No one wants to spend their dinner gnawing on a tough steak. But, don’t fret! Transforming a tough cut into a juicy, tender steak is not a magic trick, but a culinary science that you can master at home. Here are ten tried-and-tested methods to turn even the toughest steak into a melt-in-your-mouth delight.
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1. Using a Meat Tenderizer
The meat tenderizer is an efficient tool you can use to break down the muscle fibers in a steak, making it tender and easier to chew. The process involves sprinkling a small amount of meat tenderizer evenly over both sides of the steak. Then, use your hands to rub it into the meat, ensuring every inch is covered.
It’s best to leave the tenderized steak sitting for about 30 minutes before cooking. This time allows the enzymes in the tenderizer to work their magic, breaking down the tough connective tissues in the meat.
2. Marinating the Steak
Marinating is a tried and true method for tenderizing steaks. Not only does it tenderize the meat, but it also infuses it with flavor. A good marinade will have acidic components like vinegar, citrus juice, or wine, which work as natural tenderizers. Let your steak soak in the marinade for at least two hours, or overnight for optimal results. Remember, the longer the steak marinates, the more flavorful and tender it will be.
3. Using a Meat Hammer
The meat hammer, also known as a meat mallet, is a tool designed to physically break down the tough muscle fibers in meat. To use a meat hammer, place your steak on a stable surface, cover it with a sheet of plastic wrap to avoid splatter, and then pound the entire surface of the steak evenly. This method not only tenderizes the steak but also thins it out, leading to faster, more even cooking.
4. Scoring the Surface of the Steak
Scoring is a technique where shallow cuts are made on the surface of the steak. These cuts help break up the tough muscle fibers and allow marinades and spices to penetrate deeper into the meat, enhancing both tenderness and flavor. When scoring, make sure your knife is sharp, and cut the steak in a diamond pattern, being careful not to cut too deep into the meat.
5. Using Salt as a Tenderizer
Salt is a powerful steak tenderizer that works by drawing out the steak’s moisture, which then gets reabsorbed into the steak along with the salt. This process helps to break down the muscle fibers, resulting in a tender steak. To use this method, generously sprinkle kosher salt over both sides of the steak and let it sit for at least an hour per inch of thickness. Afterward, rinse off the salt, pat dry, and cook as you normally would.
6. Using Acidic Marinades
Acidic marinades are a great way to tenderize tougher cuts of steak. The acid in these marinades, such as lemon juice, vinegar, or yogurt, helps to break down the tough protein structures in the meat, making it more tender and flavorful. Marinate your steak in the acidic mixture for at least two hours, but not more than 24 hours as prolonged exposure to acid can make the meat too soft and mushy.
7. Using Enzyme Marinades
Enzymatic marinades use certain fruits like pineapple, papaya, and kiwi that contain enzymes known to break down proteins and tenderize meat. The key here is to marinate the steak for only a short period (about 30 minutes to an hour), as leaving it for longer can result in a too-soft texture. Also, remember to rinse the steak thoroughly after marinating to prevent the enzymes from continuing to break down the meat during cooking.
8. Using Baking Soda
Baking soda is another surprising yet effective method for tenderizing steaks. It works by raising the pH level on the surface of the meat, making it harder for the proteins to bond tightly, resulting in a more tender steak. Simply dust your steak with baking soda, rub it in, and let it sit in the refrigerator for several hours before cooking. Do remember to rinse off the excess baking soda before cooking to prevent a bitter taste.
9. Cooking the Steak Properly
Proper cooking techniques also play a significant role in steak tenderness. Overcooking can result in a tougher steak, so it’s crucial to use a meat thermometer and cook your steak to the desired level of doneness. For most steaks, that’s around 130°F for medium-rare.
After cooking, allow your steak to rest for a few minutes. This rest period allows the juices to redistribute throughout the steak, resulting in a moister and more tender bite.
10. Choosing the Right Cut of Steak
Finally, the cut of the steak you choose can have a significant impact on its tenderness. Certain cuts like filet mignon, ribeye, and New York strip are naturally more tender due to their high-fat content. Tougher cuts like flank, skirt, and brisket can benefit from the tenderizing methods mentioned above. Understanding the characteristics of different beef cuts can help you select the best one for your recipe and cooking method.
Tenderizing a steak doesn’t have to be a daunting task. With these ten foolproof methods, you can turn even the toughest steak into a tender, flavorful dish. Whether you’re using a meat tenderizer, marinating your steak, or simply choosing the right cut of meat, you now have the knowledge to ensure every steak you cook is a delight to eat.