Although steak is a culinary area that prides itself on maintaining high standards (at least amongst serious steakhouses), it’s still an area where tastes and traditions vary wildly. Dinner at a lauded Brazilian steakhouse, for example, will (and should) be a different experience than dinner a classic American steakhouse, or a Japanese steakhouse, or a French steakhouse – the list goes on.
The one thing we all have on common, both as lovers of steak and as creators of the steakhouse experience, is beef. We need the quality of the meat to be high, with specific qualities that translate to better flavor – such as marbling. We like steak that comes from reputable sources that use high quality practices in order to raise healthy cattle. When it comes to steak, this is where quality begins.
But let’s explore the question at hand: Does bone-in steak have a better flavor? The answer is entirely dependent on the quality and source of the beef – as well as the chef who is preparing it. No matter what, a high-quality T-bone steak from a reputable source, prepared by an expert chef, is going to taste better than a filet mignon that’s low on the quality spectrum. Steaks are so complex and variable that it’s sometimes futile to make broad characterizations about what cuts of steaks are better than others.
Some people swear that flavor from the bone actually gets into the meat during the cooking process. This is a nice idea, but is it true? Believe it or not, researchers have actually studies this, and seem unable to find clear evidence that the flavor of a bone-in steak will be different or altered somehow by the bone itself.
It’s worth noting, however, that the rib-eye steak (which obviously is an example of a bone in steak) is consistently at the top of lists that rank the best cuts of beef. Again, these things are a personal preference; but ribeye is definitely a favorite amongst steakhouse chefs and steak aficionados. The deep marbling of that particular cut of beef makes the meat incredibly tender and flavorful; but as to whether it takes so good because they’re a bone inside, that will probably always be cause for debate.
These questions are really more rhetorical than anything – because we all know that when you sink your teeth into a great-tasting steak, you’re enjoying the moment. There are some incredible bone-in steaks out there, and a good steakhouse chef knows how to prepare them properly. There are also some incredible boneless cuts to enjoy. Once again, preparation is key. Most of us have had the experience of buying an expensive steak or piece of fish at the market, and being disappointed with the final result. That’s why steakhouse chefs have years of experience and training.
Part of being a steakhouse aficionado is gaining experience with the different cuts and qualities of steak, so that you can truly start to make your own judgements about which steaks are most enjoyable to you.