Antler and Fin Podcast: Wet Aged Venison Roast and the Science Behind Wet Aging

I removed a vacuum-sealed bottom round roast from the freezer from the buck my wife harvested this past fall and allowed it to thaw in the refrigerator. 

I planned to wet age the roast for around 28 days, removing the meat every two weeks or so to drain any blood before resealing. This process allows enzymes to break down connective tissue while vacuum sealing removes oxygen which can increase bacterial growth and can lead to spoilage.

When the roast was finally ready to hit the smoker, mother nature had other plans. By the time the weather had improved, the roast had aged an extra week and was around 35 days.

The combination of the Harvesting Nature rub and sauce I used to season it was delicious, and the roast was as tender as any backstrap I’ve eaten. The dusted roasted potatoes and steamed broccoli were the perfect compliment.

Read the written version of this recipe as prepared by John Vile


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About Wet Aging

Any beef you purchase at the grocery store has probably been wet-aged to some degree. The process works best with hearty red meats like beef and lamb, and less so with things like pork and chicken, though even these meats still get aged to a small degree. 

To commercially wet age, animals get broken down into large sub-primal cuts like loin, tenderloin, sirloin, rounds, etc., and get vacuum sealed into plastic bags. Those bags are refrigerated at a temperature below 41 degrees Fahrenheit for a minimum of 5 days, up to 14 days, and in rarer cases, sometimes for much longer. 

The meat sits in its juices, where endogenous proteo-lytic enzymes begin breaking down and weakening the structural protein fibers in the meat. 

Wet aging can do a fair job at breaking down fibers and the industry likes it because it can be done quickly, can happen during transport, and because there is no weight loss during the process. 

Because of this, wet-aged meat tends to be considerably cheaper than dry-aged. 

There are a couple of drawbacks as consumers though. 

Wet-aged meat has an environment where lactobacilli, the same bacteria that sours fermented foods, can flourish, which will sometimes leave a sour tang to the meat. 

There’s nothing inherently wrong with meat like this, but it isn’t ideal. 

Even those pieces of meat that didn’t develop lactobacilli all have an insipid and slightly metallic flavor to them. Since most of us only eat wet-aged meats these days, we’ve come to associate this flavor with all meat. 

When given a dry-aged steak or some wild game, many find the flavors to be overwhelming compared to grocery store meat. 

Still, wet aging does make the meat tastier and more tender than if eaten fresh, and meat definitely benefits from it. 

About Adam Berkelmans:

Adam Berkelmans, also known as The Intrepid Eater, is a passionate ambassador for real food and a proponent of nose-to-tail eating. He spends his time between Ottawa and a cozy lake house north of Kingston, Ontario. When not cooking, he can be found hunting, fishing, foraging, gardening, reading, traveling, and discovering new ways to find and eat food.

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