This Is What a 100-Day-Old Cheeseburger Tastes Like
Belcampo Meat Co.'s "Century Burger" has a beautiful flavor, but probably not what you would expect after hearing that the beef is 100 days old.
"Dry-aging beef involves losing an 'angel's share' of beef," says chef Ryan Riedy. "For example, if you are aging an eight-pound rib-eye roast, you will only end up with about six-and-a-half."
I am hovering over the hot, flat-top grill in the tiny kitchen behind Belcampo Meat Co.'s stand at Grand Central Market in Los Angeles, trying to keep my eyes from popping out of my face as Riedy, the head chef here, gently plops a marbled red disk of 100-day-old, grass-fed and -finished organic beef on the plancha.
For a brief moment, the hissing sound of the searing red meat—comprised mostly of steak cuts like rib-eye—is infinitely louder than the background music and the hundreds of people pacing around the market on a Friday afternoon. The hazy fumes of charring beef tallow, combined with the smoke of the butter Riedy is basting it with, overpowers the exhaust system with its thick, white plumes of smoke. I take even deeper breaths to help it out.
I have agreed to subject myself to this true test of patience to find out what a burger made from 100-day-old meat tastes like, and better yet, to see how to properly cook beef that is likely equivalent to a quarter of my rent. Belcampo is practically giving away gold in the form of these eight-ounce cheeseburgers, which come with a side order of their hand-cut Kennebec fries.
The gourmet burger (which used to be listed as a "steak burger" on the menu) is served with a half-inch slab of raclette cheese, whole-grain mustard aioli, caramelized onions, arugula, and a spritz of 100-proof whisky on a sesame-seed brioche bun.
Belcampo had been offering these burgers for a stupidly low priced of $15 (normally priced at $23) as part of their Burger Awareness Month, one week of which was dedicated to ensuring that all of their customers get a chance to enjoy their premium meats at least once.
Like many, I became interested in the subject of decaying meat for sensual pleasure after watching Magnus Nilsson's episode of Mind of a Chef in which he gawks at, carves, and cooks a juicy piece of five-month-old rib eye that is the color of American cheese, plating it with sugar kelp. I was mesmerized.
Even though Belcampo's beef is not as old, I'm sure that I'll get an idea of what it's like, more or less.
Being a conscious carnivore, I already had Belcampo on my radar because of their sustainable farming style. Based in Shasta Valley, California, the farm has been the subject of a couple of documentaries focusing on their traditional way of raising cattle and rotating other animals in order to grow healthy grass on which the cows can roam. Belcampo's two restaurants in LA have made a mark in the city's quickly growing burger scene. Some OG LA food authorities have said that Belcampo's burger is better than the current champion, Father's Office.
Riedy—who has previously worked at some LA landmarks like Spago, Maude, and AOC—describes the flavor of carefully rotted, 100-day-old burger as "unctuous, with a slight funkiness."
After waiting ten minutes—five minutes for each side—that seem like an eternity, and waiting for the meat to rest a little bit so that its juices seep into the bun, I take my first bite. The patty is on rare side of medium-rare. I wait for some kind of skunky-beef flavor to hit my palate, like when you eat an old piece of meat that was in your refrigerator for a little too long, but all I get was a light grassiness. Sure, it's an umami bomb, but it's so vegetal that it's almost lamb-like. It has a beautiful flavor, but probably not what you would expect after hearing the words "100-day-aged" and "beef" in the same sentence.
Chef Riedy then explains to me that some of the funkier flavors of the beef can get lost when grinding. I don't mind. Does that stop me from eating the entire burger in a matter of five minutes? Of course not. Would I come back and pay $23 for the burger itself? Maybe, but to treat myself or a friend to a birthday lunch, because nothing says "I'm a baller and doing pretty good in life right now" than stuffing yourself with perhaps the most consciously delicious burger in the republic of California.
I still want to try Nilsson's five-month-old yellow beef, though.
This article originally appeared on MUNCHIES in August 2016.