Ageing is a natural enzymatic process that takes place post-mortem in muscle tissue. Currently, two methods of meat ageing are usually utilized: wet ageing (under vacuum conditions) and dry ageing (customarily, without packaging, in air at a given temperature and humidity). The wet ageing of beef is and will remain a prevailing method applied in meat industry for, with this method, the tenderness of meat can be increased and its shrinkage reduced. In turn, with the dry ageing, it is possible to produce beef meat of a unique palatability. The objective of this review was to discuss, on the basis of the available reference literature, the state of the art as regards the characteristics of flavour profile of the dry-ageing beef and to present potential precursors and key compounds responsible for its specific flavour profile. Palatability is one of the most important determinants of the beef quality; it is a comprehensive impression perceived by the taste and smell senses. Raw meat shows a very weak aroma and taste, however it contains many precursors and substances formed during the ageing process. Those compounds (originating from both the muscle and the adipose tissues) are the ones to form a characteristic flavour profile of beef during heat treatment. Based on the research studies on the palatability of beef, it has been concluded that the palatability of dry aging raw meat is more advantageous than that of the wet aging raw meat. The palatability features of this type of beef are described as strong, buttery, nutty, beefy, roasted or caramelised. So far no unique flavour compounds have been identified on the basis of which a distinction between the dry and the wet ageing techniques could be made, though in the case of many of those compounds their amounts in dry-ageing beef are higher. The taste- and aroma-active compounds present in dry-ageing beef cover the entire spectrum of substances; among them the following are the most important: sulphur compounds, carbonyl compounds (aldehydes, ketones), nitrogen-containing heterocycles (pyrazines) and water-soluble compounds (especially free amino acids). Also a heat treatment method of meat is important. A process carried out at a low temperature results in forming lipid degradation products, while a quick heating at a higher temperature generates a higher amount of Maillard reaction products.
beef, taste, aroma, palatability, volatile compounds, taste precursors