Home Butcher Guide

How Long should I hang Beef?

How Long should I hang Beef? This is a common question many people ask when they begin butchering. It’s common because there are different times allowed for different situations when it comes to hanging beef quarters.

Hanging meat is the process of ageing. It means you are holding the meat in temperatures between 32 and 34 degrees Fahrenheit for a determined amount of days. The time varies slightly for individual cattle breeds, sizes and ages but a general rule of thumb is to hang beef for 7-14 days. This allows time for the internal temperature to cool.  

Hanging beef

Hang time depends on temperature. If a walk-in cooler is not available for hanging, the hang time might decrease. When the temperature of the carcass rises above 40 degrees Fahrenheit, hang time should be decreased or spoilage may occur. A butchery has optimal temperatures in their walk-in coolers. They have it down to a science. At home, temperatures vary, especially if you are hanging in a shed or barn. Speaking from experience, over the many years of hanging beef in a barn, we have never had spoilage. I suppose if we were able to compare a beef hung in a cooler with barn hung beef there would be a flavor difference. When you butcher at home, you do what you can with what you have. If you have a walk-in, use it at the correct temperature and enjoy the flavors of the beef.

Hanging meat after slaughter is important because it is the flavor improver! When meat is hung in controlled temperatures with controlled humidity it allows the enzyme oxidation to occur which breaks down tissues giving meat an improved flavor and quality. Think of it this way, meat is muscle. The hanging process breaks down that toughness of that muscle and makes it tender. Do you want to chew on a fresh muscle? Lets stick with science on this one and allow the natural process of tenderness occur. 

Hang time depends on fat. If a carcass has only a thin layer of fat and not enough fat to cover all parts of the carcass, butchering in less than 10 days is appropriate. The fat is what ‘seals’ in the meat. Thin layer equals 5-7 day hang time. Thick fat layer, you can hang longer 10 or more days. Some years we have given our steers a pail of feed equaling about one cup per cow, two months prior to butcher, in order to increase the fat layer (and flavor). Feed is debatable and a preference.

Hanging beef for 10 days minimum is typical for home butchers but also typical of a butchery. If you were to bring your beef in to the butcher to be hung, cut and processed they would hang for no less than 10 days. We have found that if we bring beef in on a Thursday, it allows up to three more days hang time as opposed to bringing beef in on a Tuesday. Hanging on Thursday allows an extra weekend in there before they begin processing. We prefer a few days over 10 for optimum flavor and tenderness and less blood in thawed out ground beef.

When we butcher at home we kill and hang the beef the Friday after thanksgiving, and we let it hang until the first weekend in December. This allows 10-15 days hang time. We are careful if Thanksgiving is late in November, then we arrange butcher earlier. We hang the beef in a walk-in cooler that our family eventually acquired. Previous to that we simply hung in barns or sheds protected from critters. Living in a cold state like Minnesota gives the ability to do this. If your state doesn’t get cold enough to hang in barns, then a walk-in cooler is a great option. We found ours used on craigslist. 

Butchering safety cutting

Whether hanging beef in barns or coolers, allowing ten days to hang, with a nice layer of fat, you will enjoy what you have worked hard for. You will find that any burger in a box, never even comes close to what you just raised and butchered. You will also be able to impress your friends and family with the burst of flavor they will receive from home butchered beef. Life will never be the same.

Dry Aged Beef. Lets touch on this idea. Dry aged beef is hanging beef in optimal temperatures for 14-28 days. The reason for this is to allow the moisture to evaporate from the muscle allowing the natural enzymes break down the connective tissue thus creating a better flavor. Dry aging also promotes growth of a certain fungal mold species on the carcass and forms a crust. The fungal species assists the enzymes to tenderize and increase the flavor of the meat.

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