It may seem like there is a complicated science behind meat marbling, but it is actually just the pattern of fat that’s found in a cut of meat. The fat lies between the muscle fibers and can create a mesmerizing look for any foodie. But can marbling determine whether a steak is a high-quality cut of meat or not?

Why is Marbled Meat Better?

Most quality steaks will have plenty of marbling while lean cuts will have very little, if any that is visible. The fat should appear to be white and hard. It should be distributed evenly throughout the cut. When a steak features a lot of marbling, this means that it comes from the loin area of the animal. This is on the back where the muscles don’t endure much exercise and therefore don’t have the chance to become tough.

While the meat is cooking, the fat starts to melt. This causes two things to occur. The fat keeps the meat tender and juicy, while it also infuses it with plenty of flavor. The taste that so many people love from a prime USDA steak isn’t from the meat, it’s from the fat.

Does Marbling Determine the Quality of a Steak?

Marbling can help to determine how good the steak will turn out. If a steak doesn’t have a lot of marbling, it would end up very dry and wouldn’t have much natural flavor either. However, sometimes even when a steak has plenty of marbling, it can still end up very dry if it is overcooked. Any time that steak is cooked too long, it causes the fat to render out. This leaves little to no moisture inside the steak, giving a dry texture and without the fat, it also doesn’t contain that great flavor.

The best way to ensure that you get the best results when cooking a steak is to sear it fast over high heat. Afterwards, cook the steak in the oven until it has reached your preferred doneness. Some chefs prefer to cook their steak inside a hot cast iron pan underneath their oven’s broiler to help it reach the perfect temperature.

If you have concerns about steak that contains too much fat due to your diet or overall health, but still don’t want to be stuck with a dry, tasteless steak, it is best to eat marbled steak in moderation. By indulging in a quality steak in smaller portions every once in a while, you will still get to enjoy a quality tasting steak without going against your diet.

The Wagyu Marbling Process

Wagyu Beef comes from one of four Japanese breeds of cattle. The meat from these animals is highly sought after because it is genetically designed to produce meat that features superior marbling. Wagyu beef also produces a high amount of oleaginous unsaturated fat. All meat from this type of cattle is well-known for its quality, flavor, texture. Which makes it a very expensive cut of meat.

Wagyu Beef is shipped under various names such as Matsusaka Beef, Kobe Beef, Omi Beef, Mishima Beef, and Yonezawa beef.

Wagyu Beef isn’t just available in Japan, there are other associations that breed this type of cattle for both domestic and overseas markets. The Australian Wagyu Association is the largest producer outside of Japan. The Wagyu cattle in Australia are fed grain for their last 300 to 500 days. Those bred in Western Australia sometimes have red wine added to their feed.

In the United States, Japanese Wagyu cattle are bred with Angus cattle. This unique combination is known as American Style Kobe Beef. Wagyu was first introduced to the U.S. in 2012 and there are some American breeders who have cattle direct from the Japanese Wagyu Beef bloodlines.

A herd of Wagyu cattle was imported to the Northern Yorkshire part of the United Kingdom in 2008. The first meat produced by this association was available for consumption in 2011. There are also Wagyu herds now in Scotland.

Pure Wagyu cattle have the highest propensity to marble, more than any other breed of beef. It is believed that this type of beef has a higher amount of monounsaturated fat than other types. Research performed by members of the School of Exercise and Nutrition Sciences at Deakin University in Australia said that Wagyu beef is three times higher in monounsaturated fats than other cuts of beef.

The next time you are shopping for that perfect cut of beef for dinner, be sure to look for meat that has a good amount of marbling. This will not only help ensure that your steaks are tender and juicy, but it will also contribute to the overall flavor. To try out Wagyu beef in the United States, be sure to look for cuts labeled as American Style Kobe Beef.

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