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June 29, 2011 at 3:39 am #1259
Hi all, I just placed an order for the starters kit here yesterday and had a few logistical questions if I could…
I homebrew and wound up buying a chest style deep freeze a couple of years ago and using it as a kegerator. I use one of the Ranco external temp controllers to keep things right around 35’ish.
I’ve seen the Ranco mentioned a few times on the forum here, but it seemed to be in reference to a regular fridge rather than a deep freeze. From what I’ve read here, air circulation is critical. The cooling coils are all in the walls of the freezer, so there’s no fan. Was thinking I’d just throw a little 6″ fan (corded, not battery powered) in to stir the air with.
Humidity is another thing I’m wondering about. I live in a very humid climate, so I usually keep some “Damp Rid” (moisture absorbent) in the freezer to help with condensation and ice buildup against the walls where the cooling coils run. I’m still a little fuzzy on whether humidity is good or bad in this process (or if it’s relevant at all when using the Drybags).
Anyway, work has been getting in the way of life the past year, and the kegerator is sadly not living up to its name. Was wondering if it might be a candidate for dry aging in. I’ve got a thermometer in there at the moment that I’m checking pretty often today to see how much the temperature swings. I’m pretty sure I’ll be ok in that regard if I load it back up with some kegs full of sigh…. water… to build up some thermal mass and keep the freezer from cycling as much. The meat would, of course, be stored safely away from the cold walls on a wire rack.
I do have a second regular fridge out in the garage that I can use too, but it will definitely get opened and closed more often than the deep freeze (I keep the store-bought beer in there!), and the garage probably gets up to 115 or more during the hottest part of the day.
Any thoughts on the use of the deep freeze?
Thanks for your time…. Looking forward to this new experience!!
JasonJune 29, 2011 at 1:45 pm #4817
Welcome aboard, Jason – glad you’re here!
You have done your research which is good and your conclusion that air flow is a requirement is correct. Typically what makes a chest style freezer better than an upright is the cold air mass stays put when you open the lid vs. a door that lets it “fall out”. In principle the fall out is a good thing when people use their kitchen refrigerator which gets opened and closed during the day as that means a change of air. I would think as long as the fan circulates around the aging beef on your wire racks coupled with the humidity control features that you should be OK. If I were you I might not bet the farm by starting out with umpteen sub-primals aging until I was confident that the set up will work. Within 21 or 28 days with one chunk-o-cow you’ll know how it will perform. By all means keep us posted!June 29, 2011 at 5:47 pm #4818
Thank you RRP. You actually hit on the exact underlying concern that was bugging me, but wasn’t quite able to coax it into the right phrase myself… “a change of air”.
The couple of pounds of loss that is escaping the membrane has to be going into the air. I know that on our nice balmy days down here in Texas, sweating doesn’t do much good because the air is so saturated that evaporation from the skin just doesn’t happen as effectively as it does in a dryer climate. I’m not sure if that is a good analogy or not, but it seems like I would want to help dry the air (or manually exchange it somehow on occasion) if I manage to be good and just leave it all alone while it does its thing. The freezer is inside the house and the AC does a good job of pulling the moisture out of the air inside the house, so dryer air is abundant, just not able to get into the freezer without help.
I tend to make bigger issues out of things that really aren’t as critical as they are in my head, so thanks for humoring me. 🙂
And no worries about ruining a freezer full of beef…. I’m already cringing at the bill for one primal cut and I haven’t even been to the store yet! Hopefully the results will make that a non-issue in the future! I actually need to figure out where to buy. I’m jealous of everyone that has a Costco… They seem to have way better prices. Would be a 150 mile round trip to Houston for me (plus membership). Going to check out Sams and HEB this weekend.
Thanks again!June 29, 2011 at 6:26 pm #4819
You’re welcome! You might want to make it a practice to open the freezer lid every few days or at least once a week during the process – but I don’t recommend handling the sub-primal itself once it’s been sealed in the Drybag and placed on the wire rack. You just don’t want to disturb the bonding between the bag and the meat.
We don’t have a COSTCO here either and I’ve had some success with SAMS. At least at SAMS I can sort through dozens of subprimals looking for the telltale marbling on the ends. It’s a little tricky, but at least you can eliminate the not so good looking ones vs. the crap shoot of saying “give me that one” from a butcher shop!
You said you have a HEB in your area so I’m jealous – I hear from many of my friends in TX and they love HEB meats and prices. They even can buy prime there.
Lastly, about gagging at the cost of buying in bulk…you’ll find it is cheaper than buying individual steaks cut up for the display case. Here anyway that saves $1.00 to $3.00 per pound! True, there is the sticker shock of $100 to $140 for a big chunk-o-cow, but you’ll get over it after the first successful aging and having several aged steaks in your freezer for future meals!
Granted you will experience weight loss since that is what aging does and you will also have trimming loss, but pound for pound after aging and trimming you’ll be far better off than paying retail for some company or butcher for their dry aged beef. Trust me!
RonJuly 2, 2011 at 4:42 am #4823
Got my kit in today! I wanted to go to Sams after dinner, but it turned out that we didn’t have our card with us so I figured I would go tomorrow. Decided to stop at HEB on the way home just to see what they had. Very glad that I did! Turns out they have a sale going on ribeyes at the moment (what I wanted). $5.97/lb for prime grade! Picked up a nice 13.88 pounder for $82.86. I’m going to have to start keeping an eye on their sales now.
Also stopped by Lowes and picked up a few remaining things. One being a fan to circulate the air. This was the smallest, cheapest one they had.
Wanted to get a wire rack also, to keep it elevated off of the freezer tray since it isn’t as open on the bottom. I bent the legs to lower it down and keep the meat within the freezer tray.
Putting it all together…….. (can click on the images to see them a little bigger)
The fan is sitting on the “compressor hump” of the deep freeze. The blue tray is suspended probably a foot or so off of the bottom of the freezer, the wire rack inside it. It pained me to do it, but I did fill up 4 kegs (5 gallons each) with water to build up thermal mass and help keep the temp more even and the compressor from cycling as much. The wire going down into the blue tray is the temp sensor for the Ranco controller that keeps the freezer from being a freezer. I’m going to keep it right there beside the steak’s new home. From the brewing days, I found that if the sensor wasn’t exposed directly to air, the freezer wouldn’t cycle on and off with the slightest change of temps (not good for the compressor). I wound up putting the sensor in a large test tube and filled it with gel. That may or may not survive the whole duration of the aging. I’ve been messing around inside the freezer so much that I haven’t gotten to see how much the temp swings now that the water and fan are in there. If it’s too much variance, I’ll remove some of the gell, or the test tube altoghether. Never noticed it being an issue with the beer, but I do want to double check. Down in between the kegs is my container of Damp Rid. May have to add a second one. Over on the right front corner is, um… more “thermal mass”.
I’m letting the kegs have a little more time to get down to the desired temps, so I’m delaying the steak bagging until tomorrow morning. I’m a tad worried that the bag is going to be too tight. I had in my head that the “subprimal roas size” bags held 15 pounds, but alas, a second look shows that they’re 13’ish. I didn’t buy any of the large bags with my order. Thought I was starting small. 🙂 Holding the bag up to the roast, it “looks” like it is going to fit. Fingers crossed… If I get in a bind, would splitting the ribeye into two have any more ill side effects than just a little more loss to trimming because there’s now 4 ends rather than 2? Or should I wrap & freeze it and wait for big bags? It really looks like it is going to fit, so I’m hoping it’s a non-issue.
Excited!!!July 2, 2011 at 3:15 pm #4824
If you are comfortable and confident your sealing will be successful you will probably get by. Just don’t trim any of the bag – in fact I never trim any of my bags first! Otherwise if need be then yes cutting it in half will also work, but as you said you’ll have more loss due to trimming 4 butt ends instead of 2. And lastly, if after attempting to seal it whole and it doesn’t take, just remove the meat, cut it in half and then reuse the larger bag plus a smaller one. Good luck -BTW your set up looks good so go for it with gusto, my man!
RonJuly 2, 2011 at 5:28 pm #4825
The bag turned out to be jusssst the right size. I didn’t have any room to mess up though, as it was pretty close to the end.
I have to admit that I must have had a different impression of how “juicy” the meat was supposed to be in the bag. I had read somewhere here on the forum that someone usually dumped straight from the cryovac into the drybag, juice and all (at least I thought I read that). I also read that you Ron, were kind of at the other end of the spectrum and rinsed/patted dry your cuts. I figured I would try to wind up somewhere in the middle this first time because the instructions pretty much come out and say that juicy is best.
I dumped about half of the juices out, thought it still seemed like a lot, but went with it. As the vac started pulling out the air it, of course, wasn’t but a few seconds later that the juices zipped up at lightning speed to the snorkel. Doh! I hit the power switch as quickly as I could, but it was too late. It took a big slurp.
I sat there debating what to do. I went ahead and pulled it off of the vac, drained out everything I could (without ripping open the corner seals and rinsing), dried the inside of the bag where the seal would later be made, and started again. There was still lots of fluild left. I decided that the vac sealer wasn’t going to get any more contaminated than I had already just made it, so I forged ahead and would deal with the vac later. The vac wound up sucking several tablespoons of fluid through, but it did its job even if it may have been the last time it would do it! I’m currently working on undoing the horors that I’ve placed upon it (in a warranty voiding kind of way). Will post later on how that goes, but so far so good.
Aside from that one little “learning experience”, it turned out great.
The ribeye wound up bumping up against the ends of the blue tray, so I had to stretch the wire rack out and turn it into a shelf. Should have thought of that earlier, as it actually worked better.
Also went ahead and took the test tube of gell off of the Ranco sensor last night. It was slowing things down a little too much. Just bumped up the “cushion” on the Ranco to allow for a couple of degrees difference and it’s been holding in a tight range since then.
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