What It Means To Butterfly Meat

steakWhen it comes to cooking, most terms make sense. When a recipe says to stir fry, you know that you are stirring veggies and meats in a frying pan. Hard-boiled eggs? Those get placed into boiling hot water. If you steam vegetables, you’re just cooking them using the moisture evaporating from boiling hot water without actually placing them in the liquid. Other phrases, however, aren’t as clear. Butterflying, for example, is one of those terms that can be confusing to someone who is new to cooking.

If a recipe calls for meat to be butterflied, it is typically for one that involves barbecuing the meat on a grill. When you butterfly meat, you are basically taking a thick, juicy filet and spreading it out over a larger surface by making it into thinner cuts. Butterflying is one of many common cooking tips and tricks that is used for several reasons:

  • It allows the meat to cook more evenly because the entire surface of the filet will lie flat on the grill rather than some areas sitting on it while others hover above the surface. Somecuts of meat, such as chicken breasts or shrimp curve upward, causing worry for new cooks that the meat won’t be thoroughly cooked.
  • Butterflying is used to make meat dishes that seem fancier, such as stuffed chicken.
  • This method is also great for reducing the how long it takes to cook the same amount of food – perfect for chefs that are pressed for time.

So, why is it called butterflying? When you cut the meat and spread it open, it resembles the wingspan of a butterfly.

What you’ll need
For the perfect butterfly cut, you’ll only need two simple tools: a sturdy cutting board and a sharp chef’s knife. Selecting the right cutting board and knife is easy enough. A good cutting board is one that won’t dull your knife, yet is still resistant to bacterial contamination. Bamboo or plastic cutting boards meet both of these requirements and are typically very affordable. You’ll want to make sure that your chef’s knife is as sharp as possible, otherwise you’ll not only have difficulty slicing through the uncooked meat, but also be at a high risk of cuts and injuries in the process. If your knife is dull, you’ll either need to have it sharpened or purchase a new one.

How to do it
All types of meat can be butterflied – it just depends on how you plan to cook it and what the recipe entails. Beef filets, chicken breasts, pork chops and seafood all can be prepared using this easy technique.

  • Beef filets are extremely simple to butterfly. First, you’ll want to lay the meat flat on the cutting board. Take your chef’s knife and make short smooth strokes horizontally down the middle of the filet. Avoid making sawing motions or cutting the meat so that one side is more dense than the other. You want both sides to be the same thickness so that they cook evenly. Cut almost all the way through the meat but stop before severing the two halves completely. You can now open your two halves like a butterfly spreading its wings. If you are going to be stuffing the meat, tenderize it with a pounder before rolling it with filling.
  • Chicken breasts tend to have one extra step for butterflying. When you lay the breast on the cutting board with the smooth side down, you’ll want to first remove the inner filet that is also known as the chicken tender. Once you cut the tender away, you can save it for a different meal by freezing it. Now, you’ll want to flip the breast over and cut the meat horizontally, just as you would with a beef filet, and follow the same procedure.
  • Seafood, such as shrimp, is easy to butterfly. In order to use this technique, you’ll want to use a smaller knife since seafood usually isn’t the same size as other meat options. Using the small knife, slice shrimp down the curved part of the tail.

Once the meat has been butterflied, it is ready to either be thrown on the grill or tenderized for rolling. With this simple technique, new cooks can use their skills to prepare meals that look like they are more complicated and advanced than they actually are.

If you like this post, please be sure to check out the following!

How To Thaw Frozen Meats Properly
All About Meat Thermometers
Four Tips For Making A Perfect Roast Chicken

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