Extra Helpings: Cutting Across (or Against) The Grain


David asks: Many meat recipes say “slice across the grain.” What does that mean? Is it really that important?

For the answer, I turned to Butcher Denise Zier of Zier’s Prime Meats. She says all meat has a definite grain running lengthwise through it… some of it finer (rib-eye, tenderloin) than others (flank steak, skirt steak). The grain is the direction of the muscle fibers. It is easier to see when the meat is raw.

Raw Flank Steak

After the meat is cooked, look at it closely. If you cut with the grain, the meat will be very chewy. If you cut it across the grain, you’ll be shortening the muscle fiber making it much easier to chew.

Against the Grain Graphic

It all has to do with the angle at which the meat is sliced. You don’t want to cut with your knife parallel to the grain… it’ll be tough to eat. Slicing thinly against the grain will cut the muscle fiber into short pieces and make it a much more enjoyable meal!

Here’s my Instagram video of Denise showing you how to cut a cooked flank steak against the grain:

Off topic, but I’ve just got to tell you, I really love it when I see women in unconventional roles… like Denise. She works in the butcher shop right alongside her fabulous husband, Dave, at Zier’s Prime Meats in Wilmette, Illinois. And here’s a shout-out to John Wujkowski… who really knows how to cut veal chops!



I’m Christina Chavez

I was a TV journalist for many years, but with a house full of kids I decided to come off the road, go to culinary school and follow my passion for cooking. Mama’s High Strung is all about food… everything from creative recipe ideas to some really cool kitchen gadgets and cooking tips. I live in Chicago, but I love to travel and write about my food discoveries! You can reach me by email: mamashighstrung@gmail.com