What Is Marbling?
Marbling refers to the white streaks and flecks of fat within portions of meat (not the outside layers of fat or the strips of fat that connect muscles).
What Causes Marbling?
The amount of marbling in beef is determined by numerous factors, including the breed and age of the cattle, whether they were grass or grain fed, and which part of the animal the beef cut is from. Cattle that are raised on grain have more marbling than grass fed beef (although grass fed beef comes with its own set of benefits).
Certain cuts of meat have more marbling than others – for example, the beef rib and shortloin are among the most-marbled, whereas the beef round cuts tend to have the least.
The most famous breed of cattle (in regards to marbling) is Wagyu beef, a Japanese breed that is genetically predisposed to intense marbling and a high percentage of unsaturated fat.
What’s the Big Deal?
Well, marbling is known to have a positive impact on beef eating quality – in general, the more marbling a cut of meat contains, the more flavoursome it should be. Fat (and marbling, in particular) has a beneficial effect on the juiciness and flavour of beef.
When cooked with temperatures above 55ºC, the marbling in steak begins to melt and coat the muscle fibres surrounding it. This produces rich, buttery texture and enhances the bold and beefy flavour of the meat.