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How to cut beef 101 - 'Cut against the grain' explanation and how to

March 22, 2020 166 Comments

How to cut beef 101 - 'Cut against the grain' explanation and how to

Cutting Beef 101

Have you ever noticed that in most beef recipes, you are told to cut your meat “against the grain”? Have you ever wondered why this step is so important? Do you wonder what the grain is and how to cut against it? And what are the best tools to do so?

To start, I am going to answer the question, “What is the grain?”

Explanation:

All meat, including beef, is made up of fiber bundles that make for a strong muscle in the animal. That muscle allows the animal to move as it needs. When the animal is butchered, the muscles are processed into cuts of meat to be consumed.

The grain is the alignment of the fiber bundles in that cut of meat. To ensure that you have palatable and easy to chew bites of meat, you need to cut against the natural alignment of those fiber bundles. If you cut with the grain, you end up giving your jaw an unnecessary workout.

Another reason that cutting against the grain is so important is how it fires up and starts the digestive process. By cutting those fibers down into smaller pieces, your teeth are better equipped to break down the meat in a safe form to swallow, allowing proper and maximum nutrient absorption.

Now that you know what the grain is, how exactly do you locate it on the cut of meat?

  1. You will need to look for rows of parallel lines in the meat. Those lines are the bundles of fibers that make the muscles that form the grain.
    1. Depending upon the cut of beef you are handling, the grain may or may not be easy to see. Often times the grain is easier to spot after the meat has been cooked. And that is when you will most likely be cutting it anyway.
  2. If you still struggle to find the grain after cooking, slice a small piece to peer inside, and get a better view of the direction the fibers are running.
  3. When you cut with the grain, your meat will show tiny horizontal lines running the length of it. If that is the case, turn the meat 90 degrees and cut again.
  4. Cutting against the grain will yield a “fractured” appearance across the cut. Instead of horizontal lines, you will see tiny shapes, such as octagons, triangles, or diamonds.
Now for what are the best tools to use?

You only need two sharp objects. A sharp eye to find those fiber bundles and a sharp, non-serrated slicing knife.

And that is it!

By finding the grain of your cut of beef, and cutting against it, you are well on your way to enjoying a tender cut of beef, without worry of overworking those jaw muscles.

FUN FACT: Did you know finding the grain is very important when making beef jerky at home? If you want to learn how you can make beef jerky at home, click on this article!

Now that you know all about cutting your beef properly, head on over to the shop and purchase the best Nebraska-raised, dry aged beef.




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