We may not always afford the tender cuts whenever we want meat in a recipe. Sometimes you end up going for the cheaper cuts that are usually tough and chewy if not cooked tactfully. I know you’re already thinking about meat tenderizers but you may want to think differently after knowing how to tenderize meat naturally.
Tenderizing meat has been practiced for millennia now, with some of the earliest methods dating back to 3000 BC. Thanks to modern science, we now have artificial meat tenderizers, mostly in form of powders. These tenderizers do not do as much good as they advertise.
To prolong the shelf life of the powder and other processed tenderizers, undesirable food additives such as salt, preservatives, and MSG (Monosodium glutamate) are added. To avoid consuming these chemicals, tenderize your meat naturally.
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how to Tenderize Meat Naturally
You’re already eager to know how to pull this off, so let’s get straight to business. Pay keen attention to the tips I’ll share alongside these methods.
1. Tenderizing Meat With Vinegar
The main active component in vinegar is acetic acid. This acid acts on the meat fibers, breaking them down and adding flavor to the meat. You can use any kind of vinegar, be it balsamic or apple cider.
To tenderize your meat, add a tablespoon of vinegar to the cooking pot. You can alternatively soak your meat in vinegar prior to cooking.
Using vinegar as part of your cooking liquid restricts you to cooking in non-metallic cookware, otherwise, the acid would react with the metal.
2. Tenderizing Meat With tea
One of the most common beverages can also serve as a meat tenderizer. Black made tea contains the enzyme tannin, which is one of the main ingredients in artificial tenderizers.
This method requires that you brew a cup or two of strong black tea. Allow the tea to cool down normally and submerge the beef cut in it for 24 hours, in the refrigerator.
You may leave the meat to marinade in the tea longer if you so wish. The longer the margination, the softer the meat becomes
3. Tenderizing Meat With Coffee
That coffee jar in your pantry has possibly been waiting for you to read this guide so it can aid at tenderizing your meat. as unlikely as it may seem, the coffee will also enrich the flavor detail, especially for smoked meat. the acidity in the coffee brings down the tough collagen fibers just like an artificial tenderizer.
Prepare a strong cup (or two) of coffee and let it cool. Submerge the meat and marinate for 24 hours. The concentration of coffee needs to be high enough, the type that would get you on your feet after a night of hard partying.
Just like with tea, you can leave the meat in the marinade for longer to enhance the flavor.
Tenderizing Meat With Cola
Wondering why your favorite soft drink is here? Well, although the drink is soft and refreshing to you, it is not soft on meat! it forces the meat to soften, thanks to the low (acidic) pH.
Simply marinate the piece of steak in some coke for at least 30 minutes in the fridge. The acidic nature of cola makes for the tenderizing action.
When marinating in cola, do not let the meat sit in there for more than 24 hours. You should also know that diet coke doesn’t work here since it’s neutral.
Tenderizing Meat With Baking Soda
Baking soda is one of the most versatile products in any home, and thanks to the alkaline nature, it finds itself also serving as a tenderizer. Baking soda alkalizes the crust of the meat, preventing protein bonds from forming. This way, the meat cooks soft.
You only need to sprinkle just enough baking soda on the meat and leave it in the fridge for a couple of hours. Alternatively, you can make a paste of the soda by adding a little water to it. Slather the meat with the paste to cover the surface completely and let it sit in the fridge for a couple of hours.
Clean the meat thoroughly before cooking. Not doing so may leave an undesirable taste in the meat. to mitigate this further, you could add a little amount of baking soda to the marinade.
Tenderizing Meat With Beer/Wine
Have you tried the popular idea of cooking meat with wine? Do you think it’s just the flavor you gain? Not at all. Both beer and wine contain tannins and acids. Combined, the tannins and acids break down the connective tissues leaving behind an insanely great flavor.
Tenderizing meat this way requires soaking the meat in wine or beer for an hour before cooking. You can soak for longer depending on the type of cut you have.
Beer contains alpha acids which tenderize meat faster. Unless you’re competent at it, resist adding beer into the cooking pot. Stick with the wine. You should also know that red wine is richer in tannins than white wine.
The nomenclature of the red wine resonates with red meat, especially beef. If you’ve got either chicken, shrimp, or fish, stick with the white wine.
Tenderizing Meat With Yogurt
Yogurt and buttermilk are possibly the best meat tenderizers. Apart from their acidic nature, these dairy products contain calcium. Calcium is known to activate some enzymes in meat that then aid the process of tenderizing the meat by breaking down the protein fibers.
Just soak the meat in buttermilk or coat it in yogurt and place it in the fridge for a few hours. Rinse off the meat before cooking.
Notably, Italian cuisines that consist of milk-braised meat often end up with softer and tender meat than if the meat was cooked in wine.
Tenderizing Meat With Ginger
Ginger is another miracle tuber. From curing tens of ailments to seasoning countless dishes, we find ginger still able to tenderize meat. forget the sweet ginger flavor for now. Ginger is known to contain a certain proteolytic enzyme, a really tough one, for the fibers in meat.
Clean a piece of ginger tuber and grate it. If you have a suitable garlic press, you can use it as a shortcut. Collect the paste and apply it all over the meat surface and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least two hours.
As the ginger gets absorbed, the flavor intensifies while the protein fibers break down. If you cannot grate the ginger, slice it instead and place the slices all over the meat.
Tenderizing Meat With Pineapple Juice, Pawpaw, Figs, and Kiwis
You’ve probably heard of the term bromelain around meat tenderizers. What you may not have realized is that the term describes an enzyme present in pineapples – the reason that we have this fruit here.
To tenderize meat in pineapple juice, just wedge the pineapple, and blend it. Use the juice over the meat surface and marinate for two hours in the fridge. Marinating for longer than that may turn the meat into mush.
You cannot use canned or cooked pineapples for this because the enzymes are denatured during cooking and thus inactive.
Papaya is similarly effective as the pineapple. The only difference is in the enzymes. Ripened pawpaw contains papain, an enzyme also widely used in artificial tenderizers.
To use natural papain, cut a pawpaw fruit and remove the seeds. Scoop the pulp and mash or blend it. Apply the paste over the meat surface. For better results, pierce the meat with a fork to allow uniform penetrations of papain.
Meat tenderized this way needs to be cooked within a few hours lest the papain breaks down the fibers completely.
You can also use the pawpaw fruit ski, but you’d have to add an eighth of table salt to one volume of the blended skin. Apply the resultant paste on the meat surface and maintain the temperature between 140 – 160 F.
Figs are also a meat tenderizer under wraps. These sweet fruits contain an enzyme known as ficin. This enzyme is as effective as tannins in red wine and black tea.
Slice up the figs and have the surface of the meat covered in them. Let the meat rest in the fridge for a few hours before cooking. You’ll surprise yourself with a tenderness you haven’t experienced in meat before.
Kiwi fruits contain the enzyme actinidin. This enzyme acts just like bromelain or papain, breaking down the tough protein fibers into a sweet paste that glams your stew with flavor. Unlike pineapples and papayas, the kiwi fruit doesn’t pose a risk of mushing your meat.
Similarly, peel the kiwi fruit and blend the pulp. Apply the paste to the meat and let it marinate in the fridge for as long as you need it.
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Tips on Tenderizing Meat
Whenever using a straight acid (e.g. wine, lemon/citric acid, vinegar), do not soak the meat in the marinade for more than two hours. Beyond two hours, the meat begins to toughen, and in most cases, will turn dryish on the inside.
Should you need to marinate your meat for a much longer time, you should have oil in the marinade. The oil helps retain moisture in the meat while the acidic marinade tenderizes the meat.
How to Tenderize Meat Naturally-Shown Video
With all the conspiracies surrounding the food industry, going natural is the best shot at avoiding those unwanted chemicals in food. You can now have your meat soft and tender, without worrying about the additives. Whenever you use the above natural methods, ensure you pay attention to what cuts you’re tenderizing. Some cuts are tougher than others.
Rita C. Donnell (Jennifer) has spent the last 26 years studying and practicing nutrition science. She has used a larger part of this time in improving people’s livelihoods. She has done so by coming up with unquestionable ideas on how to tackle food problems in her community. Readmore