How can I make my cut of meat more tender?
We hear this a lot. Be it a pork chop, not-so-tenderloin, roast or tough steak, we’ve got just what you need to transform that tough cut into a mouthwatering treat for your tastebuds.
Tough cuts are often lean, and cheaper, making them attractive to those on a budget as well as those who are more health-conscious.
But one downside of these carnivorous morsels is that cuts such as flank steak, chuck roast and hanger steak tend to be tough. The upside is that with a little preparation, they can also be among the most flavorful.
Skip the Wagyu and fillet mignon and follow the tips in this guide for simple and effective ways to tenderize meat.
When in Doubt, Pound it Out!
This method might have you seeing flashbacks of that last UFC match, but it’s a fast, effective and surefire way to soften up any tough cut of meat. Best of all, its kind of fun to do.
When to Tag In the Meat Mallet?
A meat mallet is a perfect weapon to get the job done right. But remember, you’ll be breaking down fibers and the meat might lose a bit of its integrity. This means a mallet might not be the best option if you plan on sautéing or frying your meal.
Simply wrap the meat in saran wrap and take your steak to pound town. Don’t have a mallet? A rolling pin or other heavy kitchen utensil can work in a pinch.
What Cuts of Meat Can I Use a Mallet On?
Mallets are best suited for tenderizing boneless pieces of meat, such as steaks and cutlets. Its also not the best option for larger partitions of meat (such as an entire roast).
Tough Meat? Get Salty About It!
Did you know that salt does more than just season your meats? That’s right, apart from a little razzle-dazzle to your taste buds, salt actually works to break down the fibrous protein of tough cuts.
How Can You Use Salt to Tenderize your Meat?
Easy peasy. Usually, we apply salt to our cuts right before cooking them (as a seasoning). To use salt as a tenderizer, we suggest rubbing down the cut with a GENEROUS amount of salt, coating the entire cut, about an hour or two PRIOR to cooking.
Just before you toss it in the pan or oven, rinse the meat under a cool stream of water (tap is fine), then pat dry and cook as per usual.
Acid: it’s more than just for hippies
Acidic marinades are perfect for breaking down protein and softening up tough portions of meat. Not only that, the process is virtually guaranteed to end with a deliciously seasoned hunk of meat with flavor that permeates all the way through.
What Type of Marinades Work to Tenderize Meat?
The more acidic the better.
Try Using a Marinade Rich with Any of the Following:
- Citrus juices (lemon or lime are favored)
- Vinegar (or apple cider vinegar)
- Heck, even soda works (it really does)
How Long Should I Marinate the Meat for in Order to Tenderize It?
Tender is good, but save the mushy for romantic comedies. Around 1-3 hours is best depending on the cut, thickness and toughness of the meat. Any longer and the meat may break down too much. If the meat starts to look like its been cooking around the edges, its definitely time to take it out.
Get a Bit Fruity
Not only can fruit add some interesting notes to the palate, certain fruits like kiwi, pineapple and Asian pears have just enough acidity to help with the tenderization process as well. Similar to marinades, fruit works best on thinner cuts of meat.
For those who don’t want to blemish their precious meat with any sort of fruit flavor, kiwi is a markedly good choice due to it’s more neutral flavor profile. Also, a little really does go a long way, so don’t overdo it.
Go Texas Chainsaw Massacre on It
It’s time to get medieval on that roast. Similar to how you’d score a holiday ham or duck roast, a tough cut of meat can also benefit from a little knifework.
By letting the knife do a bit of the chewing for you, you can really soften up the first few layers of a tough piece of meat. Keep your expectations in line here though, this method of tenderizing will only get you so far.
Start by making even, not too deep, cuts that go against the grain of the meat fibers in one direction. Then repeat this step, crisscrossing with cuts that go with the grain.
Slow Down There Sport!
These days we’re all rushing from one task to the next. But when it comes to tenderizing meat, taking is long and slow can yield great rewards.
A slow cooker is the ideal companion, capable of transforming any though protein into a tender dish to pass. Not only that, slow cookers keep in all the juices, making the meat moist and juicy.
How Low Should You Go?
Your mileage may vary, but in general, you want to keep the heat between 160-205 degrees Fahrenheit. At those temperatures, it will allow the collagen to break down and gelatinize.
And There you Have it! – Six simple ways to tenderize meat.