Pilgrim was reminding everyone on our discussion thread 'Controlling our Budget and reaping the rewards' of the value of a well known Meat Tenderizer. Masterfoods have been selling this stuff for years, and it really does work like a charm.
Fascinated by how a white grainy dust, could perform miracles on a tough cut of meat, I checked out the ingredients list.
Salt, Rice Flour, Sugar, Bromelain, Papain (contains Lactose). That's it.
We know what salt, flour and sugar are, and I'll elaborate in a minute about how they help tenderize the meat.
Bromelain is a protein found in all parts of the pineapple plant according to Mr Wikipedia. Now that makes sense, because I've been using pineapple to tenderize calamari for years and years. Doh. Wouldn't you have thought I'd make the leap all by myself that if it works for calamari, it should work for meat?
Papain, surprise, surprise, is an enzyme found in PawPaw. Well, I've used that to tenderize calamari too. Ditto Kiwi fruit.
Did the calamari taste like any of those fruits...nup. But it was melt in the mouth tender. So tender in fact, that if you overdo it and leave it sitting too long, it just disintegrates when you cook it!
Salt has long been known to tenderize meat and many chefs salt their (thick) steaks liberally prior to cooking. Not just a sprinkle and toss in the pan like some of us do. But a good solid covering of Sea Salt (NOT table salt), and left to sit for a couple of hours. Don't panic, you wash the steaks, and pat them thoroughly dry prior to cooking them and they do NOT taste salty. The salt just breaks down the fibres, rendering them melt in the mouth tender.
The rice flour and Bicarb Soda has long been used in Chinese cooking to tenderize beef, and many decades ago when I was a teen, my Mum worked nights in local and flash city Chinese restaurants and learned several meat tenderizing tricks from the chefs, including the use of rice flour, vinegar and baking soda. Just a quarter of a teaspoon of Bicarb soda in enough water to barely cover the meat, allowing the beef to sit in the solution for 15-20 minutes, will give you lovely tender stir fry, just like the takeaways and restaurants. Make sure you drain the marinade, rinse the meat and pat it really dry though. Water will just make your steak steam, rather than sizzle. I believe the rice flour simply dries out the surface of the meat, for the same reason...sizzle not steam...and vinegar is a common ingredient in many marinades.To this day, I prefer to add my flavouring sauces to stir fries as a separate ingredient rather than 'marinating' the meat, for exactly that reason. The moisture in the marinade just makes it hard for the meat to sizzle. The rice flour adds a delectable crust to the meat, and vinegar, like many acids, including tomatoes, also does a great job of breaking down the fibres in the meat.
The sugar doesn't exactly 'tenderize' but it does add a depth of flavour to the beef, enhancing taste satisfaction.
As for the lactose, well, we all know that yoghurt tenderizes meat beautifully, so again, it's that idea of breaking down the fibres in the meat to give a better result. Although I did find an article that suggested that calcium silicate is simply added to make the commercial product free flowing, so perhaps that's the reason too.
From what I see, any or all of those ingredients will do an admirable job, but if all else fails, the commercial Meat Tenderizer works well for little expense.
I used it on some thickly sliced Oyster Blade steaks for friends recently, and they all thought they were eating eye fillet!
So here is a short list of potential meat tenderizers:
Salt. Make sure you use sea salt, not table salt, sprinkle liberally on both sides, and leave for 1 1/2-2 hours. Wash the meat to remove the salt and pat it thoroughly dry prior to pan frying or BBQ-ing.
Bi-carb soda. 1/4 teaspoon in 600mls of water or equivalent proportions. You need enough liquid to cover the meat entirely. So if you only need 300mls water, reduce the Bicarb accordingly. Soak for 15-20 minutes, rinse well, pat dry. This can be used for whole steaks or stir fry strips or casserole cubes.
A pinch of sugar, as it does for so many things, will add a depth of flavour.
Rice flour helps create a crust. Dust your steaks with a little if you wish.
Crushed pineapple, mashed pawpaw (if you're lucky enough to grow them...too expensive otherwise!), and mashed kiwi fruit (get the daggy, soft ones...they work better!), all do a great job. Marinate for half an hour to 3 hours. Experimentation will tell you what works best with which cuts of meat.
Vinegar and tomatoes will work well too.
Do you have any secret meat tenderizing methods?