Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Grain of Meat

Meat has a grain. Don't get confused and think I'm putting proteins in the grain group here. Meat is obviously not a grain, but meat has a grain like wood does. The grain is the direction the fibers of meat run. Generally the grain runs parallel to the bone, however frequently the grain goes a couple of different directions even within one piece of meat. Usually you can see the grain by looking for lines in the meat. The reason grain is important is because whether you cut with or across the grain affects your meat end product. Here is a chunk of meat. The grain is running generally parallel to the knife blade. If I cut where the knife is, I'm cutting WITH the grain. Same chunk of meat with the knife running perpendicular to the grain. If I cut where the knife is now, I'm cutting ACROSS the grain.
So why does it matter, you ask? Well, cutting across the grain gives you more tender cuts because the long meat fibers are cut into small pieces. Steaks, ham, pork chops, etc. are cut across the grain. Cutting with the grain gives you a tougher piece of meat as the long meat fibers run the length of the piece of meat. I use with the grain (or diagonal to it) for jerky. Across the grain jerky is fine also, it's just a bit too tender for me and doesn't give much chewing satisfaction. So there you have it, next time you bring a roast, ham, steak, etc. home, look it over and see if you can find the grain of the meat.

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