do you cut beef against the grain

The grain of the steak is referring to the direction the muscle fibers run within the piece of meat. Cutting against the grain means to cut through the fibers and make them shorter. This makes the meat more tender and easier to chew.

There’s nothing better than cooking a great steak and enjoying it with friends and loved ones.

And there’s nothing worse than putting in all the effort to cook and then making a simple mistake that ruins it: Cutting the steak the wrong way.

How you slice it can mean the difference between enjoying a melt-in-your-mouth steak and chewing something akin to a rubber boot.

That’s why every good steak recipe advises you to cook to your preferred level of doneness, allow the meat to rest, and then slice against the grain.

The “grain” of a steak refers to the direction that the muscle fibers run. If you look at a raw steak close up, you can see the lines of the fibers; that’s the grain. No matter what steak you’re working with, it is crucial to slice against that grain.

If you’re uncertain, pick up a skirt, flank or hanger steak—these have more pronounced long muscle fibers because they come from parts of the cattle where the muscles work harder. When you look at one of these steaks, you can’t miss the grain. That’s a good way to familiarize yourself.

Cutting against the grain breaks up the muscle fibers, making the steak much more tender. Cutting with the grain leaves those long muscle fibers intact, and the steak will be unpleasantly tough.

“Grass-fed, grass-finished cuts of beef will be significantly less forgiving to an improper cut,” says ButcherBox Chef Yankel Polak. “It’s leaner, to begin with, and the cows have lived more active lives. Their muscles will be more developed than grain-fed cows, who spend a significant portion of their lives cooped up in a feedlot.”

Not only is cutting against the grain crucial, the thickness of the slices is important as well. “Considering that the muscle fibers run parallel to each other, cutting thick slices against the grain still leaves a significant amount of tough muscle to chew through,” Chef Yankel says. “Keep the slices as thin as possible.”

How to Slice Against the Grain

To slice against the grain, you should:

  • Find the direction of the grain. Remember that grain is not the same as steak marbling, and it shouldn’t be confused with cuts accidentally made by your butcher.
  • Place your knife perpendicular to the grain. Set your knife directly across the grain for maximum effectiveness. Make sure before doing so that your knife is as sharp as possible.
  • Make thin slices. Begin cutting, sawing back and forth across the grain. The thinner your you cut your steak, the easier it is to chew. One popular tip is to slice on a bias. This is a way of saying that you cut with your knife tilted on a 45 degree angle to your cutting board. This will increase the surface area of each slice, breaking down more muscle fibers and improving tenderness.

Remember that slicing against the grain is important both before and after cooking.

What is “Grain”?

When we talk about “grain” in steak, we’re talking about the direction a steak’s muscle fibers run. Steak grain is a lot like wood grain. Both materials are made up of long fibers that run parallel to one another. One just happens to be much, much more tasty (and edible) than the other.

Most muscles in cattle need to be powerful. After all, they’re helping move a 1,000 pound animal. Steak muscle fibers therefore tend to be thicker and tougher than in other meats, especially the fibers in frequently-used muscles. While muscle fiber in steak is only a human hair’s width in diameter on average, steak muscle fibers are bundled together into groups of 50-300. Because of this, the direction of the fibers is fairly easy to spot. This is especially true in heavy-use muscles, like those found in flank, hanger, and skirt steak.

When Slicing Against the Grain Matters Most

Slicing against the grain is easiest with tougher cuts of meat, where the bundles of muscle fiber are more prominent and easy to spot. The good news is that these are the cuts for which slicing against the grain is most important. How you cut a flank steak, for instance, can be the difference between a tender, exceptional steak and a dish that turns out tougher than leather.

With more naturally tender cuts, such as ribeyes and filets, muscle fibers aren’t as built up. This makes them tougher to spot, but provides more room for error, since these steaks are naturally easier to chew.

The grain of the steak is referring to the direction the muscle fibers run within the piece of meat. Cutting against the grain means to cut through the fibers and make them shorter. This makes the meat more tender and easier to chew.

FAQ

How do you cut raw beef?

Setting your beef on a cutting board, cut down in a smooth, downward motion, much as you would with cutting cooked beef. Although raw beef is generally harder to cut, pre-freezing it partially helps ease some of the difficulty.

Do you cut meat for jerky with or against the grain?

When you slice your beef with the grain, the texture of your jerky slices will be tough and chewy, making it harder to bite through. However, cutting against the grain will result in softer jerky, making it more appealing to those eating your final product.

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