Many times, you’ll see a recipe mention something along the lines of, “slice thinly against the grain.” What does this mean, and why should you care?
The “grain” refers to the flow of the muscle fibers in a cut of meat. Like wood, the fibers tend to go in a single direction. Muscle fibers can be tough, difficult to chew and digest. Slicing meat "against the grain" refers to slicing strips crosswise -- through the grain itself -- whether you're slicing a steak or a roast. Slicing "with the grain" would be to slice following the lines of the muscle fibers.
Slicing against the grain helps to tenderize the meat by shortening the muscle fibers. You may not notice this that much with a soft muscle, like a tenderloin, but this can mean all the difference in the world when you're slicing through a tougher cut of meat like a skirt or a flank steak or a roast. It can also help to hide when you’ve overcooked a piece of meat (slice the meat thinly against the grain, and moisten with a sauce or gravy before serving).
Watch this video for a quick demonstration, then try it with the recipe for tri-tip salad from chef Timothy Hollingsworth below.Kitchen Tip: Grain in meat
Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter explains why and how to cut against the grain in meat.
Los Angeles Times Test Kitchen manager Noelle Carter explains why and how to cut against the grain in meat.See more videos
TIM HOLLINGSWORTH'S TRI-TIP SALAD
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes, plus marinating and resting times | Serves 4 to 6
1 tablespoon onion powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1/4 teaspoon cayenne
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 (2- to 2½-pound) tri-tip, trimmed
1 onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons garlic, chopped
1 bunch thyme, chopped
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1. Combine the onion powder, garlic powder, cayenne, red pepper flakes, about 1 tablespoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper in a bowl. Rub the mixture over the tri-tip to cover the surface evenly. Top with the sliced onion, chopped garlic and thyme, cover the bowl and refrigerate at least 2 hours, up to overnight.
2. Transfer the tri-tip and the rest of the ingredients from the bowl to a sealable plastic bag. Add the olive oil and vinegar, press out any air, seal tightly and then rub to distribute evenly over the surface of the meat. Refrigerate at least 6 hours or overnight.
3. Grill over high heat, searing both sides, then move to a cooler spot on the grill and cook, turning frequently, until well-browned and medium-rare to medium (about 130 degrees), 30 to 40 minutes. The meat should feel firm but still give with pressure.
4. Set aside to rest at least 10 minutes before carving. Slice it thin, across the grain, holding the knife at a slight angle to make wider slices.
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Tri-tip, thinly sliced
2 cups diced tomato
1 small onion, diced
1 avocado, diced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
Juice of two limes
3 cups arugula
1. Combine the garlic, shallot, vinegar and olive oil in a bowl, and whisk to combine. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon 4 teaspoons over the tri-tip and toss to combine. Reserve the remainder.
2. Combine tomato, onion, avocado, cilantro and lime juice in a bowl, and set aside for 30 minutes. Drain any excess liquid and season to taste with more salt and pepper.
3. Place the arugula in a large bowl and toss with just enough of the reserved vinaigrette to moisten lightly.
4. Line a platter with the arugula. Arrange the sliced tri-tip on top, then spoon over the tomato mixture. Serve immediately.
Note: Each of 6 servings: Calories 521; Protein 38 grams; Carbohydrates 11 grams; Fiber 4 grams; Fat 36 grams; Saturated fat 9 grams; Cholesterol 120 mg; Sugar 4 grams; Sodium 83 mg
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