What The Gristle On Your Steak Actually Is

There are many different cuts of steak: T-bone, filet mignon, skirt, ribeye, tomahawk, and numerous more. Some are served with the bone in, while others like filet mignon are boneless and are served in a medallion shape. Certain cuts of steak are more tender than others and some are fattier. If you want a lean steak, Kitchen Teller says the five steaks known for having the least fat are the top round roast, bottom round roast, top sirloin steak, shank, and filet mignon. 

When it comes to fat in steak, there are two kinds, per Kitchen Teller. Intramuscular fat, also called marbling, is the white marks found in the meat itself. The other kind of fat is intermuscular and can be found on the outside of the meat and is not considered as healthy compared to intramuscular fat because it contains saturated fat that can negatively affect cholesterol levels. On the other hand, Kitchen Teller explains that intramuscular fat melts, which keeps the steak moist as it cooks. All steaks have another aspect in common, though, notes Livestrong. They also contain muscle tissue and connective tissue. 

Some steaks have more gristle than others

Of the different kinds of connective tissues, collagen and elastin are the most common, according to Livestrong. When a steak is cooked, the collagen breaks down, while the elastin remains, becoming what we consider gristle, explains Heimduo. The cuts of steak with more gristle, such as top round and chuck, come from the shoulders, legs, and haunches of an animal.

While gristle can be cut away from meat, it can also be consumed; however, it remains as a chewy part of the steak, says Heimduo. According to Livestrong, meat that is sold bone-in tends to have more gristle than cuts removed from the bone. If you don't want to have to deal with gristle on your meat, tenderloin is a lean piece of meat that lacks elastin (hence why it is good for steak tartare.) Tenderloin will have little to no marbling and will lack taste but tends to be the most tender (via Food Network).