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Do “Bone-In” Steaks Have a Different Flavor?

Over the years, vast majorities of people have agreed with the legend that grilling a steak or ribs with the bone-in gives the meat a better flavor. But is there really any truth in this? Let’s examine why some people think that bone-in steaks have a better flavor — and whether or not this belief is based in fact.

Bone-in versus bone-out

Some would shudder at the idea of eating boneless ribs. They claim that having the meat right up against the bone brings out the best possible flavor. Others claim that taking the bone out doesn’t make any difference.

Those who do believe that T-bone steaks have better flavor often say that the deep flavors of the yellow bone marrow seep into the meat as the steak is being cooked, creating a distinct and robust flavor. Other steakhouse chefs believe that cooking steak or ribs without the bone give it the same flavor — in other words, there is no meaningful difference. They claim that the layer of collagen and the impenetrable nature of bones make it impossible for the flavor trapped inside the bones to make its way to the meat itself.

Common bone-in steaks

When it comes to different cuts of beef that commonly come with the bone in, there are two that are most notable. T-bone, of course, is a common bone-in steak, in which the bone separates the porterhouse from the strip. Rib eye is another cut that’s well known for being cooked with its bone. A wide variety of cuts are common to serve with the bone, as well. But the main question remains.

So, does the bone make a difference in flavor?

Due to recent studies, chefs seem to have reached a general consensus on this age-old debate. The conclusion is that cooking the steak with the bone in does not make a difference in the flavor. The impenetrable bone simply cannot impart its flavor to the meat. What the bone does do, though, is provide the meat with more surface area while cooking. Since the bone heats up and cools down more quickly than the meat, the meat that sits right next to the bone tends to be juicier and tenderer. This is especially great for patrons who enjoy their steaks on the well-done side, since the meat right next to the bone may taste quite a bit different than the rest of the steak.

Grilling steak is an art that chefs master only through years of experience. Since the bone is now widely thought not to give the meat a better flavor in itself, some chefs choose to remove the bone before grilling and tying it to the meat while it cooks. This provides the greater surface area mentioned earlier, while enabling easy removal after cooking.

Many people will continue to prefer eating their meat off the bone, though, and this is a culinary tradition that won’t go away anytime soon. A reputable steakhouse should be able to explain all the bone-in and boneless options on the menu, and help you make an informed choice.

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