FOOD + DRINK
To find top-quality beef,
learn where it comes from.
BY MARCIA LERNER
The greatest steaks in the world—thick and juicy, with an incomparable, charred crust—start with great beef, and the way to get great beef is to learn how it’s graded
and where it comes from. How important is sourcing? “Extremely,” says Ryan Littman, director of
food and beverage at JW Marriott San Antonio Hill
Country Resort & Spa. Whether you’re a chef or a
home cook, the more you know, the better.
Beef grading systems differ by country, but they
cover the same basic areas: marbling, tenderness and
other carcass attributes.
Marbling describes how fat is distributed through the
meat; it affects tenderness and flavor. “In high-quality
meat, you want lots of marbling, evenly distributed,”
says Thomas Schneller, associate professor of meat and
butchery at the Culinary Institute of America. Beef with
the most well-distributed marbling tends to come from
Wagyu cows, native to Japan.
But marbling is not all. Jason Yang, lead butcher in
Fleisher’s Red Hook production facility, notes, “Fat is a
good transmitter of flavor, but very fatty steak actually
has less beef flavor.” Tenderness relies not just on fat,
but also on meat texture and muscle structure. A finer
muscle structure—a hallmark of Angus steer, native
to Scotland—can offer both tenderness and flavor.