The three main most common ways to tenderize a steak are pounding, marinating the meat and slow cooking. There are also several commercially available meat tenderizers.
The pounding method works best for round, flank and skirt steaks. The cook should first cut some of the excess fat off the steak. It is easier to pound cold steak, so steaks should remain in the refrigerator until they are due to be prepared. The steak should be placed on a cutting board, then with the spiked side of a kitchen mallet, the cook should uniformly pound the meat on both sides, being careful not to over-pound. This method works by breaking down the muscle fibers in the meat.
The enzymes in many foods tenderize meat by breaking down collagen.. Some examples are fruits such as lemons, limes, kiwis and pineapple. Acidic foods also work well, such as wine and vinegar. Chefs can combine one or more of these foods into a marinade and leave the marinade on the steak for at least two hours, but no more than 24 hours. Cooks can also buy a meat tenderizing powder. This works the same way as a marinade, but may be quicker.
Slow cooking the meat allows for thermal tenderization. This method only works with cuts of beef which have a lot of collagen. The process works because slow cooking breaks collagen down into gelatin, which not only tenderizes, but replaces moisture within the meat.