#8. Marbling Matters
Whether you’re talking about grass fed or grain-finished beef, most experts will tell you marbling is where the great steak flavor comes from when choosing steaks. One of the big differences between a USDA Choice Grade and USDA Prime (top grade) is marbling.
According to Jimmy Kerstein, marbling gives steaks both flavor and tenderness. He describes marbling as “the dispersion of fat within the lean. The best marbling is small flecks of fat evenly spread across very fine textured lean.”
Bruce Aidells and Denis Kelly say in The Complete Meat Cookbook, consumers should judge and “look for the intramuscular fat, or marbling, which determines juiciness and tenderness.”
And later in Bruce Aidells The Great Meat Cookbook, he describes his “Ideal Beef” as “some beautifully marbled New York strip steaks” coming from grass-fed Natural Beef raised in California.
Mark Schatzker, the author of Steak talks about the “two handpicked rib eyes” “sitting on that plate were marbled enough to grade high Choice” and “the flavor that burst over my tongue with each chew was comparable to a symphony, but any attempt to describe the individual notes would sound pretentious and be meaningless. The steaks he was describing came from a ranch in Idaho and were organic grass-fed steaks.
It is important to note they all say marbling is important, but in my opinion, how that marbling develops is just as important. Some will disagree and say marbling is marbling and whether it comes from a diet of heavy grain or from extra time in grass pastures, fat is fat.
I can’t disagree more.
The problem for the consumer is how do we know where the beef we are buying comes from, what was it fed, how many hormones and antibiotics was it given and at what age did it go to slaughter?
I would say you could ask your butcher but I’m guessing he or she would have no idea either. The other problem with buying incredible steaks that are as flavorful and tender as described by these authors is cost and availability.
Today’s consumers want readily available beef that doesn’t cost too much. I can buy Prime New York strip steaks at Costco for less than $14 a pound. Are they good, yes but how would they compare to these other steaks?
There is a lot more to this discussion of marbling and how it affects the flavor of the steaks you purchase. I suggest you do your own research by reading these author’s books, finding articles online about this subject and try different steaks from a variety of sources to see what steaks taste best to you.