When we think of wine, images of rotting grapes don’t come to mind, but rather we imagine a noble drink that matures and gets better with time. Some of the finest cheeses aren’t spoiled or rotten, but rather inoculated with mold and aged to add complexity of flavor and texture. When it comes to meat however, most people believe that fresh meat is better. While that holds true for your hamburgers, chicken and turkey, it isn’t true for steak quality beef. A secret to a tender and flavorful great steak is aging.
In the old days beef was left hanging in barns for weeks to mature and achieve the flavor that makes steak that special meal that we crave. Dry aged steak is still the gold standard for beef. Because of high cost most beef today isn’t dry aged, but rather “wet aged” – left aging in ordinary air and water tight plastic bags.
Dry aging is the true way to extract the best texture and taste from a good steak. During dry aging, the enzymes inside the meat tenderize and transform the beef like fine wine. Dry aging is the ultimate form of aging beef, it tenderizes the meat, intensifies the beefy flavor and imparts the nutty, oaky flavor unique to the old fashioned dry aged steak. Top tier steak houses around the world serve dry aged beef. UMAi Dry® makes it possible for anyone with a fridge create the original slow food.
UMAI Dry, a Minneapolis, Minnesota-based company, markets a breathable plastic for dry aging beef and dry curing meat in your fridge. Yes, the one you open several time a day to get at your food.
The material, called UMAI Dry, releases moisture and allows oxygen to permeate creating the authentic flavor and texture of dry-aged steak or dry-cured meats like capicola, pancetta, bresaola. Have you ever imagined that you can make those yourself?
The material is sold as bags for application that requires a vacuum sealer.
The company sells its product mostly through their website right now, but is running a Kickstarter campaign to introduce their Artisan Meat Kits into specialty kitchen and grilling stores. The kit comes with a vacuum sealer and all necessary components to dry age 3 -18 lb ribeye or striploin steak cuts and dry cure 5 different charcuterie projects like capicola, pancetta or bresaola.
UMAi Dry (originally called DrybagSteak) was started in 2009 by Thea Lopatka, a former teacher, interculturalist and expert on Japanese culture. The idea for the company was introduced to Thea by her college friend Igor Pilko, who is a packaging engineer. Thea grew up in Apple Valley, Minnesota and is the daughter of Chicago-transplant parents who were avid gourmet food enthusiasts in the 60’s. Thea was introduced to dry-aged steak as a child, when her father would order a quarter of beef to be hung at the local gourmet supermarket, Byerlys.
When college friend Igor Pilko contacted her in 2007 and demonstrated the use of UMAI Dry to her, the flavor of the dry-aged steak brought back an all-but-forgotten taste from her childhood. Wanting to share this genuinely-aged beef flavor, Thea introduced the product to several restaurant chefs and received positive reviews. She started selling bags for dry aging beef out of her apartment in 2008, at the same time supporting her self by doing freelance Japanese interpreting for a local air conditioning manufacturer.
By 2010, the sales had grown and DrybagSteak moved to an office in Wayzata, MN.
In 2011, the company relocated to their current office in Minneapolis and in 2012 introduced dry curing applications for UMAI Dry material: UMAI Charcuterie and UMAI Salumi.
In 2009, Kansas State University conducted a study on the effectiveness of the UMAI Dry material comparing different aging times effect on taste and texture. A similar earlier study by Kansas State University, conducted in 2005, compared moisture permeable polymer material to traditional open-air dry aging. The basic results of the studies demonstrated that dry aging beef in UMAI bags resulted in taste and texture similar to traditional open air process.