What is marbling in steak?

As a steakhouse we are often presented with the question, why has our steak got fat in it?

To answer this question we need to look at the cut of meat and the marbling (fat) content of that cut of meat and how that assists the cooking process.

Prime Rib Steak uncooked with seasoning like rosemary

Our Prime Rib cut has a vein of marbling (fat) that runs through it and the reason for this is as the meat cooks, the fat melts. The melted fat does two things: it keeps the meat tender and moist, and it infuses the meat with flavour. In fact, most of the silky texture and great beef flavour that we love in our Prime Rib steak comes from the fat, not the meat itself!

Without this marbling, the cut would end up as dry and flavourless as a piece of foam. Even with a well-marbled cut of meat, you can still end up with foam flavour if you overcook it! Cooked too long and all the fat renders out, leaving the steak bone-dry and completely tasteless.

In the culinary arts, the word marbling refers to white flecks and streaks of fat within the lean sections of meat. Marbling is named because the streaks of fat resemble a marble pattern.

Chances are you’ll notice a price difference, too. Conversely, if you’ve ever looked at two steaks at the butcher shop and wondered why one cost more than the other, you’ll probably see that the pricier one had significantly more marbling through the meat.

Cuts of steak in butcher shop with marbling

Quality designations, such as prime, choice and select, can be helpful, but not every steak you buy will have these designations.

If they do, prime is the best quality, followed by choice, then select. Moreover, these quality designations are based in large part on the marbling contained in the steak

The Hog’s 18 hour cooking process is used both to cook but also tenderise the meat at the same time.

For our tenderising process to be effective our Prime Rib needs to be exposed to the full 18 hour cooking process. It takes between 15 & 18 hours for the marbling to have fully tenderised and flavoured the meat it is then grill to the customers “doneness” level upon order to seal in those flavours and delivered to the customer.

Cooked prime rib being sliced with knife. Close up.

To have a look at the different “doneness” levels for you to enjoy your steak check out our article Steak Doneness

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