How to Tenderize Meat

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Last Updated on March 25, 2024 by Share My Kitchen

It does not matter if you are a grill master or a newbie, but you probably need to learn or have a refresher, on how to tenderize meat, and why it is important. You will be going back to basics today to get tips for getting tender, juicy, and crowd-pleasing meats.

What Is Tenderizing? Why Is It Necessary?

To tenderize meat is the process of breaking down muscle fibers in your cut of meat, and some cuts may need more tenderizing than others. Although an already-tender USDA Prime filet mignon does not need to be massaged to become tender, you could still use olive oil, salt, pepper, or other spices to gently rub into it. There are cuts that naturally have more connective tissue than others, like chuck roast, and they are tougher. So, these need to be tenderized. This can be done in a variety of ways:

  • Tenderize Meat by Cooking Low and Slow

Roasts are great for slow cookers. A chuck roast cooked for several hours in a slow cooker will naturally reduce the connective tissue, making the meat more tender. These cuts can be often used as stew meat, which simmers on a low flame for hours. Although low and slow cooking is great, busy chefs these days aren’t always able to wait hours for their meat to cook in a slow cooker, or simmering stew to help tenderize the meat. That is where using salt or an acidic marinade becomes the perfect solution.

  • Tenderize Meat by Using Salt or a Marinade

Rubbing salt or covering meats in an acidic marinade for several hours prior to cooking can help begin tenderization. Salt assists in breaking down tough proteins, but it takes time to work. Salting your meat liberally (on all sides) for at least 24 hours before you cook it will start the process. Before you start to cook, however, rinse off the salt with cool water. Keep in mind that the salt you added to the meat the day before is for tenderization, so you still need to add seasoning prior to cooking it.

If you decide to use a marinade, then it must contain acids such as buttermilk, citrus juice, or vinegar to accomplish the tenderization. Acidic marinades work wonders on meat, breaking down lean muscle fibers on its surface. However, this will only work for thinner cuts such as flank steak or skirt steak because the marinade can’t penetrate beyond the top layer. Salt is better for thicker cuts. Also, you shouldn’t marinade beef for more than two hours. It can cause the fibers to break down too much, making the meat mushy.

  • Tenderize Meat by Massaging the Meat

This is the best method, and also the fastest and easiest. It does not require you to remember to do it hours before, and it only needs your hands.

You just simply need to wash your hands, then give the cut a massage in a sports-style manner. Use the heel of your hands, and move in circular motions. Also, remember, you don’t want to apply too much pressure. Each cut should be massaged for at least 3-4 mins

You can rub spices or a dry rub on your meat while you are massaging it. Your steak will taste better if you use more spices. If possible, let the spices or dry rub sit for at least 45 minutes before you start cooking.

FAQ: Which Meats Need to be Massaged?

Beef, pork, poultry, and lamb are all better when they have been tenderized before being cooked.

Tenderizing meats of all types is a good idea, but it’s more important for tougher cuts. It’s not pleasant to look forward to a good meal only for your meat to be overly chewy and tough. This can also be embarrassing, especially if it occurs while guests are over. You can easily learn how to tenderize your cuts and massage them for the best results to avoid experiencing this predicament. Then, you and your guests will be delighted with the delicious, satisfying results.

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