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How to Tenderize a Steak

Monday, February 13, 2017

There are many home remedies for tenderizing steak, one of which is vinegar. Pour it on the steak and the acetic acid in the vinegar will break down the tough tendons and make the steak much more palatable.

Lesser quality steak cuts can be tough and lack essential fat marbling. You can offset this by marinating the steak. This helps break down meat proteins and makes the meat more tender before the cooking process even begins. Vinegar, pineapple or papaya based marinades add flavor to the meat and also help break down its proteins. To many steak lovers, the best marinades use dairy products such as buttermilk or yogurt.


Processed tenderizer can come in a powdered form that is sprinkled over the meat. Their enzymes work to break down meat fibers. Bromelain, which is a protease enzyme often extracted from pineapple, is one common tenderizer. It will need to be left on the meat for a short time prior to cooking, yet leaving it on for too long can adversely affect the meat's texture and make it unappealing.

Fruit Juice

Instead of buying processed tenderizer, fruit juice can be used to tenderize the meat. Marinating the meat in pineapple juice or papaya juice will break down the meat fibers, and the flavor normally cooks off during grilling. It is from these fruits that many processed tenderizers are made. It is important to find a pure juice and not a pineapple or papaya drink or punch.


Marinades can be used to add flavor and to tenderize meat. Recipes that include acidy liquids, such as lemon juice, wine, vinegar or tomatoes help to soften and break down the tough meat fibers. One way to use a marinade is to fill a plastic bag with the marinade, add the meat, seal the bag, and leave it in the refrigerator overnight. If the meat is not covered in marinade, the bag should be periodically turned.


Instead of applying a tenderizer to break down the fibers of the meat, physically cutting the fibers prior to cooking will also work. Hand held meat tenderizers puncture the meat with rows of tiny blades. Poking the meat with a fork will have similar results. Pounding the meat with a mallet will help break down the fibers and is often used when making chicken fried steak. Some steaks, such as round or flank stakes can be scored to help in tenderization.


There are different cooking methods that are used to tenderize meat. One is stewing, where the meat is slow cooked for hours in a liquid. Braising will also tenderize meat. When braising, the meat is slow cooked on a bed of vegetables, spices or herbs. Cooking meat in a pressure cooker will also make it more tender. When tenderizing stew meat, which is typically a tough cut of meat, the pieces can be floured, browned quickly in hot oil and then cooked in a pressure cooker for about 30 minutes.

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