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Here's the recipe I'd like to make for Christmas:

http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/dry-aged-roast-beef-with-fresh-hot-sauce

The first step of this recipe says:

PREPARE THE ROAST BEEF Set the roast on a baking sheet and rub it all over with the salt and pepper. Refrigerate, uncovered, for 1 day.

The ingredients call for dry-aged roast beef, but isn't the first step how you dry-age roast beef? Are they assuming that I'm starting with non-dry-aged beef, or does this mean perform step one in addition to the initial dry-aging? Why would I need to both dry-age the roast beef and then leave it in the fridge for an extra day?

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If the first step in your recipe produced dry-aged beef, the real dry-aged beef wouldn't be so very, very expensive and hard to come by.

Dry aging is a process that takes weeks under controlled climate conditions and changes the taste and texture of the beef. The two desired main effects of dry aging are

  • Loss of up to 40% weight (water, cut-off & discarded dry fat and meat)
  • Enzymatic and - depending on choosen process - often fungal activity which tenderizes the meat by denaturizing proteins and alters the flavour profile.

So no, your recipe tells you to start with dry-aged beef and then salt it for a day, the last day is to let the salt permeate the outer layer of the meat and the drawn-out liquid (probably not much) to be re-absorbed or evaporate.

You might have confused the instructions of your recipe with the first step of dry-curing a ham or similar, where the fresh meat gets rubbed with salt and left to rest for a few weeks to draw out blood and excess moisture before being hung up to dry, the process used e.g. for Serrano or Parma ham.

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The recipe means to start out with it already dry-aged; presumably you'd just buy it like that because most people don't want to do that themselves at home. Dry-aging beef is a lot of work: you have to do it in large quantities, and it takes a long time.

The salting and leaving in the fridge is a separate thing. It's nowhere near dry-aging, and it works well for for meat in general, not just dry-aged beef. It's really just about properly salting it, with enough time for the salt to be absorbed into the meat, and for the moisture drawn out by the salt to either evaporate or be reabsorbed, leaving the surface of the meat nice and dry.

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