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Our chefs tell us how to identify delicate, tender fat from inedible, chewy gristle – helping you choose the best cut of beef to cook for dinner
It may sound counterintuitive, but cows are naturally leaner during the winter, because they move around more to keep warm. In the summer when the weather’s warmer, they tend to laze about and grow fatter, so it’s up to farmers to encourage them to exercise.
Once an animal has been slaughtered, the meat is graded according to the amount of fat (marbling) and the shape (conformation) of the carcass. Carcasses are classified according to their conformation, from the top of the class, E, through U, R, O and, finally, P. Fat cover is measured using five classes: 1, the leanest, through to 5, the fattest.
Wagyu beef, for example, is a 5. Kobe, the most exclusive breed of wagyu, is massaged by hand to remove any tough sinews travelling through the meat. Instead of large chunks of fat, an even diffusion of thin veins runs through the meat, which is a sure sign of delicious flavour.
If you’re buying a joint of beef, it’s sometimes hard to know whether its coating of fat will be tough or tender. The key is to look for a creamy, yellowish outer layer of fat. This signals a decent ageing process, and as a result you’ll get a delicate, mustardy flavour.
For recipes, tips and tricks on cooking up your well-marbled steak at home, visit Jamie's website here.