You might think a steak is a steak, but a lot of things go into creating the perfect eating experience. After finding the best steak to buy (we have suggestions that fit any budget), you have to cook it to the perfect level of doneness—that’s medium rare, if you’re asking me. When it’s finished cooking and has rested for 10 to 15 minutes, all the critical thinking parts are done, right?
Not so much! Knowing how to cut steak is the important final step.
Here’s the Secret
You have to slice against the grain. You’ve likely heard this before, but what does it actually mean? It all has to do with the direction of the meat’s muscle fibers. If you look closely at your steak (or, any piece of meat, for that matter), you’ll notice a bunch of lines that run parallel to each other. That’s it: the grain. It’s finer and harder to find in tender cuts like beef tenderloin or New York striploin, but larger and easier to identify in tougher steaks (such as skirt or flank).
When looking for the grain, you may get distracted by the grill marks on a cooked steak. Don’t make the mistake of slicing with or against the marks; they don’t necessarily correspond with the grain. If it gives you too much trouble, you can always become anti-grill marks like me: A steak that’s seared all over actually tastes better, and it’s certainly less distracting to slice.
Why Slicing Against the Grain Is Important
Once you’ve identified the grain, you’ll want to slice against it, making perpendicular slices that form a “T” with the grain. This cuts through the muscle fibers, shortening them to the length of the slice. The shorter fibers are much easier to chew, resulting in a perfectly tender steak. If you sliced parallel to the grain, each piece of meat would contain long, fibrous strands that are harder for your teeth to get through. And who wants to turn a perfectly cooked steak into a chewy mess?
How do you make sure you’re always slicing the right way? Align the steak on the cutting board so the muscle fibers run left to right. Then, make up-and-down slices with a sharp knife. It’s that easy!
Celebrate your new steak-cutting skills with our favorite grilled steak recipes.