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Marbleized Steak and Beef Grades

Organic beef from Alpine ButcherTake a second to consider this conundrum that has everyone in a twist. Which steak is better, one with more marbling or one with less? It has been the debate with steak for years, and it seems that each side has fair points. It can also relate to what is available for your grocer. But, when you can walk up to your butcher and tell him what you want, you can get away with getting the right steak for you. It will also be some of the best steaks that you have had in a      while.

What is Marbling?

We’ll start with the basics of all steaks big and small: what does it mean to say you have a marbled steak? A marbled steak is a steak that contains streaks of fat within the steak, though it is not the fat that is on the edge of the steak. The fat weaves through the meat. The pattern tends to resemble the pattern of marble, which is why it got the name. Typically, marbling is how one judges the cut of meat that they have. The more marbling, the better, because the fat helps to lock in moisture and flavor, creating a tender piece of meat that is more enjoyable. The more marbling, the higher on the USDA beef grade scale it goes.

USDA Beef Grades

Taking a step beyond choosing your steak for marbling or not is to pay attention to what grade of beef it is by the USDA. The meat gets tested on two things: quality and yield. Quality grades relate to the tenderness and juiciness of the steak as well as the flavor. More marbling in the steak tends to bump the steak high up the quality scale. Yield grades are the “amount of usable lean meat on the carcass.” These two factors help determine the grade of the beef. The grade of beef are:

  • Prime Beef
    • Typically from well-fed young cattle with a decent amount of marbling in the meats. Usually steaks in restaurants and hotels.
  • Choice Beef
    • With less marbling than prime beef, choice beef is also of high quality. They can tender and juicy with less marbling and are good in a variety of cooking styles.
  • Select Beef
    • Select is standard quality beef that is usually leaner than higher grades. It will have less marbling (fat), so it will lack some of the flavors of more top grade steaks, but will still be tender. It is the only cut that should get cooked in dry heat.

Obviously, the higher quality of the steak, the more expensive the cut will be. At a supermarket, there are no guarantees that you will get a prime cut of beef. That is why your butcher should be the only place you go to get your cuts of steak.

For guaranteed marbling and high-quality meats, Alpine Butcher’s is the place to go! Stop into our store in Lowell and see why our butcher shop has been in business for over 100 years.