If you’ve been lucky enough to eat at The Mercer Kitchen, Tao, or Tom Colicchio’s Craft, you’ve most likely had meat from DeBragga & Spitler.
Self-described as “New York’s Butcher,” DeBragga has been providing high-quality aged beef to some of New York and New Jersey’s best restaurants for over 90 years.
Their unique dry-ageing process was recently chronicled in Bon Appetit and is virtually unrivalled in the United States.
Last week, President Marc Sarrazin and Chief Operating Officer George Faison invited me to their 27,000-square-foot warehouse in Jersey City for a tour. Their warehouse currently holds more than 3,000 enormous pieces of beef, which are each aged anywhere from 30 to 100 days.
Sarrazin and Faison walked me through the “life” of a piece of meat ageing at DeBragga and gave me the inside scoop on exactly what it takes to make said piece worth thousands of dollars.
DeBragga operates out of a massive warehouse in Jersey City, NJ. Their employees arrive at 2 AM and work until 1 PM every day to ensure that steaks are shipped out on time each morning.
All of the meat comes in and out via the loading dock just outside these doors at the back of the warehouse. It's where raw, uncut pieces of meat comes in, and packaged, processed meat goes out.
DeBragga has several massive freezers that they use for storing meat, both when it arrives and before it is sent out to customers.
The dry-ageing rooms at DeBragga are separate from the rest of the facility and carefully monitored. No cardboard is allowed in these rooms — the distinct smell of cardboard could affect the flavour of the meat.
The dry-ageing rooms smell woody, clean and delicious. Cuts of meat that arrive are quickly sliced, labelled by date, and sent to one of the enormous dry-ageing rooms to hang for predetermined periods of time.
Standing fans, aided by massive evaporators and air conditioners, help to keep the rooms freezing cold and free of humidity.
By contrast, this meat was several weeks old, felt firmer, and was probably more flavorful. Much of the meat at DeBragga ages for 30 days or more.
This particular cut of meat had been ageing at DeBragga since April 4th, making it one of the oldest pieces in the entire facility, and also one of the most expensive: a piece like this could sell for tens of thousands of dollars.
Here you can see enormous pieces of meat at various stages of dry-ageing. The meat on the far left is just a day old, while the meat on the far right is nearly 60 days old.
On the left you can see a traditional wet-aged steak. Compare its colour to that of the dry-aged steak on the right (both steaks have been aged for the same amount of time). Dry-aged beef tends to taste much more savory, as the loss of humidity concentrates the unique flavour of the meat.
In this room, steaks are cut down, packaged, boxed, and carried out to trucks to be sent all over the country.
The larger pieces of meat are purchased by restaurants like Tao, while these smaller steaks are packaged, printed with DeBragga's logo, and sent out to supermarkets or happy customers who ordered them online.
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