Whether a person procures meat by hunting, or raising and butchering it, or buys it at the store, it isn’t an uncommon occurrence to sometimes find that the meat needs to be cut before cooking it. This may be cutting a roast to produce steaks, slivering the meat for a specific recipe or even cutting a large cut of meat into smaller portions to stretch it out. There are some great tips to help a person get the best results out of the process.
Partly freezing meat usually makes it much easier to slice. This doesn’t mean that the roast or whatever should be frozen solid. Rather, it should be chilled until ice crystals are beginning to form. When this is done, the knife can slice more easily through, especially with thinner cuts, but also with thicker ones. The meat also doesn’t slip under the blade as easily, so the danger of being cut is minimized.
Against the grain
Meat cells tends to be longer in one direction than in another. This is referred to as the grain. It is normally far better to cut across the grain rather than with it. This can make a huge difference in the tenderness of the final product. A mistake that many people make, including a fair share of butchers, is to cut with the grain. At times, the meat may even look better when it is cut this way. Once cooked though, people may find themselves needing to chew through long meat fibers. This can make the meat harder to chew, and thus it seems tougher.
The sooner after cutting the meat that it is cooked, the better. If it is cut well in advance, many of the juices from the meat may seep out, with a dry result. The juices also have a great deal of the flavor that can be lost. According to a long time butcher in Southern Oregon, name withheld, “Our shop was known for selling the very best cuts of meat. Actually, we got the meat from the same sources everyone else did. The difference was that we cut individual orders right there on the spot when the customer ordered it. They thought that it was because we wanted them to see exactly what we were doing. In part, that was true. More importantly though, the meat then contained more juices and simply tasted better once it was cooked.”
It is rather surprising how many people are amazed that more people are badly cut from using dull knives rather than with sharp ones. A dull knife requires more force to cut through the meat. A dull knife is also more likely to slip during the cutting. Additionally, a sharp knife cuts through the meat while a dull one tears through it. The knives should always be sharp prior to cutting the meat.
When cutting meat, it is the perfect time to trim off excess fat. The key to this is to leave some of the fat on the cut of meat. A low fat diet doesn’t preclude trimming off fat after the meal is cooked. Still, the fat contains a lot of the flavor and tends to mean that the meat will be more tender and juicy once it is cooked. When cutting off the fat, try to leave a quarter inch layer. If the meat contains veins of fat, called ‘marbling’, so much the better. Don’t remove the marbling.
By using these and many more tips that are available, a meal can end up tasting far better than can be imagined. It is worth knowing how to cut meat prior to cooking it. There really isn’t a secret to doing it, once the basics are understood.