Beef Marbling Scores Explained
What is a marble score and how does it translate to what’s on my plate?
Visit a premium steakhouse restaurant like Chophouse Sydney, and you’ll notice all the steaks are graded with a marble score. So, what exactly is an ‘MBS’, and what does it tell you about the taste, texture and quality of the beef that’s about to land on your table?
What is Marbling?
Marbling refers to the amount of intramuscular fat found on a cut of red meat.
That is, the white flecks and streaks of fat you can clearly see within the muscular parts of the meat. Unlike the thick, white layer you usually find surrounding the outside of a steak, what makes marbling a different part of the beast altogether is that it’s comprised mainly of monounsaturated fats. In moderation, monosaturated fats are considered one of the ‘healthy fats’, with the same essential fatty acids found in olive oil, avocado and salmon.
Another important distinction between marbling and external fat is that marbling isn’t chewy, but rather the opposite.
A high marbling score contributes to a softer, silkier texture. This is because marbled fat has a comparatively low melting point, allowing it to break down and permeate into the meat as it cooks. This processes of drawing out the melted fat, known as rendering, keeps the steak melt-in-your mouth tender and incredibly rich in favour.
How are marble scores worked out?
Scores are evaluated by measuring intramuscular fat levels from a particular section of rib eye muscle. Besides fat content, the distribution and texture of the marbling flecks are also assessed. All these factors go in to determining how the marble will influence the overall quality of the meat.
Australian grading standards go from 0 (marble-free) through to 9 (miraculous). Only in Japan, where beef was first bred to achieve maximum marbling, can an MBS of over 10 be achieved.
Remember though, marble score isn’t everything. When it comes to steak, there are so many other factors at play, from the farm to the frying pan, down to your own personal taste.