Whether it’s a fall off the bone rib roast or juicy fried chicken, tenderness is typically associated with the quality of meat. But whether the meat ends up melting in your mouth is less about quality and more so depends on how it is treated before being cooked.
There are three main ways of tenderising meat: with a mallet, through slow cooking and with enzymes. Whether you’re looking to buy a new meat tenderiser in Australia or experimenting with scientific tenderising, these are the ways in which you can ensure your meat is delicious, juicy and incredibly tender.
This involves pounding the meat with an old school mallet. This method makes it so the connective tissue and connective fibres are being broken down. This method is perfect for making meat thin and tender. Therefore, things like schnitzel and thin steaks are best suited for the mallet method. However, this method might not be best for grilling meats.
If you have ever put some tough steak on the slow roast and pulled it out to find it scrumptious and tender, then you already know about thermal tenderising. This is where heat slowly breaks down the meat’s connective tissues, making it melt-in-your-mouth and truly flavoursome.
The heat can be wet heat, such as a braise, or dry heat, like a grill. The heat has to be applied low and slow, or else the outside of the meat will burn before the inside of the meat has had a chance to tenderise.
Thermal tenderising is awesome for cooking meats with a lot of collagen, including brisket and ribs. However, it is not suitable for meats like pork chops and fillet mignon, as these meats don’t have a lot of connective tissue in the first place, and you can’t cook these meats long enough to break down the lacking connective tissue.
The last tenderising method is through enzymatic tenderising. This method involves using enzymes that are biological molecules to increase the rate of a reaction. When dry ageing meat, the meat’s natural enzymes break down the collagen over time and produce a tender, juicy and flavoursome piece of meat.
However, dry ageing meat is a slow process (over 20 days!) and also results in a lot of meat loss due to the moisture leaving the meat. Furthermore, you will have to trim some of the outsides of the meat before cooking it. This makes dry-ageing a less popular method for meat tenderising.
But dry-ageing isn’t the only method for tenderising meat. Fruits like papaya, pineapple and kiwifruit contain enzymes that will tenderise meat. Fruit can be added to marinades to produce enzymatic tenderising at a much faster rate than dry ageing. Some enzymes like bromelain can turn your meat into mush if left to marinate for too long – that’s how effective it is!
Kiwifruit is great as the Actinidin found in the fruit can break down the meat without ever making it mushy. Its flavour is also pretty neutral and won’t overpower the natural flavour of the meat. All you have to do is add a tablespoon or two of the kiwifruit to your marinade. How it tenderises depends on how long you let it marinade for, but you can let meat marinade in kiwifruit for up to a week without it having any harmful effects on the meat’s quality.
The way you tenderise your meat depends on how you want it to turn out when you cook it. Using a mallet is good for thin cuts, while slow cooking is good for tough meats. Finally, enzymatic tenderising is perfect for adding to marinades and shouldn’t be overlooked!