Meat Tenderizing Methods

For less expensive, tougher meat cuts, various meat tenderizing methods can be utilized that will make the meat more tender. Tenderizing meat can be as simple as shaking on a dry powder, or as involved as running the meat through a motor-driven pair of stainless steel blade covered rollers. There are three basic methods of tenderizing meat.

  • Enzymatic tenderizing
  • Smashing, or flattening
  • Cutting with sharp blades


The plant enzyme papain is commonly used to tenderize meat. It's an ingredient in the commercial meat tenderizer "Accent©". Papain is refined from sap taken from the stem of papaya fruit. The enzyme breaks down the structure of the meat, thereby making it more tender. The problem with papain based tenderizers is that it works only on the surface of the meat. And if left on too long, it can create an undesirable texture.

Smashing Your Way to Tender

There are many types of mallets and handheld devices that can be used to tenderize meats. They have a flat surface that contacts the meat, pressing and flattening it, which breaks some of the muscle fibers and connective tissue, tenderizing the meat. Another benefit of this type is that the meat can be manipulated into an even thickness, which promotes even cooking.

Cutting, or Cubing for Tenderness

Some tenderizers for cubing meat are hand held, spring loaded devices that make several cuts each time they are depressed onto the meat surface. There are also blade covered rollers, both hand driven and motor powered, that will chop that meat into tender submission. When you see cube steaks at the supermarket, that's what we're talking about. The meat is covered with many cuts, but still retains its shape.

My favorite of the meat tenderizing methods is the handheld mallet. That pound of steel does a good job with all but the toughest cuts of meat.

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Meat Tenderizing Methods

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