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Knife Skills: How to Cut Beef For Stir Fries

The first step to great food is great knife skills. Check out more Knife Skills this way!

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All meat—beef, chicken, human, whatever—has a grain to it; It's the direction that the major muscle fibers run in. As we've demonstrated in the past, the angle at which you hold your knife in relation to this grain while cutting has a pretty profound effect on the tenderness of the meat. Cut in the same direction as the grain, and your meat comes out tough and ropey. Cut against the grain, and you shorten the muscle fibers, effectively tenderizing the meat.

The goal with any stir-fry is to cut the food into bite-size pieces that will cook rapidly and remain tender. This means that more than almost any other cooking method, cutting the meat against the grain into the right shape is absolutely essential. This video will show you how it's done.

Shopping and Storage


When it comes to stir-fries, the best cuts of beef are ones that are loose-textured enough to absorb the flavorings, but beefy enough to stand up on its own. Because you're slicing them so thin, expensive super-tender cuts like strip or tenderloin are overkill. Much better are the so-called butcher's cuts. These are my favorites:

Like all meats, beef should be kept well wrapped and used within a few days of purchase. Don't slice the meat into strips until you are ready to cook it. Pre-slicing will increase its surface area, increasing oxidation, which can cause the meat to discolor or develop livery off-flavors.

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