January 3rd, 2023
If you're a restaurant owner looking to add dry-aged fish to your menu, you're not alone. Dry-aged fish has exploded in popularity in recent years, with chefs and seafood markets across the country embracing the technique as a way to enhance flavor and texture.
What exactly is dry-aging, and how can it benefit your restaurant?
Simply put, dry-aging is the process of hanging fish in a moisture- and temperature-controlled environment for a period of time, typically a few days to a few weeks. This process removes excess moisture, including blood and slime, which can give fish a fishy odor. It also breaks down the large flakes of tendons, resulting in a more tender and creamy texture.
According to Liwei Liao, owner of The Joint seafood market in Sherman Oaks, California, dry-aging is rooted in Japanese traditions, where it was originally used as a means of necessity to preserve fish during the long journey from catch to market. Today, it is practiced by specialists around the world, including in Hong Kong, Austin, and Los Angeles.
But why should restaurant owners consider adding dry-aged fish to their menus?
Because excess moisture is removed in the dry-aging process, fish tends to not curl up, shrivel, or shrink when it's gone through a few days of dry-aging. This means it can be slightly overcooked and still maintain a tender and juicy texture.
Dry-aged fish is also more forgiving when it comes to flavor. While dry-aged steak is known for developing a deep, complex flavor profile, dry-aged fish tends to be cleaner and less fishy. This can make it more approachable for diners who may not be fans of strong seafood flavors.
And let's not forget the financial benefits. Because dry-aging is a time-consuming process, restaurants are able to charge a premium for dishes featuring dry-aged fish. According to Liao, his market charges around 50% more for dry-aged fish than it does for fresh fish.
What are the challenges?
It's important to note that dry-aging fish is not without its challenges. It requires careful handling and a level of experimentation to find the right conditions for each type of fish. It also requires a significant investment in equipment, including commercial refrigerators and temperature and moisture monitoring devices.
Despite these challenges, many chefs and seafood experts believe that the rewards of dry-aging fish are well worth the effort. As Michael Cimarusti, chef and owner of two-Michelin-starred Providence in Hollywood, California, puts it: "I would definitely say that I'm a convert now."
If you're considering adding dry-aged fish to your menu, it's worth taking the time to research and experiment with different techniques and flavors. With the right approach, dry-aged fish can be a lucrative and delicious addition to your restaurant's offerings.
What's the difference between dry-aged beef and dry-aged fish?
First, it's important to note that dry-aging fish is not the same as dry-aging beef. While the principles are similar, the process of dry-aging fish is much shorter, with most small fish only being aged for a few days to achieve the desired result. Larger cuts of fish like bluefin tuna may take a couple of weeks or more.
The key to successful dry-aging is in the handling of the fish from the start. "If the fish is wild, we need to make sure that it wasn’t under too much stress before it came to us," says Colin Whitbread, chef and co-founder of the exclusively dry-aged fish sushi restaurant Fiish in Culver City. "Hopefully it was [killed through the Japanese technique] ikejime, sustainably caught, ethically sourced, and there’s no adrenaline left in its body. Then it’s going to taste better."
Once the fish has been properly sourced and handled, it must be meticulously cleaned, gutted, and scaled before being hung in a moisture- and temperature-controlled refrigeration system for the desired length of time. This process removes excess moisture, resulting in a more tender and juicy piece of fish with a cleaner flavor and slightly firmer texture.
Is Dry-Aged Fish Worth the Effort?
But why go through all the effort of dry-aging fish? According to Michael Cimarusti, chef and owner of two-Michelin-starred Hollywood restaurant Providence, the results are worth it. "I would definitely say that I’m a convert now," he says. "I think that the flavor is much more concentrated and the texture is much more interesting."
In terms of the bottom line, dry-aging fish can be a lucrative addition to a restaurant's menu. Liwei Liao, owner of Sherman Oaks fish market the Joint, estimates that his dry-aged fish sells for about 30% more than fresh fish. And with the growing demand for dry-aged fish, it's a trend that shows no signs of slowing down.
However, it's important for restaurant owners to carefully consider their resources before diving into the world of dry-aged fish. "It’s not a cheap process," warns Whitbread. "You have to invest in the equipment, and it takes a lot of time and effort."
Despite the challenges, the benefits of offering dry-aged fish on a restaurant's menu are clear. From the concentrated flavors and unique textures to the added revenue potential, it's a trend that any forward-thinking restaurant owner should consider.
ClearCOGS provides restaurant management software that can help restaurant owners with their inventory and pricing. With ClearCOGS, restaurant owners can track their dry-aged fish inventory and see how long each piece has been aging. This information can help them determine the optimal time to sell each piece and set the appropriate price. ClearCOGS also allows restaurant owners to easily track the cost of each piece of dry-aged fish, which can help them determine their profit margins. Additionally, ClearCOGS can help restaurant owners track the sales of their dry-aged fish, allowing them to see which types of fish are most popular and adjust their inventory accordingly. Overall, ClearCOGS can help restaurant owners streamline their dry-aged fish operations and increase profitability.