how do i tenderize beef

Salting. Most cuts of steak benefit from being salted up to an hour in advance of cooking, but especially tougher cuts. In addition to seasoning the steaks, salt helps break down proteins and make the meat more tender. Liberally salt the steaks up to an hour before cooking, then proceed according to your recipe.

There are few things more disappointing than going to the store, picking out a great-looking cut of steak, returning home, and botching it. While there are certainly many affordable steak options, beef is generally a more expensive meat protein, but one that should be a part of a well-rounded diet. So, getting your moneys worth is key.

Many of the more affordable cuts of steak are naturally the tougher ones. Cuts like the ribeye or filet mignon are inherently more tender, but not everyone can afford to purchase those with every trip to the butcher shop or supermarket. Plus, if you do splurge on a high-quality cut of beef for a special occasion, you will want it to be as tasty as possible, and the tenderness of a steak is maybe the most important aspect of a good one.

Luckily, there are many preventative measures you can take to avoid turning what could be a flavor-packed, juicy steak into a dry and tough one. The following will help you get the most out of your steaks and get steakhouse-quality results right in your very own kitchen.

Physical Methods of Meat Tenderization

The simplest and perhaps easiest method to tenderize meat is to manipulate it physically by altering its structure with force—think of it something like pre-chewing, but…way less gross.

Force can be applied by massaging, pounding, puncturing, scoring, slicing, and agitating the meat. Mallets and meat pounders, for example, can be used to hammer steaks and thin slices of meat; the heavy force from banging the meat breaks up the connective tissue and collagen around the muscle fibers, causing the muscle fibers to separate and the meat to be more tender.

In addition to a meat pounder, another popular meat-tenderizing tool is the Jaccard, a device that contains several blades that, when pressed against the surface of the meat, cut through the muscle fibers. In commercial settings, meat is also sometimes “tumbled” (this is also called “massage” or “vacuum” tumbling). In this method, meat is agitated by tossing it around in an enclosed tumbler with a seasoning or marinade. While commercial applications involve applying a vacuum, you can do this at home in an enclosed jar or container using a food vacuum storage device or special tumbler just for meat.

how do i tenderize beef

In truth, you dont even always need a device for physical tenderization to work. In Kenjis recipe for dim sum pork ribs, he takes a page from Chinese chefs by very vigorously massaging the ribs with his hands to break up and soften the flesh, so that the ribs come out tender after just a short steaming period.

Shockwave technology is yet another tenderization method youre unlikely to encounter at home, but it is of interest to the food industry. It generates shockwaves via controlled explosions or electrical discharges that exceed the speed of sound in water; as they pass through the meat, they rupture its structure.

Returning to more practical methods, one of the most useful tenderizing tools is a good old knife. By cutting meat across the grain either before or after cooking, long and tough muscle fibers are shortened to much more manageable bits that are far easier to chew. This is one reason roast beef, which is often made from a lean, toughness-prone cut, is sliced so thinly on a deli slicer.

how do i tenderize beef

In South Asian cooking, deep gashes are often made across large cuts of meat. These gashes nip the long muscle fibers, allowing meat marinades to penetrate deeper and making the meat tender and less chewy to eat. You might have come across a simpler version of this technique in recipes in which youre instructed to prick the surface of the meat with a fork or knife before cooking. For that matter, grinding meat can also be thought of as a method for making a tough cut of meat more tender—some of the most flavorful burger blends use tough cuts like brisket, short rib, and more for maximum flavor without any risk of toughness thanks to the grind of the meat. The aggressive physical destruction of the meat via grinding produces a juicy and tender texture that wouldn’t otherwise be possible with the whole pieces before they went through a grinder.

As you can imagine, most of these physical tenderizing methods are harsh and can affect the appearance of the meat, which may or may not be desirable in the final product—no one will complain about the ground meat in a burger patty, but they may not be thrilled with a steak that got hammered to mush with a meat pounder (unless, of course, the recipe was meant to produce a pancake-thin cutlet, in which case, yay!).

1. Pounding your steak

The most common method for tenderizing your steak is pounding it, and for a very simple reason. Pounding out cuts of steak, or any meat for that matter, breaks down the muscle fibers that constrict when introduced to heat. If these muscles have been broken down beforehand, they will stay relaxed and not tighten up. Therefore, the final product will be more tender.

Pounding steaks is also one of the more convenient options for tenderizing them. While a dimpled mallet is a common and valuable kitchen tool, you really do not need anything special to pound out a cut of beef. You can use other kitchen tools such as a rolling pin, an empty wine bottle, a heavy skillet, or even just your fists.

Another important thing to remember is that pounding out steaks does not require an intense amount of force. Instead, smaller, yet steady, thumps will do the trick just fine. Also, always remember to cover your steaks with plastic wrap before pounding, as your tenderizing tool will be a pain to clean otherwise.

3. Making a proper marinade

Just as salt helps your steak on multiple levels, marinating it accomplishes the same. Not only does a good marinade break down the muscle fibers, but it can also add a rich flavor tailored to your own liking. There are certain components in a marinade that makes for a more tender steak, however. For example, a marinade should include vinegar, soy sauce, or citrus juice such as lemon or lime. The acidic qualities in these liquids help break down the proteins inside the beef and make it more juicy and delicate.

Another reason why marinating your steak is a great option is because of its convenience. The longer your steak sits in the marinade, the better, and you can marinate your steak for up to a full day before you plan on eating. You can simply mix the marinade, add the steak to it, and all that remains in cooking it. If the timing does not quite work out to your schedule, you should allow it to marinate for one hour, but, again, the longer the acids and seasonings can interact with the beef, the more tender it will turn out.

Salting. Most cuts of steak benefit from being salted up to an hour in advance of cooking, but especially tougher cuts. In addition to seasoning the steaks, salt helps break down proteins and make the meat more tender. Liberally salt the steaks up to an hour before cooking, then proceed according to your recipe.


What is the fastest way to tenderize beef?

Tenderizing with a baking soda solution is faster than using a saltwater brine. Meat only has to sit in a baking soda solution for 15 to 20 minutes, but a brine solution can take at least 30 minutes to start working.

What are 3 ways for tenderizing meats?

To better understand this, let’s look at the three main methods of tenderizing meat: mechanical, thermal, and enzymatic. Mechanical tenderization involves pounding or piercing the meat with one of those medieval looking devices. The physical action is essentially pre-chewing the meat for you.

What is the secret ingredient to tenderize meat?

Less than a teaspoon of baking soda ensures that your steak remains juicy and tender—even after a speedy marinade. While other recipes demand hours of marinating, this baking soda hack makes a flank steak or any other fibrous cut of beef ready to sear after just an hour.

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