Marbling, simply put, is the distribution of fat within a cut of beef.  The USDA measures this “Marbling” and assigns a grade to the beef.  Many recognize that without a degree of marbling, a steak or beef cut just doesn’t taste very flavorful, and may even be tough and dry after cooking. There is a commonly accepted relationship between the amount of marbling in a beef cut, and it’s inherent flavor.  There is also a direct corollary between marbling and price per pound of beef.   This chart explains why a “Select” grade Rib Eye steak will taste remarkably different than a “Prime” Rib Eye steak – and cost more too.

These are excerpts from the USDA marbling chart.  I wanted to post this as an example of the differences that exist between meat grades that we commonly see in the store.  The standard USDA grades are labeled, Kobe Beef falls between “Prime” and “Marble Score 4″.  The  “Marble Scores” come from Australian Wagu Beef, or other unique breeds of cattle.  Draw your own conclusions about the grade of beef and the fat content of each.

So, next time a “Select” New York steak steak goes on sale at you local market , realize that a “Prime” sirloin may be the more flavorful cut at a similar price. Keep in mind that all steaks or beef cuts are NOT created equal. One simply cannot cook the same steak at home as was had at a restaurant unless the grade is the same or similar…no matter how amazing your BBQ skills are.

I thought is was visually interesting to see all of the beef grades together for a quick comparison.  I hope this leads to a more well informed beef purchase and better quality BBQ.

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