In this week’s edition of Tuesday’s Tip with The Kitchen Whisperer I’m going to be talking with you about what it means when a recipe talks about cutting meat against the grain. You’ve cooked that cut of beef perfectly, you let it rest and once you slice it, you can barely control yourself. You take that first bite and as you chew you realize that you’re chewing…and chewing… and chewing. That beef that looks positively perfect is chewy. It’s not tender but rather it’s a workout for your jaw. You then start to question if you cooked it too long, if somehow you screwed up the recipe. Chances are probably not. Chances are when you sliced it, you sliced it the wrong way.
Wait, what? There’s a right and wrong way to cut beef once it’s cooked? Yep! Does it really matter? Well that depends – do you like giving your jaw a marathon work out? So wait, let me back up, there are some cuts of meat where it honestly doesn’t matter which way you cut it as the muscle fibers are so small they are almost irrelevant; like the loin. So beef tenderloin, rib eye and strips steaks, their fibers are so small that they are almost negligible. But most other cuts – flank, hanger and so forth, unless you cut them against the grain, you’ll wear your jaw out before you can truly get a soft and tender piece of beef.
Think about it, cows have muscles just like us; some muscles are stronger than others. The stronger the muscles work, the more lean it is and the more muscle fibers it has. Makes sense, right? Cuts like the loin are weaker muscles have less fibers thus the meat will be pretty soft and tender regardless of how you cut them. But those tougher cuts of meat, the ones where the muscles get the most workout, those puppies are loaded with fibers. Meat is a muscle and it’s supposed to be tough because it’s responsible for moving a really big mammal.
Take for instance the flank steak. Flank steak is from the bottom abdominal area of the cow so it contains a lot of hard-working muscles. I mean it has to after all to support the cow and help process the food. The meat has a lot of tough fibers running through it and is fairly lean. These grains are easily visible in the meat itself.
Now when you go to cook your next piece of meat, look at the meat itself. Can you clearly see visible fibers? If you can, then once it’s cooked, slice it against the grain.
One other thing I suggest, is learn where the cuts of meat you have come from on a cow.