No matter how you slice it, Wagyu beef is some of the best money can buy. But wait. There’s definitely a right way to slice it, and that’s against the grain. Although even improperly sliced Wagyu is likely to be wonderfully tender, it doesn’t hurt to take a moment and navigate the grain before slicing.
What Does It Mean to Cut Meat Against the Grain?
The “grain” of meat is the direction in which the muscle fibers are aligned, and cutting “against the grain” simply means cutting perpendicular to whichever direction that happens to be. Simple, right?
But Why Do We Do This, You Ask?
Muscle fibers are what connect an animal and are, therefore, inherently tough to break apart. If you leave those fibers long and intact, you’ll have a hard time breaking them down as you chew. It’s a much better idea to leave the slicing to the knife and give your jaw a break. That’s the reason so many recipes recommend slicing “thinly against the grain”—because the goal is to make those fibers as short as possible in order to achieve that melt-in-your-mouth feel.
Tips and Tricks
It can sometimes be tricky to figure out the grain’s direction, especially if you’re dealing with tender meat like Wagyu, which will typically have a fine grain. The good news is that the harder it is to find the grain, the less it matters, because those cuts are already extremely tender.
The most important cuts of steak to slice against the grain are flank, brisket, flat iron, skirt, and any other cut typically served sliced instead of whole. If you’ve just grilled the meat, it’s possible to confuse the grill lines with the grain lines. Don’t do that.
Don’t confuse the marbling with the grain, either. The marbling and grain can often flow in the same direction, but not always. Cuts of Wagyu beef will inherently have plentiful, flowing rivers of marbling that will draw your eye, but try to focus! Don’t be afraid to break out the monocle if you need to get a closer look.
Perfect Recipes for Going Against the Grain
Once you’ve cooked your Wagyu to perfection, bust out a clean, sharp knife and locate the grain. Track that grain and cut perpendicular to those lines. Then reward your expert navigation with some of the most tender meat in all the land. Here are a few recipes for anyone looking to add an extra kick to their properly sliced beef:
- Bulgogi with Pickled Vegetables
- Korean Ssam with Marinated Flank Steak
- Sichuan Pepper Dry Rub Short Rib
- Bo Kho Braised Wagyu Brisket
Cutting against the grain doesn’t have to be difficult, and that’s all the more reason to give it a go. Because 15 seconds could save you 15 percent or more effort in the chewing process. Do your jaw a favor and cut against the grain to achieve the melt-in-your-mouth meat of your dreams. And check out some of the best raw materials right here.