Why does hanging meat make it taste better? The science behind the preparation.
Does hanging meat really change the quality and flavour?
In a world where we are fast becoming more aware of where our food comes from and how it is treated before it ends up in our basket or on our plate, its no wonder many of us are looking to our local butchers to provide high-quality meats that have come from local farmers and have been treated well. For butchers, it is not as simple as placing meat on the counter for customers to purchase. There are many elements to consider before a customer can take their meat home. One of these points is hanging meat.
Hung, dry-aged or matured – you may have heard several terms to describe how old your meat is and how it has been handled between the farm and your fridge. Ageing describes the period between slaughter and butchery. During this time, the meat is tenderised and slightly dried out to reduce the water content.
The process of ageing or maturing meat is done by hanging the carcass from a hook in a temperature-controlled room with good airflow. Here at IMS of Smithfield, we have a walk-in ageing room which functions as a big fridge with a powerful fan. The enzymes in the meat make the fibres of the muscles softer and more elastic during the hanging process, resulting in the meat becomes tender. Hanging meat makes it lose its moisture which is much better when it comes to cooking the meat. If your meat is carrying too much water, this will either end up on your chopping board or in your pan as its being cooked.
Are there differences in hanging meat types?
Whilst almost all meat will benefit from being hung for a few days before being sold, it’s important for butchers to note that not all meat is hung the same, and special attention should be paid to those meats that don’t have good fat coverage. These meats will not do well with long hanging times as they are not protected from the layer of fat which helps to prevent breakdown and decay.
According to the Countryside Alliance, your game bird should be hung for between 5-7 days at around 5 degrees for the best results. This, however, is a personal choice depending on when you prefer to cook your game bird.
There is much debate over hanging venison; however, depending on the weather, you may be looking at between 7 days and 3 weeks of hanging meat to tenderise your venison fully.
It’s important to note that you should never hang your chicken for ageing. Hanging chicken could actually lead to bacteria and bugs growing in your product. Chickens should be processed quickly after slaughter to prevent any bacteria from making their way into the carcass.
To get the best from this meat, you will have to pay close attention to what you are hanging. For pork loins, the flavour will increase over 7 days and will peak at around 9 days. For pork legs, it is recommended that they hang for a minimum of 4 days.
Many British butchers are proud of the quality of beef in their shops. With a minimum hang of 9-14 days is recommended, many butchers will aim for 21-28 days aged beef, and some specialist producers will look to hang their beef products for the full 5 weeks to get the best flavour and tenderness.
What is the difference between cured and aged meat?
With so many ways to buy and eat our meat, the way our meat is processed and produced can often be confusing. So what is cured meat, and how does this differ from hanging meat?
In simple terms, curing meat means using a salt-based mix combined with sugar and nitrates to preserve the colour and flavour of the meat. The salt mix is coated on the outside layer of the meat, and this concoction then starts a process of all the moisture on the inside being drawn to the surface and evaporating. Bacteria cannot grow where there is no water. For larger pieces of meat, salt mixes are injected into the centre to speed up the curing process and prevent bacteria from growing.
Different types of cured meats
- Chorizo / Salami
As you can see from the cured meat explanation above, curing meat is very different to hanging meat, and the end result is also completely different. Whilst curing aims to prevent the meat from decaying and decomposing, hanging meat aims to make it more tenderised and flavoursome. Both have their own processes and benefits, depending on what you are looking for!
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IMS of Smithfield only provide the highest quality hanging meat
For over 50 years, IMS of Smithfield has been developing and improving its knowledge and skills in the butchery industry. It is for this reason that we are proud of the meat we offer to our customers. Only the highest quality meats are sold in our London Butchery, and all meats can be traced back to grassroots and the farmers we work with.
The relationships we have with our suppliers are incredibly important to us, and we believe that the highest standards should start from where our produce is raised and slaughtered. If you are looking for high-quality hanging meat to serve at your dinner party, visit IMS of Smithfield today.