How to Butterfly a Steak?

Butterflying a steak is more art than science. It’s a pretty cool method where you take a thicker cut of steak and slice it nearly in half, but not all the way through – kind of like a book. The result? The meat opens up to look like butterfly wings, which is where it gets its name.

These instructions are for a hanger steak, but you can use the same basic steps to butterfly other cuts of steak.

Step 1: Prepare The Hanger Steak

raw hanger steak
Hanger steak prepared for trimming

First, grab your steak and lay it out on a cutting board. Now, you’ll need a sharp knife; a boning knife is perfect. Use it to trim off any of that extra fat and silverskin.

Now, cut the hanger steak in half. You’ll see a sinew running through the middle; just follow along that line with your knife.

A raw hanger steak, split into two pieces
A hanger steak, split into two cuts, one of which contains sinew

You’ll end up with two pieces. Pick the bigger, thicker one for the next part. If there’s any bit of sinew left, let’s get rid of that. Just gently push your knife under the sinew, running along its length, and remove it.

raw trimmed hanger steak cut into two pieces and with removed sinew
Trimmed hanger steak with the sinew removed from the center

And there you go, your hanger steak is ready for the next step of butterflying.

Step 2: The Butterfly Cut

hanger steak ready for butterflying
Larger hanger steak cut, ready for butterflying

Alright, let’s do the butterfly cut. First, grab your knife in one hand. With your other hand, lightly press down on top of the steak to keep it stable and prevent slipping while cutting. Now, find the thickest part of the steak – that’s your starting point. Slide your knife in right along the side of this point, aiming to split the steak into two even pieces.

Butterflying Hanger Steak
Butterflying Hanger Steak

Remember to cut slowly. You want to keep the thickness even all the way through. Hold that knife firmly and keep it as horizontal as possible for better control. When you’re about a quarter-inch from the steak’s back edge, that’s the moment to stop.

Step 3: Open the Steak

Now, gently open the steak to inspect your cut. If it’s not opening evenly, you should make a small additional cut to even things out. After any tweaks, lay the steak out flat. If it’s not lying evenly, a light tap here and there with your hand or a mallet should do the job.

hanger steak cut using butterflying technique

FAQs

What’s the best knife for butterflying a steak?

It’s best to use a sharp knife with a narrow blade when butterflying a steak. I highly recommend using a boning knife for this purpose. Don’t have one? No problem, a wider-bladed knife will do the job too, just make sure it’s really sharp. The key here is sharpness over blade shape. And hey, stay away from those serrated knives for butterflying.

Is butterflying high-quality steaks a good idea?

Butterflying high-quality steaks like ribeye or filet mignon is generally unnecessary and not recommended unless you have a recipe for stuffed steak. That’s about the only time I’d say it makes sense to butterfly those premium cuts.

What is the point of butterflying a steak?

If you’ve got a thick steak and want to cook it all the way through or use it in a recipe like stuffed steak, butterflying is your go-to method. It’s just slicing the steak in a way that makes it thinner, which is great in some cases because it gives you more room to season that meat.

Take a typical ribeye steak about 1.5 to 2 inches thick. This thickness is perfect for cooking it to medium-rare and achieving a juicy interior and delicious crust. But, if you love your steak cooked to well-done doneness, cooking such a thick cut can be tricky. The outside tends to cook faster than the inside, leaving you with an undercooked steak. That’s where butterflying comes into play. Cutting the steak into thinner slices makes it easier to cook it all the way through, especially if you’re aiming for that well-done doneness.

I get that everyone’s got their steak preferences, and I’m not here to judge. Sure, the idea of a steak cooked to well-done doneness seems odd for many steak lovers. But let’s not forget some folks need their steak fully cooked for health reasons.

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Written by: Adam Wojtow

Adam Wojtow is a Polish entrepreneur and writer who founded Steak Revolution in 2020 because of his passion for steaks. Adam has been cooking steaks for over 5 years, so he understands well all aspects of steak, from the types of steaks and their cooking times to choosing the best cooking technique for any steak.