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The Science of Barbecue - Tender Meat From Tough Cuts Part 2

The Science of Barbecue - Tender Meat From Tough Cuts Part 2

Sometimes it’s not in the budget to buy an expensive, always tender, piece of meat like tenderloin. Taking a cheap cut of meat and turning it into something succulent requires finesse, a little elbow grease, and creativity. In this article we will explore different techniques on how to tenderize meat and make tender meat from tough cuts.

Marinating


Process:

Add extra flavor to any recipe by marinating

Soaking your desired meat in a bath of ingredients that have either acids or enzymes that chemically break down the proteins or connective tissues on the surface of the meat.

Why does it work?

This process is a surface treatment and as explained in The Science of Barbecue - Marinades, all ingredients, with the exception of salt, are molecularly too big to penetrate into the meat. This is an excellent way to add extra flavor to any recipe, and effective way to create a tender mouth feel to your meat.

Related recipe: Eye of Round Roast with Steam Whistle Marinade

Injecting


Process:

Use a syringe to inject liquids into the meat for the purpose of flavor enhancement and tenderization

Using a syringe to inject liquids into the meat for the purpose of flavor enhancement and tenderization. It’s like marinating from the inside out. Whenever injecting, make sure that you aren’t using too much salt as this can leave a cured-meat like taste in your mouth. Make sure your marinade doesn’t contain too many solids, although Napoleon’s Stainless Steel Marinade Injector has two different needles for this purpose. Another thing to consider is not using dark liquids on light meats.

Why does it work?

Using a mixture with up to 2% salt will help meat retain moisture by denaturing the proteins. Using a mixture with enzymes like fresh pineapple juice or papaya juice will break down the muscle fibers and collagen of the meat.

Related recipe: Buffalo Injected Turkey Breast

Brining


Process:

Like marinating, brining is the process of submerging meat into a bath of liquid.

Like marinating, brining is the process of submerging meat into a bath of liquid. This liquid, however, is very high in salt content. Brining can be a short process, less than 24 hours, or a long process of up to 10 days.

Why does it work?

Brining uses salt to cause the meat to absorb water to increase the volume of liquid inside the meat. This leaves it juicer when cooked thanks to the increased water. It also denatures protein rendering the meat more tender. Salt is absorbed deep into meat, up to 1-inch per 24 hours. Salt brings out the flavor and counteracts bitterness of just about everything, that’s why we season with it, and add a pinch to coffee.

Related recipe: Homemade Smoked Corned Beef

Braising


Process:

Braising is the process through which you cook an inexpensive, tough cut of meat, like brisket, in liquid.

Braising is the process through which you cook an inexpensive, tough cut of meat, like brisket, in liquid. It is best to use a Dutch Oven for this process as they’re made from cast iron and have a tight fitting lid. First the meat is seared over high heat. The act of searing adds rich flavors to the finished dish. The pot is then de-glazed, lifting all of the browned debris from the bottom of the pot. The meat is added back in, along with liquid and maybe even some veggies, then cooked low and slow on the grill or in the oven for hours.

Why does it work?

The low temperature of 180°F to 250°F and the slow cooking using liquid turns the collagen in the meat into gelatin.

Related recipe: Braised Beef Shortribs

Smoking or Cooking Low & Slow


Process:

You can tenderize meat manually, before cooking as well. Do this by slashing the surface of meat with a sharp knife, across the grain.

Cooking meat using the indirect method and low temperatures, ranging from 180°F to 300°F, for extended periods of time is a great way to produce tender meats from tough cuts. You can use your gas grill, charcoal grill or smoker for this process, but you definitely require patience as this can take from 2 to 12 hours.

Why does it work?

The low and slow method works because, like Braising, you are using heat and time to break down the collagen in the meat. You can read the whole scientific explanation in the article The Science Of Barbecue - Tender Meat From Tough Cuts.

Related recipe: Smoked Turkey Thighs

Pounding/Slashing


Process:

You can tenderize meat manually, before cooking as well. Do this by slashing the surface of meat with a sharp knife, across the grain. The other way you can manually tenderize is to pound meat with the jagged side of a meat mallet. Both ways will change the cooking time because you have changed the thickness of the meat.

Why does it work?

Slashing across the grain cuts the muscle fibers, preventing them from contracting while you cook them. This is also the reason you cut across the grain when slicing a roast or other large piece of meat. Pounding meat with the jagged side of the mallet forces the muscle fibers apart and manually breaks down the protein in a similar fashion to slashing. The added benefit to both of these methods is that they allow salt and marinades to penetrate deeper into the meat for added flavor and tenderness as the salt breaks down the muscle.

Related recipe: Greek Marinated Chicken

Sweet Meats

Every cut of meat will benefit from a different treatment. What works for one may not work for another. Carefully consider the desired result of your meal before choosing a method of making your meat tender. Continue finding new ways to grill by watching our Recipe Blog, keep up with giveaways, and specials by following our Instagram and Facebook profiles. What is your favorite way to make a piece of meat tender?

Happy Grilling!

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