The 14 Best Tips for Tenderizing Steaks, According to Chefs (2023)

Nothing stimulates the senses like the sight, smell, taste, and even the sound of a delicious, juicy steak cooking. For die-hard lovers of red meat, it can invoke a sense of delicious nostalgia that transports you to a time or place where you probably celebrated a special occasion while eating a steak so tender the cuts were smooth as butter. You may even want, if time and budget allow, to revisit that perfect meal from the past and recreate your own.Favorite Steak Dinnerin the kitchen at home. but after thatChoosing the perfect steakand gathering your other ingredients and accoutrements, there's nothing worse than realizing your steak dinner at home is falling short because the meat is tough as a rubber shoe.

When it comes to preparing a great steak, texture, how it feels when you bite into it and chew it, is key. whether you picked uphigh quality steakSteak or an inexpensive flank, everyone wants a tender steak, but it's still all too easy to end up with tough, stringy, greasy morsels that are a brutal exercise for the jaw. So, are there ways home cooks can effectively tenderize a steak without making a mess or fuss?

To learn the best methods for tenderizing steaks, we spoke with professional chefs and culinary experts from all walks of life. Read on for some of the best techniques you can use to tenderize your steak, and for more tips to help you recreate the steak dinner of your dreams, be sure to keep reading.

Cooking Techniques to Tenderize Steak

The 14 Best Tips for Tenderizing Steaks, According to Chefs (1)

1. Choose the right cut.

"Some cuts of meat are naturally more tender than others,"Chef Dennis Littley,a classically trained chef with over 40 years of experienceEat this, not that!"Look for items labeled 'tender' or 'selection' to ensure you're starting with a good foundation. For example, a steak is more tender than a ribeye."

2. Use an acidic marinade.

"Use an acidic ingredient like vinegar, citrus juice, or wine to soften the connective tissue in the meat," he says.Lori Walker,RD, recipe developer and owner ofsimple cooking guide.

"When marinating steak, there needs to be an acidic component to tenderize the steak and break down the muscle fibers in the meat," he says.Toni Sudak, an experienced chef who currently works as a butcher's apprenticeWalden Local Meat Co.“Well, different cuts take longer to marinate and break down than others. For example, marinate a London Broil to soften it up; Ideally, marinate overnight to work those tough muscle fibers and make them more tender. On the other hand, if you want to marinate a ribeye, this already delicate cut shouldn't take as long.

Chief Bin LuVonThe Blue Rock restaurantin Washington, VA reiterates this advice: "Marinating meat before grilling can be effective, especially if the marinade contains something acidic. This can be done overnight, but if you use something like papaya or mango, be sure to only marinate it the day." ".

Regardless of the ingredients used, it is important to allow enough time for the marinade to coat and absorb the meat evenly without letting it sit too long, as this can result in meat that is too tender and mushy.

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"For best results, you want to marinate for at least four hours, but no more than 24 hours," says Walker.

"Pro tip: Flip the steak several times during the marinade to encourage an even coating," she adds.Alex Reitz, chef and recipe developer atMeat, it's dinner time.

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3. Use an acid rub.

"A sour marinade is another great way to tenderize steaks at home without having to marinate them," says Walker. "Mix equal parts of oil, vinegar, lemon juice andspices(such as garlic powder or chili powder). Rub the mixture all over the steak and let it rest for at least 15 minutes before cooking."

4. Salt your steak.

The 14 Best Tips for Tenderizing Steaks, According to Chefs (2)

"Salting the steak before cooking draws out moisture and breaks down the protein, which helps to tenderize the meat," says Chef Dennis. "Sprinkle kosher salt or sea salt on both sides of the steak and let it rest at room temperature for about an hour before grilling."

"I always salt my steak really well and let it sit overnight—it's my favorite way to tenderize it," he explains.Diana Manalang, chef and owner ofLittle chef Little cafein New York "It draws the moisture out of the steak, and once the salt dissolves, it acts as a dry brine for the steak, like a dry brinebrine for turkey."

Another technique Walker suggested for tenderizing steaks is to salt crust, which involves "coating the steak with salt and baking it [as this] can also help break down the tough fibers in the meat while adding flavor."

"Place your steak on a rack in a saucepan filled with coarse salt and bake at 350F for 40 minutes," Walker advises, if you opt for a salt crust to tenderize your steak.

5. Use an enzyme.

"Store-bought enzyme products, such as bromelain or papain, can help tenderize steaks without adding additional flavor," Walker advises. "Just mix the enzyme with water, rub it on the steak, and let it rest for 30 minutes before cooking."

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Enzymes known to help break down resistant proteins (like bromelain, papain, and protease) are also found naturally in fruits like pineapple, papaya, and mangoes. "The papain enzyme found in papayas can help break down the proteins in the steak and make it more tender," Walker explains.

"Mangoes can be particularly effective because they have enzymes that break down meat," adds Chef Lu.

So if you love bright flavors and tender steak, but have trouble finding certain enzyme-based cookware in stores, you can always go the natural route by pureeing these fruits into a sweet-but-tart marinade.

"Chop fresh papaya into a paste, spread it over the steak, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap, and let it rest for an hour before cooking," Walker suggests.

6. Soak steak in cold water.

"Soaking steak in cold water for an hour or two can help break down the tough fibers in the meat, resulting in a more tender texture," says Walker. "Make sure to change the water every 30 minutes to prevent bacteria from building up on the steak."

7. Pound your steak.

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"The best way to tenderize steaks at the butcher shop is with a tool called a Jaccard," explains Sudak. "This tool features three rows of blades that, when pushed down, pierce the meat and cut the muscle fibers to make them more tender," says Sudak. "The downside to this is that you create more surface area, which allows more oxygen to get to the meat, causing it to oxidize faster."

"While I prefer to soften for flavor, you can use the physical method if you're short on time," says Sudak. “In a pinch, for a quickly tender steak, you can use the mechanical tenderizers to quickly finish a tougher steak. (And ideally, the more flavor you can add to a steak, the better!)”

"You don't need any special equipment to tenderize steaks," Walker explains. "Just use a kitchen mallet or other blunt object to pound the steak."

"Place the steak on a cutting board, cover it with plastic wrap, and pound it with a meat mallet to break up the fibers and tenderize it," adds Chef Dennis.

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“Make sure you cover the steak with plastic wrapBeforePound it and try not to hit it too hard or you could end up with tough pieces of meat," Walker advises.

8. Rate your steak.

"If you want to get creative, try scoring your steak with a knife by making shallow cuts into the meat," suggests Walker. "This allows marinades or seasonings to penetrate deeper into the steak and speed up the tenderizing process."

"Be careful not to cut too deep or your steak could tear apart as it cooks," he also warns.

9. Wait for steak to come to room temperature before cooking.

“One of the easiest ways to cook a steak tender is to let it come to room temperature before cooking it,” explains the chef and culinary nutrition expert.Melissa Éboli. “That means let it sit on your counter for 30 to 60 minutes to get the cold out. The reason is that when you place a frozen steak on a hot surface, it strains and results in tough meat. When the steak is thawed, it won't be as extreme when you transfer it to the hot surface, making it more tender."

Tips for Tenderizing While Cooking

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10. Slowly fry the steak over low heat.

Whether you use a stovetop, grill, or even a pressure cooker, slow cooking your steak helps enhance and enhance the flavor of your meat while adding a juicier, more tender, and flavorful texture to even the toughest cuts of steak. .

"Cook it low and slow," Walker advises. “When possible, opt for low-temperature cooking methods, such as braising, slow-frying, or steaming. These techniques slowly break down the connective tissue in tougher cuts of meat, resulting in a more tender steak.”

According to Manalang, this approach is particularly useful with very tough cuts of meat, which "when cooked properly, turn out like butter."

11. Flip conservatively and don't overdo it.

"Don't flip your steak too much!" warns Reitz. "Usually, flipping is enough, but be careful not to char or burn yourself and turn the heat down if necessary. This keeps your meat juicy and tender during the cooking process!"

12. Use the oven.

"If you're short on time, try using your oven to tenderize steaks," suggests Walker. “Place the steak on a rack in a saucepan and bake at 180°C (350°F) for 40 minutes. This softens the tough fibers in the meat without overcooking it.”

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When your steak is done

The 14 Best Tips for Tenderizing Steaks, According to Chefs (5)

13. Leave him alone.

"Regardless of which method you choose, remember to give your steak time to rest after cooking," says Walker. "This will help get the juices back into the steak and make it even more tender."

"As soon as your steak comes off the grill, let it rest for about five minutes so the delicious juices don't spill onto your plate," Reitz adds. "The juice helps keep it tender, so make sure it soaks into the steak!"

14. Cut steak diagonally.

After letting the steak rest, it's time to serve it! It is well known that cutting steaks at an angle (ie, with the knife at an angle to the cutting board) results in a juicier, more tender steak. But what does this process actually entail?

"When cutting steak, cut it crosswise or perpendicular to the direction of the grain to maximize tenderness," explains Reitz.

"Also, avoid piercing the meat with a fork during cutting to prevent additional leakage. Instead, try holding it with tongs as you cut to preserve the juicy goodness!

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