Which meat tastes like beef?

Describe the taste of steaks

In the end, we all want the same thing, namely a steak that we like. However, I was stunned by the fact that there is hardly any argument about how to talk about the taste of steak. In any case, during my research in the German-speaking area, I couldn't find any articles or anything like that on the subject of "taste of steaks". I only found what I was looking for in American entries.


Why is it difficult to describe the taste of meat?

The answers either go in the direction that a good steak has to "taste juicy, meaty and tender", as a barbecue expert once told me. Or those asked say that the taste sensation is subjective and therefore cannot be generally described. I want to try it anyway, because good steaks differ in taste - and that can also be formulated.

What is a steak made of?

Meat and steak mainly consist of protein and fat. in their natural state, these two have comparatively little taste. Raw, unripened meat therefore tastes less intense than grilled meat. The more complex flavors of a steak are created by heating (“Maillard reaction”). So these are very important when we talk about the taste of steak.

Toasted aromas

The Maillard reaction, which also happens when baking bread or roasting coffee, converts amino acids and sugar in a complex process. Over 1,000 aromas can be created in this process. These are usually summarized under the collective term roasted aromas. The hotter and longer I heat the steak, the darker the crust and the toasted aromas become. In the USA there is a type of preparation called "Pittsburgh Style" in which the steak is almost black on the outside and thus has burnt and bitter notes in it.

fat

Fat is a flavor carrier that enhances the flavors inherent in meat. This means that a high-fat steak tastes more intense. Since many people do not want to bite on pure fat, the intermuscular fat is particularly interesting. When heated in the pan, it melts, so that it is less perceptible as fat, but it still provides an intense taste and a melting consistency.


Other flavors

In addition to different roasted aromas, other aromas can occur in the steak, such as: herbal-spicy notes (especially with grass-fed animals), nutty and ripe notes that are reminiscent of matured cheese (with dry-aged maturation), earthy, mushroom and metallic aromas, to name just a few.

Differentiation in taste of different steaks

How can you find a steak that you personally like?

A first division of the taste is how mild or how strong and intense a steak should taste. The flavor intensity of a steak has a number of reasons. The most important are:

  1. The race: Some breeds put on more fat and put on more fat than others.
  2. The feeding: Feeding maize is more energetic and ensures more fat in the body. In addition, maize / grain ensures that the meat tastes nuttier. With the grass you can taste herbal-spicy notes.
  3. The maturation: The longer a steak ripens, the more water evaporates and the more intense the meat tastes. The Dry-Aged method can be compared to the maturation of cheese. A ripe cheese also tastes much more intense than a young one. In addition to the dry-aged method, there is also the wet-aged method. Here the steak matures in a vacuum bag at very low temperatures. This means that there is only very little and "mild" ripening. You can taste it too: A wet-aged tastes milder than the same piece that has been dry-aged.
  4. The steak cut: It also matters which piece of beef I choose. Some pieces such as the fillet are much lower in fat than others such as the ribeye (= entrecôte).

For example, if you take a very briefly ripened fillet from an Irish grazing ox that has been fed grass, you have the mildest possible piece of meat. If you take a dry-aged onglet from a Wagyu cattle that has been fed 100% grain / maize, you get a very intense piece of meat.

Here is the overview:

Conclusion:

As can be seen in the table above, a number of factors play a role in the taste of a steak. Therefore one cannot say that a "good steak" should have a very specific taste. Because a mild fillet from an Irish ox is just as "a good steak" as a ribeye from a Black Angus beef.

On the other hand, I found it personally important to sort the many terms that you read in, for example, on the menus in good steak houses, or to understand what effects these have on the taste of a steak. Since I'm a big fan of intense meat flavors and I'm not afraid of fat, I can now better decide which type of steak to order next time.

With that in mind, stay curious!

Your
Jörn Gutowski
Founder, TRY FOODS