dried out pellicle unappealing to look at.

  • Strong flavor – The ultra-beefy taste could be overpowering for some palates.

As mentioned earlier, it comes down to personal preference. Taste a small amount of bark first to determine if the intensity suits your tastes.

Tips for Cooking Dry Aged Beef With Bark

When cooking dry aged steaks, roasts or other cuts featuring the bark, keep these tips in mind:

  • Sear over high heat – Use high heat to quickly brown and crisp the exterior pellicle.

  • Cook slowly – Adjust heat to low or indirect to cook the interior without burning the bark.

  • Watch carefully – Keep an eye on the crust, as it can go from browned to burnt quickly if unattended.

  • Combine textures – Serve with something creamy like mashed potatoes to balance the textures.

  • Let meat rest – Allowing the meat to rest after cooking helps soften the bark slightly.

With the right techniques, you can achieve perfectly cooked dry aged beef with a crispy bark exterior.

Is Eating Bark Safe for Other Types of Meat?

Strict food safety standards apply to commercially dry aged beef, making the bark completely safe. However, exercise caution with the bark from other meats:

  • Fresh pork – Do not eat bark that forms on fresh pork. It may harbor harmful bacteria. Always cook pork thoroughly.

  • Home dry aged or smoked meats – Ensure proper sanitation and curing techniques are followed to prevent contamination.

  • Wild game – Inspect game meat thoroughly and cook bark completely to kill any potential parasites.

For safety, only eat bark from reputable sources of commercial dry aged beef. Use caution with all other meats.

Key Takeaways on Dry Aged Beef Bark

To summarize the key points regarding the bark on dry aged meat:

  • The bark (pellicle) is the dried outer layer that naturally forms during aging.

  • When properly dry aged, the bark is totally safe and even delicious to eat.

  • It provides intense flavor and snappy texture contrast.

  • You can trim off some or all of the bark based on personal preference.

  • Take small bites and chew thoroughly when eating it.

  • Use high then low heat when cooking meat with bark intact.

While not mandatory, sampling some properly aged bark can offer a unique and delicious dry aged beef experience.

Enjoy Dry Aged Beef However You Prefer

One of the joys of dry aged beef is experimenting with the flavor profile and textures you prefer. When handled and cooked carefully, the pellicle offers another way to enjoy this gourmet cut of meat.

Whether you trim it off or savor every last morsel, remember that there is no “right” way to indulge in this mouthwateringly delicious delicacy. Let your personal taste be the judge and enjoy your perfectly aged beef.

What is dry aged beef? Since when is drier meat good?


Can you eat the crust on dry aged beef?

If aged properly, the pellicle can be completely bacteria and mold-free, making it safe to eat.

Can you eat the bark of a dry aged steak?

Most chefs and butchers will throw out this byproduct due to the mold that is formed on the dry-aged meat. When aged in a dry-aging cooler with Himalayan salt like The Aging Room Chamber, the pellicle can be completely bacteria and mold-free, making it safe to eat.

Is it safe to eat dry aged beef?

For example, dry aged beef can be considered as safe as fresh beef if ageing is done for up to 35 days at a temperature of 3°C or lower.

Can you use the outside of dry aged beef?

The surface of dry-aged meat is termed crust. The crust is considered waste and is usually trimmed off. Undesirable characteristics of crust for consumption include hardness, dryness, and presence of a large number of microorganisms (Smith et al., 2008).

Should you eat dry aged beef?

However, increasing the tenderness of red meat can make it easier for you to digest it. So if you sometimes have trouble with digestion after eating a big steak, opting for a dry-aged one could help. But ultimately, dry-aged beef is still beef, and evidence says eating red meat too often or in large portions can be a health risk.

How long does it take to dry age a steak?

The most common timeframe for a steak to be dry-aged is 30 days. The meat doesn’t spoil during this time, because you age it in conditions that tightly control the levels of moisture and bacteria. During the dry-aging process, moisture is drawn out of the meat. This causes the beef flavor to become even beefier and more flavorful.

Does dry aging make a good steak?

Dry aging can take a good steak to great. Just like time can enhance the flavor and experience of wine or cheese, it can work magic on meat, too. When a steak has been expertly dry-aged, it takes on a deeper flavor that emphasizes the beef — kind of like what happens when you reduce a stock and intensify the flavor.

Does dry aged beef go bad?

The lack of moisture makes it tough for spoil causing bacteria that can make meat go bad. Yes, dry-aged beef has mold on it. But it’s not harmful to the beef, and it’s ultimately trimmed off before cooking and serving. The bacteria is beneficial to dry aging, just like yeast is what turns grape juice into wine, and milk into yogurt.

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