Last Updated on
This article explains how to tenderize steak without a mallet.
You know the way people smack their steaks with heavy meat mallets before grilling, frying and so on..?
This is very wrong on just about all levels:
- All the juices (read – tenderness) flow out leaving beef less flavorful.
- Increased chance of bacteria contamination (i.e. mallet takes the bacteria from the surface and gets them in the actual steak) means that you have to cook your steak to, at least, 62C / 144F to kill them off.
- Texture is all messed up…
As you see, tenderizing meat with mallet comes at a huge cost!
But what are the alternatives?
#1 Acid / Enzyme Marinating
The most obvious way to make the surface of the steak tenderer is by marinating it.
Note that I said ‘surface’ and not the entire piece.
Marinades have their limitations and would only penetrate the cut to a certain, very small, degree – no more than 1/4 inch.
This is why marinating is kind of useless after the first 24 hours in the fridge and will only mess up the surface of the steak, making it less palatable.
Now, what do I mean by ‘acid’ and ‘enzyme’?
These are two different ways marinades break down the steak tissue (i.e. tenderize it).
Acid-based marinades are the ones with things like oranges, lemons and so on.
Enzyme-based marinades would include kiwi, papaya and pineapple.
Personally I prefer enzyme-based marinades, because they act rather quickly and are less prone to making the steak rubber-like.
#2 Low Heat Cooking
This is where it gets more interesting!
You can tenderize any steak by cooking it at low heat and I don’t mean cooking it in crock pot (i.e. slow cooker).
One of the best ways to do it without using any extraordinary equipment is to slow cook steak in oven.
The idea is simple – place your steak in oven at 120C / 250F until its inside temperature reaches 55C / 130F (that’s medium-rare).
All you need is then to sear it quickly on the surface.
Low heat, even though it takes a good while to work, slowly breaks down connective tissue (i.e. tenderizing it) while keeping all the juices (i.e. flavor) inside – it’s a win-win!
For the step by step guide – see the slow oven cooking guide.
#3 Medium-rare Doneness
Even though technically it’s not how you can tenderize steak, medium-rare doneness is an integral part of a tender, delicious steak.
As soon as you start cooking steak using dry-heat cooking methods (e.g. pan-searing), it starts losing moisture (a.k.a. juices).
And moisture is what makes any steak delicious, so we should really try to lose as little as possible (the slow oven cooking method from above is the way to do it).
The medium-rare doneness (55C / 155F) is like a threshold doneness that guarantees your steak to be juicy, succulent and easy to chew.
How to tenderize steak without a meat mallet?
This is how I do it.
Happy Steaks! 🙂