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How to Cut Meat like a Butcher

Go against the grain with these four clear-cut tips

Without mastering some basic meat cuts, a Thanksgiving turkey or a thick flank steak can be pretty intimidating. To ease your fears and bring your confidence back to the kitchen, we’re sharing four basic meat cuts every cook should master, from slicing against the grain to carving a roast chicken.

But before you sharpen your skills, it’s important to start with sharp knives for easy, accident-free slicing. Is your set looking dull? Our partner, Work Sharp Culinary, has your back. They make it incredibly safe and easy to sharpen your kitchen knives just like the pros. Now, get in touch with your inner butcher and step up your carnivorous chops with our guide.

DIY a fresh poke bowl like this spicy red snapper dish at home. To cube your fish, start by sharpening your knives, then cut the fish fillet lengthwise into one-inch strips. Next, cut the fish crosswise to make cubes. Just be sure to remove any skin on the fillet prior to cubing.

Turkey gets all the glory, but roast chicken requires a good carving, too. Take your just-sharpened knives and loosen the legs by cutting the skin between the breast and the thigh. Pull the thighs away from the breast toward the cutting board, then find where the thigh attaches to the chicken and cut straight down with your knife to remove each leg. Next, cut down on the breastbone until you feel pushback from the cartilage. Then, cut down both sides of the chicken until the breast is separated. Don’t forget the wings: Pull each wing outward and slice down on the second joint to set the wings free.

On to the best kind of butterflies in your stomach: the butterfly meat cut. A dish like stuffed pork tenderloin should be butterflied before cooking, meaning opened like butterfly wings. Start with your tenderloin on the cutting board, then create a vertical cut that stops one inch from the end of the pork loin. Open the meat and lay it flat, then pound until it’s an even thickness all the way through. Finally, proceed with the stuffing.

Repeat after us: Always cut your meat against the grain. No, we’re not talking about quinoa or farro; the grain is the direction of the muscle fibers in your meat. If you’re cooking up a grilled flank steak with cilantro-scallion purée, find the direction of the grain then slice across it, rather than parallel. This breaks up the muscle fibers making the meat easier to chew.

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