When you’re serving beef dish, like zippy flank steak tacos or rich sirloin with a side of potatoes, you goal is tender meat with an enjoyable bite. To achieve the perfect texture, you need to do more than cook your protein correctly. You also need to slice the meat against the grain. This final step can make a huge difference when it comes to the overall quality of your meal. It’s not difficult—it’s just a matter of learning how to identify the grain in a piece of meat.
What is the grain in meat?
Meat is a muscle. The ‘grain’ refers to the muscle fibers, and the direction in which they run. For a tougher piece of meat, like flank or hanger steak, the grain is fairly pronounced. Tender cuts like fillet mignon have a finer grain, which can be more difficult to identify. You don’t want a long and stringy bite of meat. When you cut against the grain of the muscle, you get hundreds of tiny fibers instead of one long one. That makes the meat melt in your mouth.
How to find the grain on a piece of meat?
If you look closely at your meat after it has been cooked, you’ll see little lines running across it. That’s the grain we’re talking about. To slice meat against the grain, just hold your knife perpendicular to the grain and cut thin slices.
Next time you cook a flank, hanger, or skirt steak, check out the grain in the meat before you sear it. The grain won’t always be obvious, but if you look carefully you’ll find it. Now you’re on the path to tender, satisfying bites.
Check out a few more of our favorite steak recipes:
- Hanger Steak with “Creamed” Spinach and Lemon-Butter Purple Potatoes
- Steak Salad with Chicory, Curried Chickpeas, and Apples
- Five-Spice Hanger Steak with Stir-Fried Brown Rice
Ready to get cooking? Learn how to make the perfect steak.