There are many different ways to tenderize a steak. Some methods are fast and easy, others require more time but will yield a much more tender steak.
A dimpled mallet is ideal for pounding steaks, but you can use other kitchen tools like a rolling pin or fists. Pounding steaks with consistent but not too intense pressure will help break down tough muscle fibers.
Prep the Meat
When it comes to steak, many cuts of meat can be bought, but sometimes those cheaper cuts come out tough and chewy. Tenderizing the meat helps break up those tough muscle fibers, making it easier to eat.
You can use a tool specifically for tenderizing meat or pound the heart with a metal mallet. A spiked one works best, but if you don’t have that in your kitchen tools, the end of a two-liter bottle, a rolling pin or even a cast iron skillet will work just as well (just make sure to sanitize any implements that you use properly).
Another easy way to tenderize meat is to let it marinate. This process is especially effective with certain fruits, such as kiwi, papaya and pineapple, which contain enzymes that help loosen tough protein cells. However, leaving the steak sitting for a short time is important if you use a marinade, or the enzymes will become ineffective.
Marinate the Meat
A bladed meat tenderizer uses up to 48 sharp needles to pierce the surface of tough cuts of meat. These needles create little channels that help marinade seep into the deeper muscle fibers, making your steak more tender and flavorful after cooking.
Other meat tenderizing tools, such as a mallet or a hammer, do not have the same effect. Pounding meat tends to crush the protein molecules into chewable fragments, leaving your heart tasting like a pulverized gloop.
Aside from using a meat tenderizer, soaking meat in a marinade is one of the best ways to tenderize steak. The acid in a marinade breaks down the tough muscle fibers and softens the heart. For a delicious marinade, combine vinegar or an acidic liquid such as wine or lemon juice with oil, herbs, or spices of your choice. A few hours of soaking in a marinade can transform even the toughest cut of beef into a juicy and tender steak.
Tenderize the Meat
When a cut of meat is tender, it’s easy to chew. It can be hard to eat tough meat that doesn’t have that melt-in-your-mouth quality. That’s why it’s important to tenderize your steak or other cuts of meat before you cook it.
Tough muscle fibers tighten when exposed to heat, but if they’re broken down beforehand by physical force or ingredients like baking soda, they will stay relaxed and tender when cooked. Tenderizing is also a great way to make cheap cuts of meat more flavorful.
Various tenderizing tools are on the market, from simple mallets to bladed models. Allrecipes product testers have tested several, including this Oxo mallet tenderizer with a flat side for flattening chicken breasts and veal cutlets and a textured side for tougher cuts of meat. This model has a grippy handle and fits easily into a drawer alongside spatulas. Other options include a hand-held crank tenderizer, which clamps to your table and has spiked rollers that crush the meat.
Cook the Meat
We’ve all been there: a glistening, tender steak or other cut of meat beckons us with its promise of culinary heaven. But then we chew — and chew, and chew. Tough muscle fibers make chewing a chore, so it’s important to tenderize meat before cooking.
A meat tenderizer helps break down tough muscle fibers to reduce the amount of chewing required, as well as assisting marinades and seasonings in absorbing more fully. There are two main types of meat tenderizers: mechanical tools that look like hammers and powdered ingredients mixed into a rub or marinade.
A meat tenderizer is a reversible tool with both a flat side for pounding and a textured side with pyramid-shaped prongs to help break down tough cuts and tenderize the surface. The handle has finger indentations for a secure grip, and it’s dishwasher-safe and easy to clean by hand. It’s also small enough to fit in a drawer.