A large number of Japanese dishes utilize thinly sliced meat as a primary ingredient. Some of the most popular dishes where you might find the thin, almost delicate slices of beef or pork include shabu shabu, sukiyaki, barbecue dishes and numerous stir-fry dishes. When the meat is sliced so thin, it cooks very quickly and exhibits a soft, tender texture that only adds to the umami experience.
If you’ve ever checked out the meat selection at an Asian supermarket, you’ve probably seen packages displaying a beautiful assortment of thinly sliced meats. The beef almost always showcases beautiful marbling, and the pork slices are neatly arrayed overlapping one another.
Is there some secret trick or technique to producing such perfectly thin slices of meat? Is it an ancient Japanese art that takes years of study in order to achieve perfection? No, it’s actually rather simple. You too can easily produce thinly sliced meat on your own with the following instructions.
How to Cut Thinly Sliced Meat
First, choose the cut of meat — premium meats that are a bit on the lean side will tend to be firmer. Try beef tenderloin, strip loin and pork loin to start.
Place the meat in a ziplock bag. If you purchased a few cuts, be sure that they are separate from one another when placing them in ziplock bags. Squeeze out as much air from the bags as you can, and then put the bags in the freezer for about 1–2 hours. Larger cuts of meat will need to spend more time in the freezer than smaller cuts. As a general guideline, figure about 1 ½ hours per pound.
Remove the meat from the freezer and then the bag. Before slicing, test if it is done by trying to cut a piece of thinly sliced meat. If the meat is firm enough for the knife to cut through smoothly, enabling you to cut a very thin slice with ease, it is ready. If the meat is still too soft, put it back in the freezer for 10 minutes at a time until it reaches a good firmness.
Cutting Thinly Sliced Meat Properly
Cutting against the grain with a gentle back and forth motion will yield the best slices that will be tender when cooked. You can freeze portions of the thinly sliced meat for future use!
Best Meats to Use for Different Japanese Dishes
Now that you know how to cut thinly sliced meat like an expert, you must also learn which meat works best for the different types of Japanese dishes you can cook. The most common type of beef used in several Japanese dishes is Wagyu beef. This kind of beef exhibits amazing marbling and subsequently delivers excellent flavor and a melt-in-your-mouth texture.
Wagyu beef is ideal for dishes such as shabu shabu and sukiyaki. Both of these are a type of hot pot dish where the meat is cooked with vegetables in a flavorful broth. Try this delicious recipe for Bordeaux Wine Sukiyaki!
If you do not have an Asian supermarket near you, it may be difficult to find Wagyu beef. It is also a bit on the expensive side. Thus, you can always use another good quality beef such as chuck rib or sirloin as an alternative.
Use sliced pork loin or pork belly for dishes such as shogayaki, a grilled ginger pork dish. Pork can also be used in sukiyaki instead of beef.
You can also use chuck rib, sirloin or pork loin for yakiniku, which is an amazing Japanese barbecue dish. Try this Juicy Pork Yakiniku Burger. Enjoy!