How to Slice Steak and Make Cheap Beef Cuts Tender: The Science Behind It

When it comes to steak, many people believe that the tenderness of the meat is solely determined by the cut itself. However, the cooking process and the way you slice the steak also play a crucial role in achieving that perfect tenderness. In this article, we will explore the science behind slicing steak and making cheap beef cuts tender, using only your knife.

How to Slice Steak and Make Cheap Beef Cuts Tender: The Science Behind It
How to Slice Steak and Make Cheap Beef Cuts Tender: The Science Behind It

Slicing Against the Grain: A Game Changer

The key factor in achieving tender beef cuts lies in the way you slice the meat, particularly when dealing with cuts like skirt steak, hanger steak, and flank steak. These cuts have wide muscle fibers, a relatively high proportion of connective tissue, and a clear longitudinal grain. The direction in which you cut the meat in relation to these muscle fibers can significantly impact the tenderness of the steak.

Cutting against the grain means slicing perpendicular to the muscle fibers, while cutting with the grain means slicing parallel to the muscle fibers. To quantify the impact of carving direction on tenderness, an experiment was conducted. A flank steak and a section of strip loin (from which we get New York strip) were cooked to an internal temperature of 130 degrees using a temperature-controlled water bath.

The Power of Slicing Against the Grain

The tenderness of the cooked meat was then tested using a highly sensitive piece of equipment called the CT3 Texture Analyzer from Brookfield Engineering. The force required to bite into the meat was measured when it was carved with the grain and when it was carved against the grain. The results were astounding.

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On average, it took 383 grams of force to bite into a slice of flank steak carved against the grain, while it took an average of 1,729 grams to bite into a slice carved with the grain. In other words, steak sliced with the grain required four times as much force to chew compared to steak sliced against the grain. This difference in tenderness is significant and highlights the importance of cutting against the grain.

Flank Steak: A Rival to Premium Cuts

Many cooks argue that flank steak is much less tender than expensive strip steak. However, when comparing both cuts sliced with the grain, it was found that flank steak was indeed 193% tougher than strip steak. But here’s the exciting part: when both cuts were sliced against the grain, the tenderness gap decreased to just 16%.

This data was mirrored by the comments of our tasters, further reinforcing the fact that properly prepared flank steak can rival premium cuts that cost significantly more. So, the next time you’re looking to make a delicious and tender steak, consider the science behind carving against the grain.


Q: Does slicing against the grain work for all cuts of beef?
A: Yes, slicing against the grain can benefit all cuts of beef, but it is particularly important for cuts like flank steak, skirt steak, and hanger steak, which have wide muscle fibers and clear grain.

Q: Can I achieve tender beef cuts without sous vide cooking?
A: While sous vide cooking provides precise control over the temperature, you can still achieve tender beef cuts by following the same slicing technique even with traditional cooking methods like grilling or pan-searing.

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Q: Are there any other factors that can affect the tenderness of beef cuts?
A: Yes, besides slicing against the grain, factors like marinating the meat, using a meat tenderizer, and cooking the meat to the appropriate internal temperature can also contribute to achieving tender beef cuts.


In the world of cooking, achieving tender beef cuts goes beyond the quality of the meat itself. By understanding the science behind slicing against the grain, you can transform cheaper cuts of beef, like flank steak, into tender and flavorful masterpieces. So, grab your knife, slice against the grain, and elevate your cooking game with Hook’d Up Bar and Grill.

Hook’d Up Bar and Grill

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