If you have had the misfortune of biting into a tough cut of steak, you can understand how frustrating it is to chew every bite till your mouth aches. The ordeal quickly takes away the pleasure of savoring the umami taste. This is the case when meat is not properly tenderized.
In addition to the mouth-watering experience with tender meat, your body can also better digest and extract the nutrients from tender meat.
You get the best experience from meat when it surrenders to your chewing efforts. To maximize this experience, humans have invented several ways to get meat to soften up. This is what we call ‘tenderizing meat.’
And these can be achieved by beating the meat pieces with a mallet, soaking them in brine, or marinating them in acidic solutions like vinegar. But one of the least considered, and perhaps the simplest of all these methods, is using a baking soda meat tenderizer.
Why Baking Soda?
It is easier to throw your meat into a solution of baking soda. Instead of the alternative – to work on it with a hammer or mallet. In which case, you will expend significant energy and time that is better served elsewhere. Besides, baking soda is readily available in most homes.
Baking Soda Works Fast
Of course, using marinades and brine can be just as convenient, but an area where baking soda stands out is the speed at which it works. Within 15 minutes of leaving even the tougher meat pieces in brine, it tenderizes enough. Compared to 30 to 45 minutes needed for brine.
No risk of Damaging the Meat
Let’s face it; we get distracted easily. With all the things competing for our attention, it is easy to forget to remove the meat piece in time. Unfortunately, marinades or brine turn meat mushy when it overstays, changing its color and taking away its appeal.
With baking soda, there is hardly any risk of this happening. The meat retains a definite tender texture, even when it is left in for too long.
You will end up using much fewer resources when you opt for the baking soda meat tenderizer compared to the alternatives. You only need a teaspoon of baking soda to make a tenderizer solution for every 12 ounces of meat. And a quarter of a teaspoon for ground beef.
How Baking Soda Tenderize Meat
You might like to understand how baking soda works its magic to appreciate its efficiency better. But this will take us back to a bit of chemistry where we observe events on the molecular scale.
Baking soda is an alkali; it dissolves in water to give a pH higher than 7. You might remember it from the chemistry lab as sodium bicarbonate.
When you add a piece of meat into the solution of baking soda, the pH value of the meat, especially at its surface, increases. This increase in pH value changes positive charges on protein molecules. So, naturally, opposite ends of protein molecules have different charges that are alternative to the next molecules.
As you know, unlike charges attract. The opposing charges keep the protein molecules linked to the next one.
The alkali solution that baking soda creates changes those charges and makes more negative ones, which then repels the molecule next to it. And in this way, the bond between the protein molecules in your meat chunk breaks and stays apart, leaving your meat tender and juicy.
What is more interesting is that all these happen within a few minutes. And the effect occurs faster on the surface of the meat, as you may have observed in your meat-eating endeavors.
Tenderizing Meat with Baking Soda
There are two ways of tenderizing meat with baking soda. So far, we have talked about making a solution with water. This is faster and best for small meat cuts. The alternative starts with rubbing the meat chunk with the baking soda.
Don’t burden yourself with these differences; we will take a look at each method here and the ideal situation to use either. You will need a few teaspoons of baking soda, a water source, your meat piece, a bowl, and a tray.
How to Tenderize Meat with Baking Soda
For larger chunks of meat you intend to grill or sear, take the rubbing approach. Here is how you do it:
- Rinse out your meat piece and place it on the tray.
- Rub the meat with baking soda all over. Then, turn it over and ensure that the baking soda covers the surface.
- Put the baking soda-covered meat chunk in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 hours.
- Take out the meat and rinse it thoroughly to remove the baking soda, ideally under running water.
- You can now grill or cook the meat as you see fit.
Alternatively, when you have smaller meat cuts intended for stir-fry or don’t have the hours to spare in preparation, you can opt to use the baking soda solution instead. Using the steps here:
- Make the baking soda solution using baking soda and water.
- Use a teaspoon of baking soda to half a cup of water for every 12-ounces of beef. You can increase these proportions based on the size of meat you have.
- Pour the meat pieces into the solution and let it rest for 15 minutes.
- Take out the meat pieces and rinse them thoroughly in water.
- You can now cook, grill, or fry the meat as you like it.
Baking Soda Vs. Baking Powder
It is important not to confuse baking soda with baking powder. Both of which are powders that are used in baking, hence the prefix attached to them. In baking, they are used as leavening agents to lighten dough, making the final product fluffy.
The difference is in their approach. Baking powder is a mixture of a weak acid and sodium bicarbonate; baking soda is just sodium bicarbonate. However, for the sake of baking, the baker still has to mix an acid in water to activate the leaving function of baking soda while the baking powder is simply dissolved in water.
It is easy to confuse one for the other, especially if you don’t do a lot of baking. For our purposes, it is the baking soda we need.
Meats are an excellent source of protein and other nutrients vital to our health and sustenance. Tenderizing them leaves us with a more delicious piece that leaves that satisfying savory taste in every mouthful.
While it is not compulsory to tenderize every kind of meat, it becomes necessary with tougher meat cuts every time you prepare it. These are almost impossible to go through without initially tenderizing them. Using baking soda is a convenient and straightforward means to achieve.