How to Transform Your Meat From Cheap Cut to Prime Cut With Natural Meat Tenderizers?

Natural meat tenderizers can transform an economical cut of meat into a succulent morsel of meaty goodness. In Singapore, beef and lamb are relatively more expensive than chicken and pork.  To buy a premium piece of steak, be prepared to shell out over $55-$100 per kg. The hefty price tag has most of us either buying smaller pieces or different cuts. But know this: A butcher’s cheap cut can be made to have the quality of a prime cut. You just need the right marinade!

To get a good marinade, you need to remember two things: tannins and acids. Both natural elements are workhorses in the world of serious eats. Tannins are natural tenderizing substances most commonly found in wines and teas. Acids from food and fruits contain enzymes that break down and cut away the sinewy proteins found in meat.

Here are some natural meat tenderizers you will easily find in any kitchen.

Salt: Some say seasoning meat with salt will make meat tough. Others say add lots (and lots) of salt one hour before cooking to make meat tender. Which is true? Apparently, both. For example, you need a thick layer of salt on your beef to draw up water allowing some of the salt to sink into the steak. This takes some experimenting but I think the difference lies in using kosher or sea salt salt. Not regular table salt. Kosher and sea salt have larger irregular grains that make it more effective to work its way into the meat. Salt breaks down the protein, improves the meat’s texture and enhances its flavor. Don’t forget to drain off any excess water and rinse the meat before cooking.

Beer: Beer contains alpha acids and tannins that is effective in tenderizing and flavoring meat. In fact, there is a classic Australian recipe called beer can chicken where a whole can of beer is put inside a chicken for the beer to evaporate into the meat as it cooks. I have tried it and it is delicious. I will post a recipe soon.

Soft Drinks: Coca Cola, Sprint and 7-up all make great meat tenderizers because of its high carbonated acidic content. Choose regular cola, not diet. Marinate your chicken wings or pork steaks for minimum 30mins up to 24 hours. I guarantee your meat will be juicy and tender with every bite.

Tea: The darker the tea, the more concentrated the tannins. In fact, marinating meat in tea not only helps turn meat tender and flavorful, it can also reduce potential toxic compounds in meat. Different teas have flavors suitable for different meats. For example, green tea’s grassy flavor suits marinating chicken and turkey, while the fruity flavors of earl grey & english breakfast tea are great for pork or lamb marinates. Stronger more rustic teas like oolong and black tea are great for marinating seafood.

Coffee: Acid content and natural enzymes in coffee helps tenderize and flavor meat. Try brewing a pot of coffee and let it chill. Then, soak your steak in coffee for at least 24 hours before putting it on the grill.

Red Wine, Citrus Juice & Vinegar: These acidic liquids are great in softening muscle tissue. Red wine has high tannin content making it a suitable meat tenderizer. Citrus juice can come from lemons, limes, oranges and pineapple; and vinegars can consist of apple cider, balsamic or plain white vinegar.

Yogurt: Yogurt is found in a lot of Indian and Mediterranean cooking to flavor and tenderize meat. The calcium content found in yogurt activates the meat’s enzymes to naturally break down protein.

Beware that excess acidity can have the opposite effect of tenderizing. If you are using strong acids like wine, vinegar and citric juices, try marinating your meat for no longer than 2 hours. Coffee, soft drinks and yogurt are milder and can be used to marinate overnight. It will take some experimenting to become a natural marinate expert. But, think of the cost savings and you will realize its worth the try.

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