Tenderizing refers to the process of softening meat by removing its inner fibers. This makes it easier to digest and eat. This is useful for cooking difficult cuts of steak, or recipes that require a thin slice of meat such as chicken cutlets or chicken Parmesan.
There are many ways to meat tenderize. These include slow cooking, marinating, and pounding. You can also tenderize meat at your home with a meat mallet, rolling pin, or a rolling pin. However, manufacturers use mechanical tenderization which involves cutting down the connective tissue of the meat using sharp blades.
Steak Should Be Tenderized
The cut of steak and the way you prepare it will determine how tender you cook it. However, tenderizing steak locks in flavor and juices. You can tenderize meat by making holes in the connective tissue. This allows the meat to absorb more seasonings and marinades, making it more succulent and easier for you to eat.
Thinner cuts of steak can also be tenderized. The long muscle fibers of flank and skirt steaks make them difficult to chew. Thinning these cuts makes it easier to cook and more enjoyable. Thicker cuts of meat will produce better results in certain cooking techniques, like braising, grilling, and frying.
Four types of steak to tenderize
Filet mignon and other steaks are tender and don’t need to be tenderized. However, tougher cuts of beef such as chuck can be tenderized because they are thicker and more flavorful.
- Flank steak: Flank is a cut of beef that comes from the stomach portion of a cow. It has very little fat making it tough. This cut can be softened and enhanced in flavor with a marinade that includes lemon juice or apple cider vinegar.
- Skirt Steak: You can make fajitas or beef teriyaki with skirt steak. Although skirt steak is delicious, it can be fibrous so you may need to marinate or tenderize it.
- Sirloin steak: This tough cut from the cow’s rear can be prepared slowly or marinated. This steak is tenderized and grilled on low heat for a longer time to produce a tender, juicy sirloin steak.
- Tri-tip steak: This steak is known for its triangular shape. However, it’s not as hard as other cuts. Marinating it is a great method to tenderize it. Salt can be added to the meat to help break down protein cells and to ensure a nice sear when grilled.
3 Tenderizing Tools
There are many tools that you can use, depending on how tendering is done.
- A meat tenderizer: Also called a meat mallet or meat pounder. It looks similar to a hammer with blunted tips. To break down the muscles fibers, you can use the mallet to pound the steak.
- Meat cuber: A meat cuber is a tool that can be used to tenderize large amounts of meat. It has a crank and allows you to turn the handle. Simply place the cut meat in the machine, and then turn the handle to allow the internal spikes to begin tenderizing it.
- Meat tenderizer powder: Instead of using a machine to cut the meat, use a meat tenderizer that has enzymes.
Four ways to tenderize steak
There are many ways to tenderize steaks, including marinades and salting the outside. You can only tenderize frozen or partially frozen meats, regardless of what method you choose. These are some of the best ways to grill or cook your next steak.
- Marinate: Marinating steaks in acid or enzymes tenderizes them. Add lemon juice, lime, apple cider vinegar, buttermilk, and salt to the marinade. Let the steak sit in the marinade for 30 minutes to an hour depending on how large the cut is. To ensure the acid doesn’t cause too much damage to the steak, you should monitor it regularly and take out the marinade when it starts to brown around the edges. Enzymes found in fruits like papaya, kiwi, and mangoes can tenderize meat. To kick start the process, simply add a small amount of chopped or pureed fruit to your marinade.
- Pound: This is a quick way to soften the steak fibers. Place the steak on a cutting board. Cover it with a piece of plastic wrap. Use the sharp side of your meat mallet to pound the steak. Start in the middle and work your way toward the sides. You can also use a rolling pin or hammer to pound the steak if you don’t own a meat mallet.
- Salt: Salting steaks is a simple tenderization process that breaks down protein cells. To enhance the taste and texture of your steak, rub it with sea salt or kosher salt.
Slow cooking: Slow cooking can reduce collagen in steaks, making them more tender. To tenderize your steak, you can cook it slowly on the grill.