There’s a lot of talk amongst professional butchers about fat marbling, but why is marbling so important, and what does it do for cuts of beef?
It’s generally common knowledge that when people refer to the marbling in beef, they’re referring to how the fat appears in the meat, or “marbles,” throughout the cut. But why do professional chefs and butchers care so much about marbling anyway? If you’re curious, here’s everything you need to know about beef marbling so you can sound like a pro at your next cookout.
What Is Marbling?
When it comes to beef, there are two types of fat you need to know about—intermuscular fat and intramuscular fat. Intermuscular fat is the thicker pieces of fat your see lining the different parts of the muscle. Intramuscular fat appears within the muscle fibers and is what gives beef that marbling effect.
What Does Marbling Do?
Because fat does not conduct heat as well as muscle does, it’s a lot harder to overcook a well-marbled piece of meat. In addition, the intramuscular fat melts between the muscle fibers and adds moisture and flavor between the fibers. For example, that high-quality marbling is a small part of what makes Wagyu beef so desirable. The fat is perfectly dispersed, making for a naturally flavorful and juicy cut.
What Are the Different Types of Marbling?
There are three different types of marbling to be on the lookout for, and not all are indicators of a good cut of beef.
Coarse marbling is the least desirable type of marbling and often looks like small uneven flecks of white throughout the muscle fibers. Medium marbling has a more even distribution of fat, but it’s still not as desirable. This is because, during cooking, one area of meat can stay juicy while the other becomes tough and dry due to the uneven distribution. Lastly, fine marbling is the most desirable type of marbling as the fat is thin and evenly distributed throughout the cut, making for an easy cooking experience as well as an overall juicy and tender cut.
With this quick guide to e.verything you need to know about marbling, you’re ready to pick the best cuts from your local butcher and impress any dinner guest for years to come!