Whether you've got a commercial meat tenderizer machine or a good old-fashioned mallet, the science behind tenderizing meats is the same. Meat science is an interesting field, understanding how people eat and where it comes from. Not all meat is the same, but the general rules that govern meat tenderization come down to the science of how meat and muscle are formed. So here's how it works.
- It's all about the proteins!
Meat is tough because it contains specific proteins that allow the muscle to move and function within the living animal. Myofibrillar proteins function by allowing the muscle to contract, stromal proteins or collagen that work with the connective tissues and tendons to provide structure, and sarcoplasmic proteins are the blood within the meat. Cooking meat causes proteins to get firm creating that unpleasant chewy texture.
- Smash that meat!
Mechanical meat tenderizing methods are a traditional method of meat tenderizing. The basic idea is that you smash, stab, and poke your meat with little knives to manually rip apart the proteins within. Though some people feel it may be just as effective to cut your meat on the bias, this is a method that withstands the test of time.
- What are proteolytic enzymes?
Most people use mechanical methods for tenderizing their meats but there are other methods available. In particular, enzymes like bromelain and zingibain were discovered to break down meats without the need for physical exertion. These enzymes come from fruit like pineapples, figs, and kiwi. Even ginger has a great enzyme for breaking down proteins in meats. There has been a lot of experimentation about how to apply this form of meat tenderizer, generally, you only need to put it on your meat 30 to 60 minutes before cooking.
As commercial restaurant equipment goes a commercial meat tenderizer machine is a great way to save time. It's right up there in usefulness with the grinding machine and industrial dough mixer. Just remember to keep all your restaurant tools clean. The USDA recommendation of a solution of one tablespoon of chlorine per gallon of water to sanitize your cutting boards and utensils is not appropriate for your commercial prep machines. Instead a solution of soapy water works great.