The Acidic Fruits You Should Be Using To Tenderize Meat

For the perfect steak, look no further than a meat tenderizer. Sure, you could go the manual route and tenderize steaks by pounding them with a stainless steel mallet, but you could also take a chemical route in meat tenderizing. Rather than breaking the muscle fibers with brute force, certain enzymes -– namely proteases -– dissolve the fibrous connections in muscles with minimal effort on your part.

Such enzymes can actually be found in some of your favorite fruits, including pineapple, kiwi, papaya, mango, and figs. As such, using the juices of these fruits as a marinade (or even just part of a marinade) can help to tenderize thinner cuts of meat.

Fruit enzymes can even mimic the process of dry-aging meat, breaking down connective tissues in the meat without pulverizing it physically at a much higher speed. After all, who has the patience to wait nearly a month for tenderized meat? Using acidic fruits to improve the texture of meat is a much shorter process, but it comes with its own drawbacks.

Monitor the fruit juices tenderizing your meat

As is the case with any tenderizing method, fruit enzymes can go a little too far, rendering your steak into a pile of unappetizing mush. Just as you would with any other homemade marinade recipe, it's important to control how strong of a tenderizing substance you're applying to your meat.

Firstly, don't overdo it with the fruit juice. Adding a few tablespoons of juice to your favorite marinade can harness the power of the enzymes without overwhelming your steak. After all, you can remove the steak from the marinade, but you can't remove the marinade from the steak. Once those enzymes are introduced, they'll continue to break down the meat's fibers until they're deactivated through cooking.

On a similar note, you should monitor how long the meat sits in the marinade. Smaller, more delicate pieces of meat, such as seafood, should not be subjected to any tenderizing agent for more than half an hour. As cuts of meat get larger and thicker, they can marinate for up to several hours.

Fruit juices might alter the taste of your tenderized steak

Another thing to keep in mind when tenderizing a cut of meat with fruit juice is the flavor of said juice. While this may not be an issue for everyone, it's worth taking flavors into consideration. For instance, pineapple is highly flavorful, and will leave your meat tasting fruity. Pineapple juice may also prove to be too strong a tenderizing agent.

Conversely, fruits like papaya and kiwi have less intense flavors to begin with. As such, neither will overpower the flavor of your meat or marinade. Better yet, kiwi comes with the additional bonuses of being gentler when breaking down meat's fibers, meaning you're less likely to end up with mushy steak.

Interestingly, kiwi also offers better control, as you can use its juice or its skin to tenderize steak. Simply rub a cut of meat with the fleshy side of the kiwi's skin for no-fuss tenderizing –- there will be no need to worry about your steak soaking in enzymes for too long.