Tricky Tuesdays #9: How to Tenderize Beef [or meat]

There are times that I get a very good soft and tender beef. And there are times that I am not.

One day, I cooked a beef dish that includes marinade. I thought that should be working very well as I used clear soda and Calamansi (Philippine’s native lemon). I was used to cooking not-so-thin slices of beef in between 30-45 minutes, so I thought I cooked it perfectly. I was wrong. My sister and my brother told me “Hey, this beef is not tender enough – it’s tough.” And in order not to feel upset, I just said “Really? Ha! So you will do the jaw exercise.” I never told them, but I was very upset. I started cooking long years back and never thought or searched how to tenderize beef… and here I am, sharing with you what I found out:

There are many things that could be used to tenderize beef – commercial powders, sodas or something with acid content, coffee & tea, buttermilk and yogurt, and even natural tenderizers.

Okay, let’s do them one by one:

Commercial Powders: they can be bought in small (or maybe even big) bottles which are labeled ‘meat tenderizer’. They contain enzymes that help break down the tougher fibers of the beef. They are often produced from pineapple and papaya extracts. This can be used in marinade or just by rubbing the beef and let the powder stay for few hours.

Sodas or Something with Acid Content: Soda is one of the basic things I use when I marinate beef – Sprite or 7-Up to be specific. Along with soda, I also use citrus like Calamansi or Lemon. Aside from they help in softening the muscle fiber, they also add delicious flavor as well.

Coffee or Tea: Okay, this is the second that I have encountered this. There was one recipe I found that uses coffee as a rub or a marinade (I could hardly remember). Coffee is a natural tenderizer as well as Tea. Tea contains Tannins which are considered as natural tenderizes, too. You can do this by boiling a cup or two of either of them and marinate for as long as 24 hours inside the fridge and you are ready to fire up the grill.

Buttermilk & Yogurt: Not only these two contain some acidity, but the calcium content makes the enzymes activated which helps break down proteins.

Fruits: Figs, Papayas, Pineapples and Kiwis – they are considered to have papain, an enzyme used in making commercial tenderizers. Like acids and salt, the enzyme breaks down tough muscle fibers. You may cut the fruits or mash them and put the beef between them and let sit in the fridge for several hours. And then again, you are ready to grill them. Also, Ginger is a good tenderizer as well.

Baking soda: This also contains acid. Sprinkle baking soda all over, rub and the let sit in the fridge for several hours. Rinse the beef well before cooking.

Pounding: It is said that tougher cuts of beef can be tenderized by pounding them as it breaks muscle tissues. This is good when grilling or cutting beef for stir-fry dishes. (Hmm, I think I should get myself that meat mallet. Haha!)


IMPORTANT NOTE: Marinating beef with acid content should not take more than two hours as it will give you a tougher beef. Just in case you’d want to marinate your beef more than that, add a small amount of oil to keep the beef moist and to prevent it from being tough. Also, glass dishes are preferable to use when using strong acid base marinade.

Of course, it not only depends on the marinades or rubs, but also, you need not to undercook or overcook your beef. 😉

Do you have any more tips regarding tenderizing beef? Please leave your comments below. 🙂


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29 thoughts on “Tricky Tuesdays #9: How to Tenderize Beef [or meat]

  1. Hi, thanks! this is very impormative. But how about if we are storing it for business use meaning we marinate it over time?? Maybe more than 24 hrs Or until not use. We dont need tenderizer because it will be tougher? Please answer I am new in the business.

    Thanks in Advance

        1. Hi, thanks!$ this is very impormative. But how about if we are storing it for business use meaning we can marinate it over time?? Maybe more than 24 hrs Or until not use. We dont need tenderizer because it will be tougher? Please answer I am new in the business.

          Thanks in Advance

  2. I used to use a mallet for everything. Now that I’m vegan, I use the mallet to coarsely “chop” nuts. For example, I’ll put walnuts into a baggie and pound the baggie until my nuts are the desired size. (That sounded funny, didn’t it?)

    1. Haha! You made me laugh, Susan. 😀
      Anyway, I thought before that buying a mallet was never practical (huh, since when did I start being practical?) so I did not buy one. Now that I know that I could use it for something else, I’d love having one. 🙂 Thanks for stopping by.

  3. I never knew there were so many ways to tenderize meat. Thank you for sharing that information. I like to use my crock pot for roast beef or turkey. It comes out so tender if you set it on low for 8 hours. You don’t even need to add water or broth.

    1. Whoa! 8 hours must be very long – but I think it’s worth the wait if at the end, you’ll get so tender meat. Thanks for being here, Shari. 🙂

  4. Jhuls, how you slice the beef is important too. If you slice across the grain, the meat will be easier to chew. Google that in images so you can see what I mean. I made some steak fajitas the other day and forgot initially and just sliced the meat like slicing a cake thinking it was a bit tough and overcooked. Then I remembered and began slicing at an angle and all was perfect. If you are going to roast a whole piece of beef then make sure that after you cook it, you cover it loosely with foil and let it rest for 15 – 20 mins. It will not get cold but will relax the fibres and draw back in the moisture. Remember to slice at an angle. Many years ago I had a pressure cooker which dramatically reduced the cooking time for curries and dhals but I seem to have lost it over the many house moves and have never replaced it. Get one and see – I think you will love how it cooks so quickly and makes meat so tender too – maybe look on eBay or Amazon?

    1. I know about slicing the beef across the grain, Selma, but I am not sure if I did it with an angle. Haha! We did have a pressure cooker that my Mom used when cooking for a crowd. When she passed away, I cannot find the pressure cooker anymore – maybe it was misplaced or has been given to someone else. 😦 Anyway, I will try to arrange one for myself. 😀

  5. Oh so informative!! Good.. By the way Jhuls, how you used to cook beef?? On stove or oven.. Actually we used to cook it in a pressure cooker with needed spices and G&G paste .. So that the whole Flavours get absorbed to it and let it give at least 8-10 whistles( depends on the beef )!! Later would cook it as per the recipe..InshaAllah soon do a kerala Special beef recipe

    1. I used to cook beef on stove, Nimmi. That’s why it got me searching on how to tenderize beef as I am planning to cook oven-baked beef. 😀 I don’t own a pressure cooker, sad to say. Maybe if I see a smaller one, I might get myself one. 😀 Oh, what’s a G&G paste??

      1. Ginger & Garlic( in short-G&G 😛)!!
        Ohh😐, I think you should get 1 smaller cooker and give a try.. It makes your working time and effort less.. First time give 5 whistles for beef and check later.. Also be careful while using pressure cooker for first time!! Always follow the instructions..

  6. Great post! you know salt is a great tenderizer as long as you salt meat at least 1 hour before planning to cook. Salt draws out the moisture but the moisture will go back in (don’t know how to explain it better) assuming you leave it 1hour +

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