no bones about it

Some people get very annoyed when they pick up a package of beef and see bones. They believe those have been left in to add weight and thereby make them pay more. However, nothing could be further from the truth. There’s a really good reason to leave bones in with some pieces of meat - it’s all about flavour.

 

As we’ve pointed out before, different cuts of meat each have their own, unique flavour profile. A fillet is tender but very mild, while a rib-eye is just bursting with flavour, for example. So, depending on the type of meat you are cooking, you may want to allow for flavour enhancement, and bones can help, thanks to two specific mechanisms.

Heat

Thanks to the impermeable, solid nature of bone, it heats up a lot more slowly than the muscle tissue, which means that the meat right next to the bone also heats more slowly. This means that it cooks slower, and as we all know, slow-cooking some types of meat leave them deliciously tender and flavourful. For example, if you are cooking a T-Bone steak, the sections right along the bone will be more on the rare side than the rest, giving you a wide range of tenderness, flavour and texture.

Marrow

Marrow is actually a cause for debate. If it is a solid piece of bone, like that found in your T-Bone steak, it doesn’t release any marrow during the cooking process, so it doesn’t add anything to the flavour in this case. However, if it is a cut round bone, where the soft marrow is exposed, you suddenly find a world of flavour hiding inside that noe, waiting to be released. The marrow is made up of soft fat and blood vessels, so when it is thoroughly cooked, it becomes almost like butter - meaty, crispy, savoury butter…

 

Of course, there are certain pieces of meat that simply have to be cooked bone-in, like oxtail. This delicacy requires hours of slow cooking to allow the collagen to break down, leaving it fall-apart tender. The same goes for ribs.

 

Whichever you prefer, bone in or bone out, make sure to visit our guide to cooking your meat to the right level of doneness, and explore our recipes for some great ideas on how to do beef right.