What Is Marbling in Steak? The Basics Behind Meat Marbling
What Is Marbling in Steak? Marbling is the white flecks of intramuscular fat in meat, most notably red meat. The fat in lean muscle creates a marble pattern—hence the name. Marbling affects meat’s juiciness, tenderness, texture, and flavor—attributes that determine the eating experience. Intramuscular fat should not be confused with intermuscular fat, which is the fat between the muscles. That fat, which you typically trim off, does not enhance a piece of meat. In the culinary arts, the word marbling refers to white flecks and streaks of fat within the lean sections of meat. Marbling is so named because the streaks of fat resemble a marble pattern. Also called intramuscular fat, marbling adds flavor and is one of the main criteria for judging the quality of cuts of meat. In general, the more marbling it contains, the better a cut of meat is.
What Factors Affect Meat Marbling? Marbling is a measure of quality, and as such the meat industry is always using meat science to make production more predictable and uniform, to boost profits. The following factors affect marbling in beef. please go here to this blog and know more about Behind Meat Marbling.
Breed_ Certain breeds have higher marbling scores on average due to the way they metabolize food. Cattle breeds such as Angus, Murray Grey, Herefords, Shorthorns, Japanese Wagyu, and Kobe are all high-quality breeds. Dairy breeds such as Jersey, Holstein-Friesian, and Braunvieh stand out as well. The breed can also affect the ratio of Omega-3 to Omega-6 fatty acids. For example, Wagyu, which is higher in Omega-3s, is a healthier breed of cattle.
Muscle use_ The same principles that apply to building lean muscle and burning fat at the gym apply to animals and marbling. Less heavily worked muscles, like the loin, have more fat and thus produce the most marbled cuts. Active leg, shoulder, and rump muscles result in leaner, less marbled cuts.
Feed_ The type of feed and time that an animal feeds play an important role in marbling. If beef cattle aren’t gaining weight properly, marbling will disappear from their muscles quickly. Cattle that feed on grain often marble more easily than strictly grass-fed cattle, but not every feed is the same and, due to metabolism, not every breed is the same. The grass pellets used in industrial feedlots may lack the nutrients of grass on open pastures and rangelands.
Cut_ The particular cut of meat also plays a role. Some beef cuts, like a Tenderloin Steak, have less marbling but, due to the fine structure of their muscle fiber, are tender even though the cuts of meat aren’t incredibly juicy or flavorful. Prime NY strip has a high concentration of marbling, but, unlike tenderloin and ribeye, its large muscle fibers can overpower the fat.
Age_ The age of cattle is important. When an animal is too young it won’t display marbling. Veal, or young cattle, develop intramuscular fat last, after subcutaneous fat, kidney, pelvic, and heart fat, and intermuscular fat. Older animals aren’t ideal, either.
Why Is Marbling in Meat Important? Marbling in uncooked meat looks aesthetically interesting, but that is not why it’s special. The presence and type of marbling in meat are important for several reasons. When cooking, marbling adds flavor and juiciness as the fat melts into the steak. The marbling keeps the meat moist, so natural juices don’t evaporate in the pan. Fat is far more tender than muscle fiber in steak. As a result, marbling adds tenderness, which is a preferable mouthfeel. Some fats are undeniably bad for you, but the intramuscular fat that creates marbling can be good for you. Breeds like Wagyu are higher in healthier fats like oleic acid, which can reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
We want marbling: Because marbling is added fat between the muscle (not the kind that you cut off the edge), it impacts your steak's juicy flavors. Marbling keeps the meat moist during cooking, so natural juices don't evaporate in the pan. Overcooking is marbling's worst nightmare, since it renders all the fat out of the meat, leaving behind a dry and tough steak without the moist flavors we know and love. The most marbled cuts come from the loin where the muscles were not heavily worked. The most lean and least marbled cuts tend to come from the legs, shoulder, and rump, where the muscles get a lot of exercise and result in much leaner cuts.
Marbling is fat, so it is largely determined by the diet of the animal (and to a certain degree the breed of cattle). Cattle that are raised on grain will have more marbling than grass-fed beef. This is fairly intuitive since you can imagine how difficult it would be to get fat by eating grass. It's also why you've probably never seen grass-fed beef that was graded prime (which is the highest grade), despite the fact that grass-fed beef is more expensive.
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