Are you a fan of flank steak? If so, you may have heard the term “against the grain” used in relation to slicing this popular cut of beef. But what exactly does it mean to cut against the grain, and why is it important?
First things first: let’s talk about what “the grain” actually refers to. When we talk about the grain of a piece of meat, we’re referring to the direction that its muscle fibers are running. In the case of flank steak, those fibers run parallel to each other along the length of the cut.
Now, when we slice meat “with the grain,” we’re cutting perpendicular to those muscle fibers. This can result in long, tough strands of meat that are difficult to chew and swallow.
On the other hand, when we slice meat “against the grain,” we’re cutting across those muscle fibers instead. This creates shorter, more tender pieces of meat that are easier to eat.
So why does this happen? Well, when we slice against the grain, we’re essentially shortening those muscle fibers by cutting them into smaller pieces. This makes them easier to break down as we chew and digest our food.
To make things a bit clearer, let’s use an analogy. Imagine you have a bundle of straws held together with a rubber band – this represents our muscle fibers in flank steak. If you were to cut through those straws at an angle (i.e., “against the grain”), you’d end up with shorter pieces that are easier to handle than if you were to cut straight through them (i., “with the grain”).
So how do you know which way is “against the grain”? The easiest way is to look at your piece of flank steak and identify which direction its muscle fibers are running. You should be able to see lines or striations running along its surface – these indicate where those muscles are located.
Once you’ve identified the grain of your flank steak, you’ll want to slice it perpendicular to those muscle fibers. This means cutting across the lines or striations you see on the surface of the meat. You can use a sharp knife to do this, making sure to cut through the meat at an angle rather than straight down.
If you’re not sure if you’re cutting against the grain correctly, there’s an easy way to check: take a piece of your sliced flank steak and try pulling it apart with your fingers. If it comes apart easily and feels tender, you’ve likely sliced against the grain. If it feels tough or Chewy, you may need to adjust your slicing technique and try again.
In summary, cutting against the grain is an important technique for ensuring that your flank steak is tender and easy to eat. By identifying which way its muscle fibers are running and slicing across them at an angle, you can create shorter pieces of meat that are more manageable for your teeth and stomach. So next time you’re preparing flank steak for dinner, be sure to keep this in mind – your taste buds (and digestive system) will thank you!