Some progress on the dry aging chamber. Holes for the ventilation are cut and cable feed-through is inserted, the inside part of the LED-lighting is installed. I even found an old BBQ grate that I cut to size and that I hope I can restore enough to use it in the fridge.
This is not an article on what “curing” or “dry aging” is and what these processes are in detail. You can read about that e.g. on Wikipedia (here or here or here), and the internet is full of information and explanations on the topic. I just want to summarize the bare bones of what a curing chamber has to do and how it might be realized. Nonetheless, I strongly recommend you read a little about food safety here!
Dry aging basics (as according to several practitioners on the internet):
Get a Fridge
It’s advisable to obtain a dedicated fridge used only for curing, so no other storage items can interfere with the meat. Also, it’s easier to maintain the required environmental conditions in an enclosure that’s not opened and closed several times a day.
For curing, a constant temperature of 8°C – 15°C is recommended (no more because bacteria and mold grow a lot better above 15°C!), whereas for dry aging temperatures should be as low as 2°C – 5 °C. This is easily fashionable with an automated thermostat simply turning the fridge on and off according to the parameters and it’s sensors reading.
75 – 85 % rel. humidity is recommended. Too much and the risk of mold and bacteria growth increases dramatically. Too low and the meat might just dry out. The simple, but hard to control solution is to add a big bowl of salt to the bottom of the fridge, which lowers humidity and acts as a sort of “air purifier”. Another (a little bit more sophisticated) approach is to install a ventilation hooked to a hygrostat. Thus, an automated control system can keep humidity levels as constant as possible while still being adjustable.
Control Air Flow
Sufficient air flow is crucial in order to avoid stagnant damp air around the meat. This contributes to mold prevention and even drying. I will install a solely internal as well as an external fan, each engageable individually so I’ll be able to control air movement and air exchange separately.
My personal summary on what my dry age chamber has to be capable of:
- I want a programmable combined hygro-/thermostat with a sensor, able to control both temperature (by turning on and off the fridge) and humidity (by turning on and off either a fan or a vaporizer).
- There’ll be two fans (an internal and an external one), switchable individually and at the same time controllable by the hygrostat to reduce humidity if necessary.
- A simple vaporizer (hooked to the hygrostat) on the other hand will enable the system to increase humidity if necessary.
- Since I had to discard the fridge’s original lightbulb, I’ll install some LED lighting. Looks fancier anyway.
- All of the inside electronic installation will be 12V, all power supplies and 220V lines will be mounted outside. I want a clean wiring to some sort of a “control panel” and a multiple socket outlet.
- The fridge will be mounted on casters to allow for easy movement.