The paradox of toughening during the aging of tender steaks

Jan Novakofski, Susan Brewer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Aging is the practice of holding meat at low temperatures to improve tenderness that is the most important sensory attribute affecting consumer acceptability of beef. Because of the inconsistencies in measured tenderness changes during aging, we attempted to look at the relationship between aging and initial tenderness irrespective of animal age, genetics, or nutritional status. Cattle were selected to represent a full range of quality grades from Utility to Prime. Steaks from these cattle were aged in vacuum bags for 0, 7, or 14 d and tenderness characteristics were assessed. Steaks were cut from the frozen loin sections, thawed, and cooked on open hearth grills to 70 °C. Sensory evaluation was completed by a 6-member trained sensory evaluation panel and Warner-Bratzler shear was determined. The average shear values decreased with aging time across most grade categories; however, improvement was not uniform. Steaks from Utility grade cattle improved the most while steaks of other grades improved less. Shear values overlapped a great deal across all grades and to gain a better understanding of changes with aging, steaks were grouped based on initial shear value differences of 1 kg. Shear value of the toughest steaks decreased the most during aging (-36%), while those with the lowest shear values increased (16%). The same pattern emerged when steaks were grouped by initial tenderness. These results suggest that initially tough steaks will benefit from aging while very tender steaks may be adversely affected.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)S473-S479
JournalJournal of food science
Issue number6
StatePublished - Aug 2006


  • Aging
  • Beef
  • Tenderness
  • Warner-Bratzler shear

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Food Science


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