Biting into a hunk of steak that is difficult to chew can spoil your appetite regardless of the ingredients used to prepare the meal. The reason why some meat is tough is that it may be derived from areas of an animal that have big muscles such as the shoulder or the leg. Meat is a muscle that gets tougher with lots of exercises that usually occur around areas used for locomotion or supporting the weight of an animal.
Overcooking may not be a solution to tenderizing meat because the proteins in it make it firmer and harder to chew. Steaks derived from connective tissue makes the meat chewy because the muscles contain thick pieces of gristle in between. Meat that is chewy or tougher can be tenderized to make it easier to chew. In this article, we will be looking at several ways to tenderize steak so that you can have a juicy, flavorful, and delicious meal.
1. Slow Cooking
There is a difference between slow cooking and overcooking. Slow cooking is the process of cooking tough meat over a long period of time under low-temperature heat. This helps in breaking down the connective tissues, collagen, and tough fibers thus tenderizing the meat. You can choose to braise the meat in a covered dish with broth before placing it in the oven or a slow cooker. This method of tenderizing meat requires patience as it does not happen right away. The gelatin coats surrounding the muscle fibers are liquefied to give the meat a moist and succulent texture. Braising is a moist-heat cooking technique that helps in breaking down tough fibers and connective tissues in the steak.
2. Slicing it Right
Scoring is one of the clever knife tricks that helps in tenderizing meat. It is a process that involves making shallow cuts across the surface of a flank or other types of thin steak. This helps the meat to easily absorb tenderizing marinades or break up tough proteins. Another knife trick that helps in tenderizing meat is thinly slicing cooked steak across the grain. The main idea of this type of slicing is to shorten the long, tough fibers by breaking them down to make chewing easier. The fibers can be shortened by slicing through the grain, which means your teeth, and jaws will have much less work to do.
3. Pounding with a Meat Mallet
Another way of tenderizing a steak is to use additional force to break up the collagen. There are a variety of tools and fancy machines that can help in pounding. If you don’t have these machines at hand, then you can use a meat mallet which is the most basic way of pounding steak. Meat mallets are made of two surfaces – the pointy side helps to cut up the muscle fibers and connective tissue while the flat side helps in flattening the meat. This allows it to cook more quickly and the connective tissue can be cooked over high heat without becoming tougher or chewy. The indentations created by the mallet creates cube-like shapes and meat that has been tenderized using this procedure is sometimes referred to as cube steaks.
This type of tenderizing steak does not require marinades. It involves heavily salting a tough cut of meat before allowing it to sit for one or two hours. This process is quite effective as it helps in breaking down the tough muscle fibers. Rinse off the salt when you are ready to cook before patting the meat dry. Place it inside a hot skillet and cook until it is well done.
5. Acidic Tenderizers
Citrus, vinegar, and wine are some of the acidic tenderizers that can be used to make the meat tender. These acidic liquids not only add flavor but also help soften the tough muscle fibers. Lime, lemon, and pineapple are the common types of citrus juices used for this purpose. Some types of vinegar include the regular household vinegar, balsamic or apple cider. Use a fork to pierce the meat all over before soaking it in vinegar for an hour or two. Afterward, cook the meat in glass baking dishes or coated non-stick pans to tenderize the meat further.
All the above methods are used to tenderize the meat based on the concept of breaking down the connective tissues, collagen, and tough fibers. It is also important to invest in a good steak knife to help in scoring or thinly slicing cooked steak across the grain. Once you master any of the above techniques, you will be able to cook juicy, delicious and tasty meals perfect for entertaining your guests.