Does Scoring a Cheap Cut of Steak Make It More Tender?

published Sep 2, 2015
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(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

I cook flank steak on a semi-regular basis. It’s not nearly as expensive as more luxurious cuts of steak, and it’s still not too tough of a cut to throw on the grill.

I recently read a tip that suggested scoring less expensive, fibrous cuts — like flank and hanger steak (just as you might score a duck breast or your holiday ham) — to make them a lot more tender. With grilling season still well underway, this was one tip I was more than happy to try out.

The Original Tip

We’d all love a super-tender, juicy cut of steak every time we grill, and to help us get there every time, the folks over at Good Housekeeping discovered a tip to make those less expensive, slightly tougher cuts more appealing.

They suggest scoring flank or hanger steak, which have long fibers, by making shallow cuts against the grain in one direction, then another set of cuts the other way. These cuts sever some of the long fibers, so even if you cut your steak the wrong way, you still have tender pieces with every bite.

This also allows you to work the seasoning into the shallow cuts, making for a more flavorful piece of meat.

Read the original tip → The Best Steak Grilling Trick You Haven’t Heard Of at Good Housekeeping

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Testing Method

I started this test with two pieces of flank steak — I simply seasoned one piece with salt and pepper, and scored the second piece with 1/8-inch slices on each side of the meat, then seasoned it with salt and pepper. Once the grill was hot, I placed both pieces of steak on, and cooked them for five minutes on each side.

After they were cooked, I took both pieces of steak off the grill and let them rest for a few minutes. Then, for the best part of this test, my fiancé and I grabbed our forks and knives, and dove in to see if we could taste a difference in the texture of the meat.

(Image credit: Kelli Foster)

The Results

Of all the tip tests I’ve done, this one ranks as my favorite.

The results were noticeable before even tasting the steak. My knife slid through the scored piece of meat like it was butter. There was very little to no resistance. Slicing the unscored meat was like slicing any piece of flank steak — it wasn’t necessarily difficult, but there was some resistance from the long muscle fibers.

In fact, there was such a noticeable difference in slicing each piece that my fiancé thought there were two different cuts of meat on the plate.

As far as tenderness goes, the difference was small, but the scored meat was definitely more tender. The most noticeable (and amazing) difference was in the taste of the scored piece of steak; the shallow cuts really allow the seasoning to work its way into the meat. If you like using spice rubs on your steak, you’d especially appreciate this. But best of all, these cuts allow for even more wonderfully grilled, crispy, crusty edges on your steak.

Verdict: This is a mind-blowing tip!

Final Notes

Scoring the meat doesn’t magically transform a flank or hanger steak into a filet mignon, so be sure to keep your expectations in check. It does, however, make for a more flavorful, tender, and superb grilled steak. I can say with certainty I will be using this method to grill flank steak going forward.