The Art of Tenderizing: Techniques for Tougher Beef Cuts

Making tougher cuts of beef tender, juicy, and flavorful is a cooking challenge that has been tackled for centuries. But fear not! Several tenderizing methods can turn even the most muscular and dense cuts of beef into tender and palatable morsels.


Marinades can serve dual purposes for tougher beef cuts – they can infuse flavor and also tenderize. Acidic components in marinades, like lemon juice or vinegar, can help to soften the meat’s muscle fibers. Enzymes from tropical fruits like pineapple or papaya can also break down tough proteins.

Be mindful: Over-marinating in acidic marinades can lead to meat becoming mushy rather than tender.

Classic Marinade Recipe: Mix olive oil, soy sauce, lemon juice, crushed garlic, and herbs like rosemary and thyme for a basic marinade[1%5E]. Marinate your beef cut for at least 2 hours, or overnight for best results.

Physical Tenderizing

Physical tenderizing methods work by either breaking down the fibres in the meat or by disrupting the muscle structure.

  • Meat Mallet: A meat mallet is a hammer-like tool with a textured surface used to pound the meat, breaking down the tough muscle fibers[2%5E].
  • Scoring: Scoring involves making shallow cuts on the surface of the meat. This not only tenderizes by slicing through some of the tough fibers, but it also allows marinades and seasonings to penetrate more deeply.
  • Needle tenderizer: A needle tenderizer punches small holes throughout the meat, interrupting the muscle fibers without significantly changing the shape or appearance of the meat[3%5E].

Slow Cooking

Slow, moist cooking techniques, such as stewing or braising, can transform tougher cuts into tender, flavorful dishes. As the collagen within the meat has time to break down slowly, it turns into gelatin, adding a silky texture and richness to the dish[4%5E].

  • Braising: This method involves lightly frying the meat then slowly cooking it in a small amount of liquid in a covered pot.
  • Stewing: This technique involves simmering the meat in a lot of liquid over a long period.


Salting meat can help to tenderize it by breaking down the meat’s proteins. Coarse sea salt or kosher salt is best.

Dry-brining: This method involves salting the meat and leaving it to rest in the fridge for several hours or even overnight. The salt draws out the meat’s juices, which then get reabsorbed, leading to tender, flavorful meat[5%5E].

Final Thoughts

Each tenderizing method brings its own benefits, but the right technique depends on the cut in question, the cooking method you plan to use, and the flavor profile you’re aiming for. Experience will be your best guide in mastering the delicate art of tenderizing tough cuts of beef.


  1. Allrecipes, Beef Marinade II
  2. The Spruce Eats, Meat Mallets and Why you Need One
  3. Food & Wine, How to Use a Meat Tenderizer
  4. The Kitchn, Everything You Need to Know about Braising
  5. Bon Appétit, Does Salting Your Meat ahead Time Kill Flavor

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