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Old 05-31-2006, 10:33 PM   #1
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Cutting Meat Against the Grain: Huh?

I've heard and read a lot about the toughness of skirt steaks and flank steaks being "tamed" by the way in which the chef cuts the steak. I have no idea what that means and have never seen it demonsrated. What is all this about cutting against the grain, scientifically why do we do it, and is there a video or set of pictures to assist visual learners like myself?

Apologies in advance to moderators if this post is in the wrong place: figured it spanned a few topics and I couldn't decide where to put it.

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Old 05-31-2006, 10:44 PM   #2
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If you lay out a flank, you can clearly see a "grain" running through the meat. Bundles of muscle fibers are closely packed and run parallel through the meat. They look like little red tubes. These muscle fibers did a lot of work for the animal during its life so they are tough as can be.

After cooking theses cuts to no more than medium, with medium rare preferred, let the meat rest so the cells in the muscle can re-absorb the juices squeezed out during cooking. Then, slice the steak perpendicular to the long muscle fiber bundles. Perpendicular slicing cuts off small pieces of these 'tubes' or bundles.

Cutting across the grain like this dramatically weakens the integrity if the bundle, making it a lot easier for your teeth to finish the job.
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Old 05-31-2006, 10:49 PM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GarrettB
I've heard and read a lot about the toughness of skirt steaks and flank steaks being "tamed" by the way in which the chef cuts the steak. I have no idea what that means and have never seen it demonsrated. What is all this about cutting against the grain, scientifically why do we do it, and is there a video or set of pictures to assist visual learners like myself?

Apologies in advance to moderators if this post is in the wrong place: figured it spanned a few topics and I couldn't decide where to put it.
All meats have "grains" which are basically the muscle fibers. When you cut a piece of beef, pork, chicken, etc. you can see them in the meat which looks like "strings". Cutting against the grain refers to cutting perpendicular to those fibers as opposed to cutting parallel to them.

In laymans terms, when you're cutting against those grains, you are breaking the tension of the muscle fiber and enabling the meat to relax and become more tender. This is much more important in tougher cuts of meat like the flank or skirt steaks, but not really that big of an issue in more tender cuts. Of course if any piece of meat is overcooked, this technique goes out the window regardless of how tender the meat started out as.
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Old 05-31-2006, 10:50 PM   #4
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Aaah...beat me to it Andy.
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Old 05-31-2006, 11:08 PM   #5
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Here is a photo.
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Old 05-31-2006, 11:26 PM   #6
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But don't cook the meat to the temp. that's in the photo.
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Old 06-01-2006, 01:35 AM   #7
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Another tip, the fibres in a chicken breast always run the length of the breast.
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