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How to Tenderize Steak Before Cooking in a Pan

by Molly Thompson

Prepare a tender steak on the stove without breaking your grocery budget on an expensive cut of meat. Tenderizing the meat before you cook it is key, whether you use seasonings, a meat mallet or a spicy marinade. With proper preparation, even less expensive cuts can be turned into a flavorful dinner for your family or guests.

Put each piece of steak between two pieces of plastic wrap and place the steak on a sturdy flat surface. Use a meat mallet or heavy knife handle, and pound the wrapped steak for several minutes on each side. The pounding breaks up the connective tissue in the meat, making it more tender. Remove the plastic wrap and season both sides of the meat before cooking with your choice of seasonings.

Purchase or prepare a seasoned steak marinade. Be sure the marinade contains an acidic substance such as citrus juice or vinegar; this is what breaks down the fibers in the meat and makes it more tender. Place the steaks in a shallow covered dish and pour the marinade over the meat. Cover the dish and place the steaks in the refrigerator to marinate for at least two hours to tenderize the meat and infuse it with flavor. Halfway through the marinating time, turn the meat over in the dish and spoon the marinade over the meat again. Recover the dish and return it to the refrigerator for the remaining time.

Purchase or prepare your favorite seasoned steak rub. Gently press the mixture of herbs and spices all over the raw steaks, coating the entire steak. Place the meat in a shallow dish, cover and place it in the refrigerator for at least 12 hours or overnight. You may also use baking soda to tenderize meat. Coat the steak with baking soda and put in the refrigerator, covered, for five to six hours. Wash the baking soda off completely before cooking the meat.

Purchase a commercial powdered meat tenderizer containing a substance such as the enzyme papain, which breaks down the fibers in the meat. Sprinkle the powder over the steak and follow package instructions for tenderizing time. Some powdered tenderizers, however, can leech the juices from the steak, leaving it tough on the inside. Do not leave the meat tenderizer on for too long or you may be left with mushy steak.

Items you will need
  • Plastic wrap
  • Meat mallet
  • Marinade
  • Covered shallow dish
  • Salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste
  • Seasoned rub
  • Powdered meat tenderizer

Tips

  • Marinate steaks in a zippered freezer bag instead of a covered dish.
  • When marinating steaks for longer than four hours, turn the steaks in the marinade every two to three hours.

Warning

  • Discard the marinade after you have marinated the steaks. Do not use it as juice for the meat during or after cooking, because it has been in contact with raw meat.

About the Author

As a national security analyst for the U.S. government, Molly Thompson wrote extensively for classified USG publications. Thompson established and runs a strategic analysis company, is a professional genealogist and participates in numerous community organizations.Thompson holds degrees from Wellesley and Georgetown in psychology, political science and international relations.

Photo Credits

  • Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images