Getting the Most for Your Restaurant Dollar

Everything You Need To Know About Marbling In Your Perfect Steak

Many of the chic steak eateries are now allowing their patrons to select their dinner before it is cooked, by viewing the meat in refrigerated cases at the front of the restaurant. Savvy foodies are concerned with the cut, color, marbling, and consistency of the meat. To approach this potentially dizzying array of choices with confidence, there are a few tips that can help you pick your perfect steak:

What are your options for cuts?

The most expensive, and most tender cut of beef available at most restaurants is the filet mignon, which is a loin cut that has a very even and fine texture.

Prime rib is another fantastic loin cut that is best when it is dry-aged for a few hours or days and then slowly roasted at a relatively low temperature, and then flash roasted for a short period at a high temperature.

Another favorite cut is ribeye, which has the potential of having a stronger flavor and a larger portion. Ribeye can be prepared with the bone in, or can be cut and served boneless.

The T-bone is a perennial favorite, and has a leaner character than most of the popular cuts commonly available. For those with a big appetite, the T-bone cannot be beat.

What is marbling?

Besides the actual cut of beef, the most important aspect of choosing a steak is the fat marbling in the particular piece of meat. Unfortunately, marbling is one of the least understood attributes of the meat.

Marbling is the beef fat that accrues between the muscle tissues. It is most prevalent in cuts such as the loin, that do not get exercised much.

The amount and quality of the marbling determines the grade of the meat. The USDA uses an extremely granular and complicated scale to determine beef quality. There are four grades of beef (Prime, Choice, Select, and Standard), and each grade has three sub-grades, except Select, which has only two.

How does marbling improve flavor?

Simply put, marbling is the flavor of the beef that we enjoy. As the steak cooks, the fat melts, keeping the meat moist and tender. The fats actually soak into the meat. The best fat is firm and white, and it takes a long time to melt, protecting the meat from drying out.

For those who are concerned about the fat content being unhealthy, moderation is the answer. Although a normal portion would be 4 ounces, 2 ounces can be a perfectly satisfying steak.

What is the preferred marbling pattern?

Good marbling is scattered throughout the cut, in relatively small flecks, for even distribution and protection of the meat during the cooking process.

Because the preferred cooking method at steak restaurants like Prime 82 Restaurant & Bar is searing, cuts that have large fat deposits tend to dry out or char in the intense heat.  When the fat is evenly distributed through the cut of beef, the liquid is sealed into the meat.

Choosing your preferred steak.

Spend some time looking at the steak case to choose your cut. If you know that you want a lot of flavor in your steak, look for one with lots of visible white interspersed with the red meat. If you want a leaner meal, pick one with fat that will be easily trimmed. In the end, you get to determine by your choices how your meal turns out!