After cooking meat for a long time, you develop a habit of it. You regularly buy the meat from the same shelf in the store, then wash, cook, and serve it the same way. Often, this systematic way of dealing with meat makes people oblivious to its minute details. Few people sit down and observe every aspect of meat before cooking it, and most of those who do so are professional chefs or butchers.
But if you like to examine the meat you buy, there is a huge probability that you have noticed the cobweb of white streaks on the pink, fleshy surface of the meat. You might also have observed the difference in the quantity and arrangement of white strips for different steaks. Despite the years of cooking, I still find the white designs fascinating. So, I compiled the knowledge I have gained to explain why the streaks are there and what they indicate. If you also want to learn all about it, read on!
What Do White Streaks Represent?
You can easily discern white streaks in the beef that you buy for steaks. This white content is intramuscular fat, made of lipids and fatty acids. Saturated fats are among the most dominant nutrients found in steaks. “Intramuscular” suggests that these are present within the same muscle. These strips of fats are also known as marbling due to their resemblance to the classic austere, gray marble.
It is typically a feature of red meat, like pork and beef. It is also essential to note that there are specific criteria for what constitutes marbling, which says that you should not classify the fat found on the meat's sides or layers that connect different muscles when considering the marbling.
Why Does It Matter?
Knowing about marbling is vital as it helps you distinguish between various similar steaks cuts. The primal rib, sirloin, and short loin cut naturally have a higher fat content due to their placement on bovine. On the other hand, cuts that are lean like the tenderloin have less intramuscular fats.
Chefs reinforce that marbling positively affects the quality and taste of the steak. You may have heard the quote that "fat is flavour," as people throw it around quite a lot. It means that a well-marbled steak turns out to be more flavourful, juicy, and tender than a less-marbled steak when appropriately cooked. During cooking, thermal reactions convert the saturated or solid fat into the unsaturated or liquid form. This melting of the marbling makes the steak juicier and more flavourful by thoroughly distributing the juices.
What Causes Marbling?
As mentioned earlier, marbling is a natural occurrence in mammals with red meat. However, some factors can influence how much marbling the meat will have. The most notable one is the diet of the animal.
“You are what you eat proverb” is equally applicable to animals. Their diet has a massive impact on their health. For more marbling, animal farmers select meals that can convert into fats if not naturally rich in fats. Two main types of animal diet that affect the marbling in their meat are as follows:
Most animals graze on grass and plants when left in the natural environment. Though it has other nutritious advantages, grass-fed beef is not that rich in marbling despite its higher costs.
Grain-fed beef is the most popular kind when it comes to taste and quality. It is mostly due to the high marbling content naturally found in the meat of animals that have access to a healthy diet of whole-grains. Such beef also has more carbohydrates as compared to its grass-fed counterpart.
Marbling and Grades
Though you can identify marbling by closely examining the beef’s surface, another straightforward way to determine is by looking at the grades or labels. Canadian Beef Grading Agency (CBGA) awards grades based on several factors. Arguably, the most significant factor is the marbling in beef. Producers then use these grades to assess the quality of beef they produce, and consumers who are well-informed about the grades use them to buy the highest quality of steaks they can afford.
Here is a list of some essential quality grades that will help you make the right choice when it comes to buying steaks.
B grade can range from B1 to B4, with the higher, the better. Though the B graded beef itself looks red, the intramuscular fat is yellowish. The beef is youthful, so you can avail of it if you are low on budget and shopping for a regular meal. However, there is little to no marbling in such beef, so your steak might end up chewy and dry.
A grade ranges from A to AA to AAA, with the more A’s, the better. For the Canadian Beef Grading Agency to award it an A grade, beef must be of excellent quality. It should have at least 2mm of fat that will contribute to the taste. A-graded steak also has visible traces of marbling or specks of white on their surface. It makes them a good grade of steak, though not the best, choice.
Prime graded beef undoubtedly makes for the best steak. There are remarkably ambitious standards of qualifications for this grade. They range from healthy muscles to the bright, red color of the beef. However, the most crucial constituent is its rich marbling. The intramuscular fat is not only abundant but also evenly spread out all over the Prime steaks. It means that every bite of the steak is equally mouth-watering and leaves you yearning for more.
Marbling in steaks refers to the intramuscular fats it has. It is distinguishable as white streaks and flecks within the red, fleshy muscle. It is vital as it dramatically refines the taste, moisture, and tenderness of the steak. You can distinguish the high-quality beef through the grades on the packaging that majorly depends on the marbling. If you want to enjoy the most marbling in your steaks, remember to look for the Prime grade.