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Why Marbling Is NOT THAT Important

The amount of marbling of the cut of steak has always been an indication of its quality.

By USDA classification, a Prime cut is a steak with the highest quality because it has excellent amount of marbling which is said to give the beef its flavor and tenderness.

Butchers also judge the quality of steaks by the amount of marbling and put a price on them accordingly.

raw-steak

But Does Marbling Really Matter?

As a buyer, you have been told that the quality of steak depends on the amount of its marbling.

There are three types of fat in cattle, and one of which is the visible bands of fat between the muscle fibers known as marbling.

But do these white streaks of fat you see across the steak really give the steak its tenderness and savory taste when cooked?

flavorful-steak

Not really, according to some beef experts.

Grass Fed Solutions , for example, has maintained that while a type of fat determines the quality of the beef, it is not the fat that can be seen with the naked eye, but the microscopic fat cells within the meat fibers, hidden within the red muscle tissue.

“Without these microscopic fat cells, beef will be tough and flavorless,” according to Grass Fed Solutions.

The microscopic fat cells are present in all breeds, whether the cattle is fed purely grass, or whether it eats other feeds, such as hay and grain.

The visible fat known as can’t be found in all cattle breeds, however.

 

Why Marbling Has Become an Indication of Steaks’ Quality?

Aside from the fact that marbling, or visible streaks of fat between the muscle fibers of the steak is not present in some cattle breeds, its abundance in cows who have them also depends on feed source.

But it doesn’t matter, because according to Grass Fed Solutions, marbling is just extra fat and does nothing to make the beef flavorful and tender.

beef-steak

Why, after all this time, is the amount of marbling in the beef used as a measurement of the quality of the beef?

It has still something to do with the feed source of the cattle.

According to Grass Fed Solutions, virtually all cattle in North America had been finished in a feedlot, on a grain-rich diet.

It is only until recently that grass fed beef is widely available.

The traditional way of raising cattle, which involves keeping them in feedlot pens with large amounts of grain as sustenance, make the cows produce the excessive visible fat, known as marbling.

During the finishing stage of these cattle’s lives, marbling forms at the same time fat is deposited in the microscopic fat cells.

So people believe that if the beef has a lot of marbling, it also has a lot of the microscopic fat cells stuffed with flavor-inducing and moisture-filled fat.

As a result, marbling is a standard for measurement of the beef’s tenderness and flavor, according to Grass Fed Solutions.

The kind of measurement is quick and does not require laboratory testing. You can’t expect butchers to inspect each cut of steak with a microscope.

 

Questioning Marbling as a Standard for Measurement

The problem with using marbling as a “handy quick visual gauge” of the quality of steaks is that while it is practical and accurate in grain fed beef, it does not apply to steaks that do not have the visible streaks of fat called marbling in spite of being as tender as the beef that has excellent marbling, according to Grass Fed Solutions.

Judging the quality of the beef by its marbling is only effective as long as the beef comes from cattle that marble and were fed with grains.

But the rise in popularity of grass fed beef in North America and Europe could lead to a new (or separate?) grading system that focuses on the cattle’s feed source and lifestyle.

The new grading system hopefully would also take into account how much fat is stored within the microscopic fat cells.

 

Choosing Grass Fed Beef

Grass fed beef is becoming a popular choice among consumers for many reasons.

Grass fed beef comes from cattle that were allowed to graze and forage for their own fresh food.

The cows have a natural diet almost all year round, except in winter when they are fed alfalfa or any other close substitutes.

beef-ribeye-steak

Because of how cows were raised and fed, their meat is low on calories and has higher contents of B vitamins and Omega-3s, compared with grain fed beef.

Grass fed beef is the leading choice for people who want leaner but flavorful steaks.

It is even highly recommended by the Paleo Diet.

If the grass fed beef is also organic, it is a much healthier option.

The organic label guarantees that the cows were not kept in overcrowded and unsanitary locations.

The cows were also not exposed to fertilizers and pesticides and were not given antibiotics, GMOs, hormones, or other synthetic contaminants.

It takes meticulousness, plenty of record keeping, and safety precautions to grow organic beef.

These things are done to give you a healthier meat that is leaner but is still flavorful and tender.

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6 Useful Tips on How to Buy Steak in Supermarkets?

how-to-buy-steak-in-supermarketsWhat is it about steaks that many people just can’t get enough of them?

Some are advised not to eat them but just can’t resist the temptation.

There are varying opinions on why steaks are irresistible and why cooking them is fun to do.

Whatever the reasons are, it can’t be denied that it is a great idea to serve steaks at home.

It can be super easy to cook steaks, but there are steps to follow to make sure you are doing it right.

The first step is meat selection.

Easy, right? Well, not so much when you find yourself choosing from the different cuts of steak at a supermarket.

But don’t worry because there are ways to find the cut of steak that suits your intended purpose.

 

Tip #1: Ask yourself first how you are going to cook the steak

The question will lead you to discovering the different parts of the cow and how each part is ideal for certain methods of cooking.

The shoulder area at the front of the cow is called the chuck, and the part is a tougher cut of meat which is best used for stewing and braising.

Rib-eyes steaks and short ribs come from the rib section of the cow.

Rib-eyes steaks are great for grilling and short ribs are great for slow cooking.

A tenderloin cut comes from muscles that do not usually exert too much effort, so it is tenderer and great for grilling and broiling.

 

Tip#2: Stay Within Your Budget

The cheaper cuts of steak are still delicious, especially if you marinate and cook them properly.

However if you have money to splurge and the occasion calls for it, then you can buy Prime cuts.

Prime is a United States Department of Agriculture classification for superior beef.

A Prime cut has excellent marbling that makes it tender, juicy, and flavorful.

Even when a Prime cut has lines of fat running through it, it is still a better option than a lean piece of meat.

 

Tip#3: Get Steaks from the butcher’s or meat counter

To determine if a piece of meat is fresh, you need to check for moisture, smell, and color.

When you buy a pre-packaged steak, you can only check the steak’s moisture, smell, and the color of its other side when you get home, and by then it might be too late.

So, it is better to get steaks from the butcher’s counter.

Also, premium-grade steaks and private labels are usually displayed on a butcher’s counter. You may even ask a butcher or salesperson behind the counter for advice.

 

Tip#4: Inspect the meat thoroughly

As mentioned, the meat’s color gives you an indication of its freshness.

A cut of steak that has a bright red color is fresh, unless it has artificial coloring.

However, unwrapped beef turns brown as the day goes on because of oxidation.

While it’s all right to buy steak that is already showing a brown color, it is still preferable to choose the freshest cuts available at the supermarket.

You can also know if the cut comes from grass-fed cow or from grain- and corn-finished fed cow by checking the color of the beef.

Grass-fed beef has a deeper red color.

When it comes to smell, don’t buy a steak that has an ammonia odor or that smell sour.

While you can tell if the meat is fresh or not by touching it (steaks that are sticky to touch could mean they are no longer fresh), you can’t just go to a supermarket and start poking and pinching meats, as you can damage the meats.

And, you will get angry looks from butchers and salespeople.

 

Tip#5: If you are buying pre-packaged steaks, there are ways to check the meat’s quality.

The excess liquid in the tray could come from the frozen steak that has been thawed, or it can be an indication that the meat has been in the refrigerator for days.

You should also inspect the packaging itself.

Don’t buy the steak if there is a damage to either its Styrofoam tray or plastic wrap.

Also, check the label for the steak.

The description ‘sell-by date’ is synonymous to ‘pack date’, ‘freeze-by date’, or ‘suggested use,’ and it basically tells you of the last day the steak is still considered fresh.

 

Tip#6 Marbling is Where the Steak Flavor Comes From

Marbling is how fat is spread within the lean.

So, it’s important to check the marbling of steaks because it is an indication of the steak’s flavor and tenderness. Marbling makes steaks tender and flavorful.

You can determine if a cut of steak has the best marbling if small flecks of fat are spread evenly across very fine textured lean.

How marbling develops is also important when inspecting the quality of meat.

If possible, you should ask the butcher or salesperson where the beef comes from, the food it was fed, the number of enhancers and treatments it was given, and the age it was slaughtered.

 

See more about how to start cooking steak now!

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Best Steak to Buy Is the One That Fits Your Cooking Method

This time I explain exactly how I choose the best steak to buy, as well as unveil a stupid mistake EVERYONE (but not you) makes when buying one.

Let’s SteakEat!

 

best-steak-to-buy-is-the-one-that-fits-your-cooking-method
What’s the best steak to buy…if you are in Ireland?? Well, pick any – they are all great!

 

A month ago I was flying back home and my dear parents decided to make me super happy and bought like 10kg (22lbs) of beef roast, which I would then cut into steaks and cook it all for the entire them (yeah, this makes me super happy…noooot 🙂 )

Long story short, they bought it from our family butcher (the guy personally knows me) and asked specifically for steaks that can be cooked using dry hot heat (e.g. pan-searing, oven broiling, grilling etc).

This brings me to…

 

Rule #1 – Know What the Steak is For

So, if you are planning to pan-sear or broil in oven (i.e. use a dry high-heat cooking method), then you need a higher, more expensive type of steak like rib eye, tenderloin, NY strip loin etc.

rib-eye-steak-is-ideal-for-broiling
Rib Eye (can you see the i’i’? 🙂 ) is a very tender, fatty steak that can be cooked using any of the dry cooking methods.

 

Rule #2 – Know the Types of Steaks (there are just 2(!!!))

First – cuts that are great for the already mentioned dry-heat high-temperature cooking methods include all the expensive well-known steaks (e.g. rib eye, filet mignon (aka tenderloin), NY strip, T-bone (it consists of filet mignon + NY strip with the T-shaped bone between them))

Second – lower-end cuts like round steak, flat iron, chuck, brisket…all these steaks are less expensive, but they will not taste great when cooked at high heat. Instead they become very tough and hard to chew.

 

When I got home and saw that massive piece of cow (it was huge) which looked like round roast (a very lean, tough to chew part), I knew that it just won’t work as a steak…

My parents weren’t so sure (they thought I’m trying to escape from the processing of that chunk of red meat), so they got what they asked for – the unchewable jaw-breaking rubber-like accident…even though I tried my best (i.e. followed every rule of perfect pan-searing process).

So…

 

Rule #3 – Don’t Trust the Butcher!

As much as I love butchers in Ireland, Spain, Germany and Russia (all the places I lived in), you just can’t trust these guys when it comes to COOKING the thing, that’s why you need to know what’s the best steak to buy yourself.

P.S. To all the butchers out there…you know it’s a sweeping statement and you are all awesome! 🙂

 

So, how did it all end up?

Without thinking further I passed on the chef crown to my mom, who actually happens to be amazing when it comes to slow, moist-heat cooking with lower temperature.

To keep it simple, she stewed it all in batches and guess what..? It was amazing!

 

Rule #4 – It All Boils Down to Pairing the Cooking Method & the Type of Steak

If you take away one point from me today, this is the one above!

The rule of thumb is – if the cut is expensive, then it’s for all the dry-heat cooking methods (e.g. pan-searing, oven broiling, grilling etc)

If it’s cheap, then it’s for slow moist heat (e.g. slow cooking, stewing, sous vide etc)

 

The Stupid Mistake EVERYONE Does (but not you)

People are not willing to pay money for quality beef.

That is it.

At the end of the day, you get what you pay for and no amount of proper cooking technique will substitute the actual quality, taste and flavor of an organic grass-fed rib eye (just an example…I’m hungry 🙂 )

 

To sum up – the best steak to buy is the one that fits your cooking plans.

And of course, when it comes to the quality, I’m always up for organic grass-fed for these reasons.

 

What’s YOUR FAVORITE cut to buy?