DEBBIE ELLIOT, host:
John T. Edge is celebrating Super Bowl Sunday with a steak-off. John T. is our Curator of ALL THINGS CULINARY and he joins us once again from Oxford Mississippi. Hello, John T.
Mr. JOHN T. EDGE (Director, Southern Foodways Alliance): Hey, Debbie.
ELLIOT: What exactly is a steak-off anyway?
Mr. EDGE: Well, it's a carnage of meat, for me. It's an attempt to find that great kind of transcendent, platonic hunk of beef. And its something I've kind of been obsessed with over the past few months and this Sunday it all comes to a head, as it were.
ELLIOT: So age, not aged; tell me a little bit about what we're talking about here.
Mr. EDGE: Well, there's a lot of misinformation out there about steaks and I have been just as subject to it as anyone. You walk to the grocery store case and there's all these shrink-wrapped steaks. And they say certified angus beef on them and they say, you know, every kind of moniker attached to them other than what you need to know and what you need to know is, is this a piece of prime beef? Are there little striations of fat marbling the beef with little webs going throughout the meat? Has the steak been aged and has it been wet aged or dry aged? The latter being what you want?
ELLIOT: So what's the difference, what is dry aged versus wet aged?
Mr. EDGE: Well, if I were you, instead of listening to me babble on, I'd get Adam Perry Lang(ph) on the phone. Adam Perry Lang is a man obsessed with dry aging, a man who has taken dry aging to the kind of sublimely ridiculous conclusion. He runs a place called Roberts Steakhouse within the Penthouse Executive Club which, as you might imagine, is a strip club that serves strip steaks in New York City. He's a good fella. Get him on the phone.
ELLIOT: I'm not gonna ask you how you found out about this but we will try to get him on the phone. Let me ask the control room to dial him up.
Mr. EDGE: All right.
ELLIOT: Adam, are you on the line?
Mr. ADAM PERRY LANG (Roberts Steakhouse, steak expert): Hi, how are you?
ELLIOT: I've got John T. on the line here, too.
Mr. EDGE: Hey, Adam.
ELLIOT: John T. was trying to explain to us exactly what dry aged beef is and he figured that you could do a better job then he could, so will you help us?
Mr. LANG: Sure, anytime you age beef you really give the meat a chance to relax and tenderize. The difference between wet age and dry age is that when it's in a wet age or that cryovac bag that often you'll find in the case, it doesn't get the outside flavors, the nuttier flavor. If you can imagine, compare a grape becoming a raisin. It really intensifies a lot of the flavors and morphs into something completely different. It's not as juicy as a wet aged steak, however, cooked properly, it really has a lot of character, more so, once you really eat it, everything else seems somewhat bland.
ELLIOT: So I'm guessing if I hung a side of beef in my basement we'd end up with something rotten. Explain to me what it is that you do.
Mr. LANG: With dry age, you're looking for three things that actually makes the process, I guess, safe to eat. And that's the air velocity in the room so you don't have any dead air around it as well as the temperature and the humidity in the room. You want a relatively higher humidity so at least it doesn't dry out too much. There's a fine balance. And the temperature, of course, you wanna keep between 34 and 36 degrees.
ELLIOT: So its like being in a big refrigerated room?
Mr. LANG: Essentially, yes.
ELLIOT: With fans in it.
Mr. LANG: Right.
Mr. EDGE: I cooked, I cheated and last night I cooked once of these steaks. I know I'm not supposed to, but what the heck. Just to pick up the raw piece of beef an smell it, it gives off a really pleasant aroma that is, after you cook the steak, you get this really round nuttiness to the meat, this beautiful flavor that has nothing at all in common with those shrink wrapped steaks that come from the regular grocery story. They have nothing in common, this is transcendent meat. And if you have one of these steaks, and I'm not saying this in some kind of elitist way, I'm just saying if you wanna eat well, you should try this once in your life. It's worth saving your nickels and pennies for.
ELLIOT: And how many nickels and pennies will it take?
Mr. EDGE: Adam?
Mr. LANG: It's very expensive. A steak like this for one, let's say, 28 ounce shelf steak, it would be reasonable to say it would be about 55 dollars.
ELLIOT: Who eats 28 ounces of beef?
Mr. EDGE: Debbie, this is a steak to be shared. On Sunday night when I cook my steak, after I've let it rest for 15 minutes, I'm gonna slice it into eight or ten chunks. It's a monster steak. You know, If you think about this, three people could eat this 55 dollar hunk of steak and be very, very happy.
ELLIOT: Well, Adam Perry Lang, thank you for sharing with us about dry aged steaks.
Mr. LANG: Thank you so much for having me. Thank you, John.
ELLIOT: And John T., who are you pulling for?
Mr. EDGE: Who's playing?
ELLIOT: You don't even know who's playing, its just a food event for you, huh?
Mr. EDGE: Exactly.
ELLIOT: John T. Edge is the director of the Southern Foodways Alliance. We'll talk to you again soon. Thanks.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.