How Do You Tenderize Steak?

tenderize-steak Credit: Adam Gault/OJO Images/Getty Images

Methods for tenderizing steak include using natural acidic liquids such as lemon juice and vinegar, pounding the meat with a mechanical tool, and scoring meat with a sharp knife. Meat can also be tenderized chemically by using marinades containing fruit enzymes.

Cooks can tenderize steak naturally by marinating the meat in natural acids or enzymes, which softens meat fibers. Yogurt is a dairy-based acidic food that also makes a great alternative meat tenderizer. Bromelain is the active natural enzyme contained in pineapple, and papaya contains an enzyme known as papain.

Alternatively, cooks can manually tenderize steaks by opting for a mechanical tool such as the marinade turbocharger, which pokes holes into meat fibers using numerous sharp needles. Pounding the meat with a kitchen mallet, or heavy skillet pan is another way to mechanically soften steak.

Resting and slicing is a technique that involves letting steaks rest for a couple of minutes on a cutting board, and then making thin cuts across the grain of each steak. To score a steak, take a knife and make several shallow cuts about 1/8-inch deep on the steak's surface, creating a crosshatch pattern. Scoring steaks before placing them into a marinade helps the steak absorb the acidic or enzyme tenderizer faster and loosens tough fibers.