With steaks, closer to the bone makes a difference – The Denver Post

Louis Prima, the Italian-American singer and trumpeter, had an untold influence on the grilling of beef steaks when he sang (in the song similarly titled), “Closest to the bone, sweeter is the meat.” For decades, grill masters — and chow-downers of their work — have sworn that steaks taste better bone-in than bone-out.

The claims are two-fold: that some of the inner marrow seeps through the bone into the meat, rendering it more succulent (or “sweeter,” to reprise Prima), and that the collagen wrapping the bone breaks down into its gelatinous form, also sweetening the nearby meat.

Scrutiny by food scientists busted those myths, beginning with the commonsensical observation that bone itself is so dense that, in the short time given over to grilling, marrow has neither the chance nor the wherewithal to make it to the meat. Furthermore, any collagen does not break down sufficiently (as it would, say, in a long-braised pork shoulder).

The upshot was that bones make no difference to the taste of a steak.

But dem bones do do other things that matter to meat and that may be why grilling a steak, particularly a large steak, with a bone in will make a big difference in taste.

First, a minor but significant difference between bone-in and bone-out steaks is that those with their bones intact hold their shape better. On the intense heat of a grill, this may play a role in the esthetics of your steaks, so mind that if you will. But the more positive point is that the intense heat is distributed evenly.

Given that same heat intensity, bones are key because they are heat regulators. Any meat closest to the bone will register 5 to 10 degrees cooler than elsewhere in the steak. That means that a steak cooked overall to “medium-rare” (125 to 130 degrees) will have rare-level meat at the bone, or “medium” level steak will have medium-rare at the bone, and so on.

This is significant to note especially with larger bone-in steaks, called by such homespun names as “tomahawks” or “cowboy rib eyes,” that, due to their size, commonly serve more than one person. If two or three sit down to eat that steak and also prefer different levels of preparedness, then the meat closest to the bone, as Prima sang, may indeed be the sweetest choice.