Hey, Why Tenderize Your Meat at All?
It’s a valid question! After all, isn’t it more convenient to simply defrost your meat and immediately throw it on the grill or frying pan? Probably. However, you may be sacrificing quality for the sake of ease.
Tenderizing your cuts of meat makes them easier to cut and chew. The process also adds flavor and juiciness. Seems like a no-brainer, right? The choice becomes easier when you realize that simple baking soda can be an ideal meat tenderizer that helps to bring out all the aromas and flavors in every sizzling beef stew or charburger.
What is Velveting Meat?
Velveting is a simple process of using baking soda or a mixture of egg whites, cornstarch and oil to marinate and tenderize economical cuts of steak, chicken and other meats before cooking. Velveting meat softens fibers to reduce toughness and enhance juiciness for maximum flavor and tenderness.
You can velvet meat and make it melt-in-your-mouth tender by quickly tossing chunks of beef or chicken in about ¾ tsp of baking soda for about 15 minutes before your next stir fry, then rinse and pat the meat dry before putting in the pan. You can also add ¼ tsp baking soda per pound of ground meat before browning or shaping into patties or meatballs.
How to Tenderize Steaks and Chickens with Baking Soda
Baking soda acts as a meat tenderizer by changing the physical composition of meat fibers. It raises the pH levels on the surface and makes it tougher (pun intended) for the proteins in the meat to bond. This then velvets your cuts of steak and chicken before they’re thrown on the grill, in the oven or your favorite stir fry.
Before going for your usual salt brine method, take a look at this simple, step-by-step process for tenderizing your meat with baking soda.
- ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda
- Your chosen cut(s) of meat
- Sharp knife
- Measuring cups and spoons
- Container for brining, depending on the size of the cut. Examples include:
- Zipper-close plastic bag
- Bowls (glass, stainless steel or ceramic)
- Stainless-steel stock pots
- Other non-reactive containers
- Do NOT use aluminum, copper or cast-iron bowls or pans
Tenderize Meat with a Baking Soda Dry Brine
Dry brining with baking soda is an ideal route for making slabs of ribs or roasts because it isn’t time-sensitive! With this method, you can tenderize your cuts of meat with baking soda in the morning and have them ready to cook in for your afternoon barbecue or an appetizing feast at dinner.
Step 1: Distribute Baking Soda to your cut(s) of meat
- Rub the baking soda on your meat, making sure to cover all sides
- Use about 1 percent of the meat’s weight in baking soda ounces (e.g., 10 lbs. of steak = 1.6 ounces or about 3 tablespoons of baking soda
Step 2: Place meat in a container and store in the refrigerator
- Leave your cut in the refrigerator for anywhere between 3 to 5 hours, or overnight, if necessary.
Step 3: Remove meat and rinse thoroughly
- Ensure all the baking soda is removed before cooking. It has done its job by now!
Step 4: Cook as desired
- Throw your tenderized slab of beef on the grill or bake your bird in the oven!
Wet Brining with Baking Soda to Tenderize Meat
If you’re on a time crunch and hoping to tenderize your chicken cutlets or other thinly sliced meats in a hurry, go with wet brining. Whereas an oversaturated saltwater brine might make your cut less filet-like, a baking soda wet brine expedites the tenderizing process and limits the potential for oversaturation.
Step 1: Dissolve Baking Soda into water
- Use 1 teaspoon of baking soda and ½ cup of water for every 12 ounces of meat.
Step 2: Soak meat in solution for at least 15 minutes
- This process allows the baking soda to neutralize acid on the surface of the meat, resulting in less toughness and a cooked meat that is juicy on the inside while remaining crispy on the outside.
- Note: Some cuts of meat may take longer to soak in the baking soda to fully tenderize. You’ll want to refrigerate the brine for longer soak times.
Step 3: Remove meat and rinse thoroughly
- Just as you would with dry brining, rinse your meat until it's (mostly) free of all the baking soda.
Step 4: Cook as desired
- Voila! The meat is tender and ready to be cooked. Prepare to feast!
Why Tenderize Meat With Baking Soda Over Saltwater Brine?
Using saltwater brining is another method you might choose to tenderize your meat. However, a saltwater brine takes longer than velveting meat with baking soda.
Saltwater brine “denatures” meats by encouraging the proteins to bond to more water. This helps explain how cuts of meat tenderized by brine typically weigh between 6 and 8 percent more before cooking. The brining process generally takes at least 30 minutes before the meat is tenderized. Moreover, over-brining with saltwater can ruin the integrity of the meat.
Alternatively, a baking soda mixture generally takes between 15 and 20 minutes to tenderize the cuts of meat. It also carries less risk of harming the meat should the cuts sit in a baking soda for longer.
As a result, a baking soda wet brine can be more forgiving and foolproof than a traditional saltwater brine.
Is Dry Brining Better Than Wet Brining?
It depends. There is no specific answer to whether dry brining or wet brining is most optimal. What you should consider is your timeframe and the weight of your cuts.
Dry brining does not dissolve salt in water. Instead, you apply salt directly to your cut(s) of meat and let it refrigerate, usually for multiple hours. This process can be ideal for making your Thanksgiving turkey!
Using an overnight dry brine and pairing it with ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda—applied directly to the turkey before roasting—is a good way to tenderize your turkey and create a crispy, brown exterior.
Conversely, wet brining involves dissolving salt in water and then submerging your cuts of meat. This is especially beneficial for smaller cuts, as it can be a faster process and allow the meat to fully absorb the solution. However, wet brining can sometimes lessen the flavors of the meat because those flavors are being replaced by salt.
In short: both processes have pluses and minuses, but having multiple options for meat tenderizing provides flexibility for both time and taste.
Can You Use Baking Soda When Cooking Chicken Gizzards?
Yes, especially if you use a wet brine! Put a quart of water in a bowl and mix in a teaspoon of ARM & HAMMER™ Baking Soda. Soak the gizzards in a bowl for about an hour, then rinse them off before deep frying or air frying. Add any seasoning of your choice after rinsing.
Will Baking Soda Tenderize Deer Meat?
It’s not unusual for game meat like venison to still taste, well, gamey. Leaner meats, such as deer, elk, and buffalo can also be tougher due to less fat content. Soaking your deer meat or steaks in baking soda can tenderize them and offer a slightly different flavor. But game meats may require slightly more time than beef or chicken
For 2 to 3 pounds of venison meat, use a tablespoon of baking soda and a quart of water. Pour the mixture over the meat and seal it in a container, then refrigerate. Stew meats and smaller cuts of venison might require overnight soaking, while roasts and ribs should sit in the refrigerator for at least two days. After that allotted time, the meat should be rinsed and ready to go!
Baking Soda is an Easy Meat Tenderizer
Baking soda helps prevent ground beef from drying out, allowing those burger patties to keep their moisture and brown quicker for the most flavorful cookout. Not to mention, baking soda is the ideal ingredient for getting the most out of your Thanksgiving bird.
Just as it can be in so many other areas of your life, baking soda is a vital tool that can help bring each meal to life. Use baking soda if you want your friends to give their compliments to the chef.