Going Against the Grain
If our steaks were people, they would probably be supermodels: undeniably gorgeous, but in need of very specific upkeep and appeasement to keep it that way.
Steak can be moody: Cook an onglet for too long and it throws a fit, losing all its flavour in the process. Most steaks insist on a ten minute rest before being served or else they get their revenge by dumping their succulent juices everywhere except into your mouth, where they should be going.
Slicing against the grain is another essential beauty tip. Slicing a steak the wrong way can lead to perfectly cooked, tender meat becoming chewy and rubbery.
But what does it actually mean to slice ‘against the grain’?
It’s an odd idea, but if you look closely at a piece of meat you can see that it has a grain like wood. This grain is an indication of the direction of the muscle fibres in the meat.
For steak cuts that come from soft muscles, like loin, the muscle fibres in the meat that make up the grain are thin enough that it doesn’t really matter how you slice it. However, for cuts made from sterner stuff like flank, the muscle fibres are stronger and tougher so the goal should be to shorten them as much as possible with the help of a sharp knife.
If you cut with your knife along the same way of the grain, the muscle fibres will remain too long and make the meat tough. Slicing thinly against the grain delivers very short pieces of muscle fibre that are barely held together, meaning that the meat is tender and easy to pull apart with your hands and, more importantly, your teeth.