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Nov 8, 2009 02:58 PM

Same animal - different flavor

Hs anyone else been told that the same animal, say beef, can have multiple strengths in the "beef" flavor? I am not talking about dry aged or seaonings that you add, or cooking methods used, but the flavor of the cut and I understand that muscles will give different textures. A butcher was using it as a selling point telling a customer that the ribeye had twice the beef flavor of another cut. Can anyone explain how this can be?

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  1. just as different cuts of meat have different textures, they have different levels of flavor. One of the most commonly cited factors is the amount of fat in a given piece, a lean piece of meat will have not only a different intensity of flavor, but a different flavor. Also pieces of meat close to the bone are generally agreed to be more flavorful.

    Meat is not a homogeneous mass. Depending where on the animal it came from and what it's function in life was, the flavor will vary tremendously. It is interesting that the amount of flavor is often inversely proportional to the texture of the meat, with a highly tender piece of fliet having a less intense flavor than (as mentioned by the butcher) a piece of ribeye or flank.

    1. Fat content is one factor. Another is the composition of the muscle. There are probably other factors at play, too, but as to muscle composition...

      Muscle fibers tend to fall into two broad groups: "fast twitch" and "slow twitch." Fast twitch muscles are good at delivering short, intense bursts of movement; slow twitch muscles are better for sustained moderate exertion.

      The easiest place to see the distinction is on a chicken. Chickens aren't particularly good at flying, and their wings are relatively for their body weight. So the muscles used to fly have to provide explosive bursts of very intense activity, and thus are heavily slanted to the fast-twitch variety. On the other hand, chickens spend a lot of time each day walking and running. So the muscles used for those functions tend to be slow-twitch muscles.

      The difference is visible - the fast-twitch muscles make for lighter meat, while the slow-twitch muscles are darker. The breast is almost all fast-twitch; the drumsticks are almost all slow-twitch. And the flavor is significantly different.

      1. Absolutely true. You can prove it to yourself by getting a variety of cuts that can be eaten as steak, cooking them all to medium rare with no seasoning (or perhaps just a bit of salt), and then tasting. You'll find, for example, that a skirt or hangar steak has a much "beefier" taste than a filet mignon. Sirloin and ribeye will be somewhere in between. Just be sure to invite a few friends over to share in the tasting so you don't waste all the good meat!

        1. My favorite example of this: Beef tenderloin, tender, rather mild, vs. flank steak, with that great strong beefy flavor.

          1. Also what the animal eats will make a difference, 100% grass fed beef will taste "beefier" (some might say gamier) than corn fed and/or corn finished