Brisket Marble: Everything You Need to Know!

by | Jan 22, 2023 | Barbecue | 0 comments

If you want to bbq cook the best brisket, you will have to select meat of the highest quality, a good brisket that will be the right amount of juicy, fatty, and delicious. Many first-time chefs might not know this, but there is a trick to selecting the best kind of brisket – to choose one with the most marbling on it. 

Marbling affects the way that the fat is distributed across the meat and the size of the cap, which should be smaller in a good brisket. Marbling is basically the white patterns that appear over the meat which appears when the brisket is kept in the cold. It looks like a marble pattern, and the more your brisket has it, the better it is. 

Read on to know more!

What Is Marbling On a Brisket?

If you look at a piece of brisket, you might notice certain white lines across the surface of the meat which is either clear or white in appearance. This is basically the accumulated saturated, monounsaturated, polyunsaturated fats called marbling that form over the meat layer, indicating freshness and higher quality.

These fats make the meat juicier and tender, as their absence would mean the meat is lean throughout. When you cook it, there will be no juices in between the beef that will melt during the cooking process and make it softer. 

Should Brisket Be Marbled?

Marbled meat also has the potential to keep the brisket moist for a long period of time and allow it cool before you serve it. Though it may ultimately sound like the better option, it is only in terms of taste. If you are on a diet, brisket with lots of marbling would be fattier and not the healthy option to go by!

Many of my friends prefer lean meat as it does not contain many fats as marbled brisket does. However, in my experience, if you are cooking brisket as the main dish, it should be marbled to ensure its good quality and grade. 

Marbling helps determine the grade of the beef, so the kind with lots on it is considered to be of the highest quality (Wagyu). 

Higher beef grades also have healthier fats than lean meat, such as oleic acid, good for preventing coronary heart disease. 

Apart from good taste and juice, marbling also ensures that the juices stay in for a long time and are locked well in the meat. It makes the bbq cooking process easier and also allows the brisket to remain in its original state for a long time. 

What Causes Beef To Marble?

Marbling is basically the fat that occurs in the animal’s meat you are consuming. 

Beef coming from well-bred cattle that consume only food of the highest quality will have lots of marbling. Brisket coming from Prime beef, which is the highest category, is usually obtained by feeding the cow grains apart from grass and hay. 

Following are some reasons that affect the marbling of the beef. 


What the animal eats is mainly what determines how well-marbled the meat would be. This is the reason why Wagyu, the highest grade beef in the world is raised on a secluded farm with great care, clean lands to graze upon, and careful breeding. 

Breeds like Holstein-Friesian, Jersey, and Braunvieh are some examples. 

Muscle Strain 

Usually, the best marbling is on certain areas of the animal’s body that do not get used a lot. 

Though there is no scale to measure what area should have the most marbling in order for the beef to be of high quality, the loin or ribs are usually the parts that have the most of it. Alternatively, the round and sirloin lack the most marbling. 

Hence, certain cuts like Tenderloin for steak have lesser marbling while a Prime NY strip will have lots of it. 


The best marbling can be found on the meat of those animals which have been around for a bit, as they have more body fat. 

Young animals do not obtain intramuscular fat so easily and old cattle lose a lot of it after they have aged, leading to less marbling. 

Marbling Grades

All countries that beef is sourced from have their own system of grading beef, and in the US, beef is mainly put in three categories depending on the amount of marbling. The following are the main three categories that USDA usually classifies beef into. 


Select beef is the one that usually has very less amount of marbling. Hence, it is great for including within diets. It is normally uniform, lean throughout, and tender, but not as moist and juicy as one would expect their brisket to be. 

If you have select-grade beef, then remember to only cook tender cuts in dry heat. 


Choice beef is the balance between prime and select beef. It has lesser marbling, but not enough to be considered diet-friendly. 

This beef grade is particularly soft, juicy, and tender around the ribs and loins and works well for smoking in dry heat. The best way to cook choice beef is by braising, roasting, or simmering with a glaze. 


Prime beef is the highest quality of beef and has the highest amount of marbling. You will clearly be able to see the fatty marking across the meat and is usually sold more expensively compared to the other two grades. This type of beef is best cooked by broiling, grilling, or roasting. 

Which Is The Best Marbling Grade?

The best grade to have is the ‘Prime’ kind, which mostly has the most amount of marbling and excels in flavor, juiciness, and softness. 

Most of the time, the most tender cuts, like the rib-eye, loin, and strip steaks are considered prime as these muscles are the most unused in the animal, and hence soft. 

The USDA usually marks off prime beef with a purple mark that labels it as the superior kind of beef. The best way to cook prime beef is through dry-heat ways like grilling or roasting. 

Final Thoughts

While you might not be able to cook the best brisket on your first try, you can certainly select the best meat for the recipe to ensure that it is at least soft and juicy. 

Though fats are usually avoided and looked down upon, marbling is the healthy kind that is unsaturated and contributes towards overall taste!

Related Questions

What Causes Beef To Marble? 

Beef mainly starts to marble as an effect of soft saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats that gather between muscle and muscle fiber bundles in the animal. 

Should Brisket Be Marbled?

A lot of marbling in beef is a good sign of fatty and juicy brisket. When you cook the meat, these fats will melt away to flavor your meat and also make it tender. Hence, it is better if your brisket is marbled.




Colin has been grilling, smoking, and barbecuing in his yard for as long as he remembers.  His favorite dish is pork belly smoked on his favorite offset smoker. Read more about Colin here.


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