The Secret to Tender Meat (Hint: It's All in the Wrist)

By Chef Meg Galvin, Healthy Cooking Expert at
from "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight"

Saving money by buying cheaper cuts of meat is a great tip for any home cook, but the trick is turning those tougher cuts of meat into delectable dinners. It can be done, and all you need is a knife and a few minutes.

Like an onion or a piece of wood, meat has a very distinct grain. Pick up a piece of beef and take a close look at it. You should see lines running in one direction. As we know, meat is muscle, and those lines are the muscle fibers. If we cut along the lines, or "with the grain," our meat is tougher and more fibrous. Each bite of meat will contain long strings of muscle fiber that require more work to tenderize and chew. By cutting "against the grain," or perpendicular to the lines, we shorten those long fibers, making the meat easier to chew and more tender. The fastest way to ruin a piece of meat-cheap or expensive-is to cut with the grain, even if you cooked it perfectly.

Liken it to a piece of celery. If you chomp on a stalk of celery, those tough fibers get stuck in your teeth. With a chopped piece of celery, those fibers are shorter and already cut.

The next time you carve a cut of beef, whether it's a tenderloin or a flank steak, take the time to slice against the grain. Use long knife strokes to achieve thin slices, and you'll enjoy your meat that much more.

Reprinted from "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight" (c) 2011 by SparkPeople, Inc. Permission granted by Hay House, Inc., New York, NY 10033. Available wherever books are sold.

SparkPeople Healthy Cooking Expert Meg Galvin is a World Master Chef, culinary instructor, and the author of "The SparkPeople Cookbook: Love Your Food, Lose the Weight." A farmer's daughter and marathon runner, she lives in northern Kentucky with her husband and three teenage sons.