Two experts dish on everything you need to know about Pusateri’s dry-aged beef
Make the most of grilling season with Pusateri’s master butcher, Joe Figliomeni and Toronto chef and restauranteur superstar, Adrian Niman
If there’s one kind of aging most of us can get behind, it’s the aging process of culinary delights. Going beyond the usual suspects like wine and cheese, aging beef enhances the flavour and wow factor of a cut of meat. And when you’re using some of the finest cuts of beef in the city, every season can be grilling season. Enter Pusateri’s. Founded by master butcher Cosimo Pusateri, this family-run establishment is the food emporium that dreams are made of, not to mention home to some of the most delicious, decadent and gorgeous cuts of meat.
Working with local and international vendors, Pusateri’s is consistently dishing up some of the best and finest fares that the city and its surrounding regions have seen. This is also thanks to their long-term relationship with local farmers. “We’ve made a career through building relationships that now span decades. We know what we’re looking for, and suppliers understand what we want; that translates to consistent, high-quality products,” says owner Ida Pusateri. “We see this across our sources, from local farms, fresh produce importers at the Ontario Food Terminal, and our network of local producers and suppliers—where the top-grade goods are already earmarked for Pusateri’s before we even order it.”
So to help you enjoy every last moment of grilling season and beyond, we sat down with Pusateri’s master butcher, Joe Figliomeni, and Toronto-based chef and restauranteur of the Food Dudes empire, Adrian Niman, to learn more about dry-aged beef and how to best enjoy it.
What’s dry-aged beef, anyway?
According to Joe, dry-aging beef is a process by which beef is hung to age for a few days, weeks or several months to naturally tenderize, drawing out the moisture in the beef to create richer flavours and a melt-in-your-mouth experience. “We’ve finessed our process after years of fine-tuning and experimentation and the creation of our own dedicated temperature-controlled dry-aging environment,” Joe tells us. It all begins with quality local beef—from the Mennonite communities in the Kitchener and Waterloo areas. In our racking system, the fresh beef sides sit undisturbed in the chilled air environment for between 21 to 28 days, aging, releasing moisture, developing a crusty mould coating and a true nutty, beefy taste. We carefully scrape off the mouldy crust, carve out our cuts, and send them to our stores where the restaurant-quality, fine-detail cutting is done, he adds. “In our experience, the 21-day threshold maintains some moisture, and the meats develop into a more tender and delicious version of itself,” says Joe, because of the beef’s enzymatic breakdown and natural oxidation.
What do you look for when selecting a cut of dry-aged beef?
For Chef Adrian, the first thing he looks for is the marbling and grade of the beef. “It’s equally important to smell the beef and, overall, keep track of these details. Keep a list of this info, what farm the beef is from and what they even feed their cattle. This will help you gain knowledge and perspective as you taste different beef in your life,” he says. “I look for a nutty, popcorn aroma from any dry-aged beef. When raw, the texture should be firm but fatty and oily to the touch.”
Master butcher Joe notes that while mostly only butchers get to experience the alluring funk of the mouldy outer coating of dry-aged beef. “The final cuts smell subtly beefy and are velvety to cut. Once cooked, they offer up a nutty flavour similar to the taste and aroma of curing charcuterie,” he describes. “It’s exquisite. We do two gorgeous signature cuts—the Barbarian (a classic 40+ oz. Tomahawk) and the Manhattan (a bone-in beef tenderloin). The Tomahawk anatomically has more marbling since it’s a cut from the rib portion—the flavour is explosive! The tenderloin is much leaner, but the nature of that cut is extremely tender; plus, the fact that it’s cooked attached to the bone adds incredible flavour—very delicious.”
What’s the best way to cook these cuts of meat?
“My go-to method of cooking steak is barbequing them,” says Joe. “When fats and the marbling in the beef caramelizes, it transforms the beef all over again. You can pan-sear them and finish them in the oven with butter, garlic and herbs, but nothing beats the grill for me.”
It’s also important to make sure the meat is ready prior to cooking. “Cooking time depends on the size or cuts of the steak, but the best thing you can do is let your meat come to room temperature before cooking it,” says Chef Adrian. “Also, bone-in cuts take longer to cook. I like bringing them to medium rare, especially if the fat content is significant. Resting your steaks and developing that patience while cooking is an essential step.”
And for both our master butcher and chef, a good piece of meat only ever needs a drizzle of olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper to taste.
How would you serve these cuts of meat?
Chef Adrian shares his love for straightforward and in-season accompaniments. “Condiments I like to serve with a steak are like chimichurri and salsa macha. And at this time of year, I like serving beef with a corn dish and a tomato dish. And french fries, always.”
And for Joe? “I don’t care for sides when the beef is this good. That’s what my guests come by for, anyway. But I do use and often recommend a red-wine veal demi-glace—it’s a rich finishing sauce, and it adds even more dimension to the beef. I’m a roasted potato kind of guy, but I’ll serve up asparagus, an Italian potato salad, other vegetables and salads depending on the season. I’ll tell you what, though, those always end up in the fridge for the next day because, with us, beef is the star of the show.”
Click here for your nearest Pusateri’s location so that you can make the most of the rest of your summer.