Why Cutting Meat Against the Grain is Scientifically Superior

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One way to ensure the very best in your home grilling? Cutting your meat against the grain.

The friendly people over at America’s Test Kitchen took to science to prove the superiority of this method with something called a CT3 Texture Analyzer from Brookfield Engineering.

They took a flank steak (which has wide muscle fibers) and a section of strip loin (which has thin muscle fibers) and cooked both to an internal temperature of 130 degrees. Then they used the “ultra sensitive” CT3 to test how much force is required to bite into each cut of meat when carved with and against the muscle fiber grain.

When cut against the grain, the flank took—on average—about 383 grams of force to bite 5 millimeters into the meat, versus 1729 grams when cut with the grain. Perhaps even more notably, the strip cut tested 590 grams with the grain vs. 329 grams against.

In other words, when sliced perpendicular to the muscle fibers, a cut of flank can be just as tender as a cut of expensive New York strip steak, and that fact could save you money next time you’re lingering over the refrigerated section at the grocery store and wondering whether it’s a day for splurging. Buy the flank and cut against the grain for the biggest pay off. Science wants you to.

As Cook’s Illustrated Senior Editor Dan Souza notes in the video, this rule applies with the raw and cooked cuts, and is most useful for meat with wide fibers, a high proportion of connective tissue, and clear longitudinal grain, like skirt, hanger, and flank.

Now go light the coals! Class is dismissed.