The Fat On Your Steak Is More Important Than You Realize

Steak is truly a feast for the senses with the smell of perfectly romanced meat and spices, the rosey pink of medium-rare, and the light resistance under the knife. When thinking of the perfect steak, you may picture luxurious cuts of meat and wonderful sights, smells, feels, and tastes, but you may not know that all this is due to the fat on and in your steak.

Per Masterclass, the levels of intramuscular fat (fat that is found inside of the muscle, rather than between the muscles) in lean muscles produces what is known as marbling, which is one way to set the good meat from the great meat from the Michelin-worthy meat. Of course the ingredient itself is not much without a properly seasoned chef slaving over it, but the marbling of meat does determine the juiciness, tenderness, flavor, and texture, and is a well-established, metric-ensuring flavor, mouthfeel, and overall quality. The moniker comes from similarities of high quality marbling to the cut stone.

What does marbling mean for meats?

According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), the marbling of a piece of meat most directly determines the tenderness of the cut and can have huge effects on every aspect of the ingredient's preparation. As the meat cooks, the fat renders throughout, ensuring that the meat stays moist and flavorful during the cooking process, and of course the texture of fat is almost fluid and thus imparts an amazing softness to the meat.

The level of marbling is determined by experts from various agencies and communities around the world. Wagyu beef, the Japanese variety of wagyu called Kobe beef, and Hanwoo beef from Korea are three examples of very high quality meat that all have a legendary marbling. Because marbling is so prized and sought after, these kinds of beef are typically very expensive and more difficult to obtain than more common types of meat. Nevertheless, if you ever find yourself in position to try it, you should remember that more fat means more flavor.