Steak is one of those foods that can be enjoyed in different, delicious ways. When it comes out on your dinner plate, though, what you get is a result of how it was prepared and cooked.
It can be cooked to almost melt off your fork or, in most cases, it can be pretty tough. Because most steaks can be very tough, many chefs look at ways of softening the meat.
More often than not, this is achieved through tenderizing.
When you tenderize steak, you damage and break the connective tissues within the meat. Therefore, the meat becomes softer before being cooked.
Depending on the kitchen utensil you use, such as a meat mallet, and certain marinades, you can prepare and cook a steak whichever way you want it.
Before you go about thumping your steak with a mallet like a caveman, you should learn about different cuts of meat.
The cut of meat typically determines how you go about the process of tenderizing it. In case of high quality Wagyu steaks you probably don’t even have to.
For each method, however, the process is delicate, as you need to be careful so that you do not damage the connective tissue and fat inside so much that the steak is ruined.
Go too far with tenderizing, and your steak can lose its characteristic flavor and its overall potential!
To help you learn how to tenderize steak, we have created a guide below with different steps and methods on how to do so.
Learn how to tenderize meat with us today to enjoy the most mouth watering, flavorful steaks you have ever had.
Types Of Steak You Can Tenderize
Not all steaks require tenderizing. Some are very lean, such as the filet Mignon, so are soft enough without the need to be tenderized.
On the other hand, many cuts of beef are much tougher and thicker and tend to benefit from this technique.
Here are some steaks that require tenderizing:
- Skirt steak – These are long strips of steak that are often used in foods such as beef teriyaki or fajitas. Although very flavorful, skirt steak is full of interconnecting fibers. This means this cut tends to be pretty tough and requires tenderizing with a mallet and/or with a marinade before being cooked.
- Flank steak – This cut comes from the abdominal of a cow, resulting in little fat. This, of course, means it is a touch cut of beef. By tenderizing it in marinade, you can soften and enhance its overall flavor. We suggest using cider vinegar or lemon juice!
- Sirloin steak – Taken from a cow’s back, this meat is often best when cooked slowly or marinated. When you tenderize sirloin steaks on a low heat for a long period of time, it often becomes juicier.
- Tri-tip steak – Distinguishable because of its triangular shape, this is another tough cut of beef, but if you marinate it, the cut becomes wonderfully tenderized and softer. We recommend adding some salt to a tri-tip steak to break down some protein cells and achieve a nice sear.
If you want to try any of these, I can highly recommend checking out CrowdCow, one of the best places to buy high quality meat online.
How To Tenderize Steak
Before you start, you will need tenderizing tools. What you use depends on what method you are using. Some tools you may need are:
- A meat tenderizer (mallet, pounder) – This simply looks like a hammer with spikes that are blunted on its end. Simply pound the steak to break down its muscle fibers.
- Tenderizer powder – Meat tenderizer powder sometimes contains enzymes that help break down the muscle fiber in a cut of beef. This is ideal if you’re unable to use a mechanical tool.
- A meat cuber – This is a meat processing tool with a built-in crank. This is best used for tenderizing large chunks of meat. You just need to place the steak into the device and turn the handle. The spikes inside the machine will then tenderize the meat.
4 Methods For Tenderizing Steak
There are numerous ways of tenderizing a steak, such as salting the meat’s exterior or using marinades.
One thing remains, though, whatever the method you use – the meat must be at “fridge” temperature before you start tenderizing.
Try to do this with frozen or partially frozen steak, and you won’t get very far. Although you can cook steak from frozen, we do not recommend it. Here are also some tips on how to quickly defrost steak.
Here are the methods of tenderizing steak:
- Pound the steak – This is a simple way of breaking down muscle fibers and softening the meat. Start by placing the steak on a cutting board and then put a piece of plastic wrap over its top. Grab your mallet and hit the meat with the spiky side, starting from its center and moving outwards to its sides. A rolling pin, cast-iron skillet, or hammer can also do this job well.
- Marinating – Marinating a steak in enzymes or acids can help break down its interior fibers. To marinate using an acidic solution, such as lemon juice, lime juice, buttermilk, or apple cider vinegar, place steak in your preferred solution and leave it to soak for about 30 minutes to one hour. Keep an eye on the steak to make sure it doesn’t get broken down too much. Finally, remove the steak from the marinade if its edges start to cook. As for enzymes, fruits such as kiwi, pineapple, and mangoes work well. Just use a little amount of chopped or puréed fruit in the marinade and the process will begin.
- Slow cooking – If you cook your steak in a slow cooker, the collagen will break down, helping it become softer. If you don’t have a slow cooker, you can cook your meat slowly and on a low temperature using your grill.
- Add salt – This method is so simple but effective. Salt helps to break down protein cells within the steak. All you need to do is rub salt into the meat (sea salt or kosher salt are ideal). Then, the protein cells will begin to break down, helping enhance your steak’s texture and flavor.
Tenderizing steak is pretty simple. You just need to understand what cut of meat you are using before choosing what method is best.
Looking for some ideas how to season your steak? Check out this list of spices, ranked by popularity!