Food service operations aim to serve the best quality steaks to their customers, but unfortunately, high costs of meat and business budgets get in the way.
Tougher cuts of steak have a lot of connective tissue since they are cut from parts of the cow that are worked the most, such as the leg or shoulder.
But chefs do not simply disregard them because these meats are tough. After all, these meat cuts are the most flavorful too.
- Bottom round
- Flank steak
- Hanger steak
- Tri-tip steak
- Skirt steak
- London Broil
As a solution, chefs and cooks tenderise meats to make use of budget-friendly cuts of meat to elevate their quality, making the meat easier to cut, cook and eat. Tenderizing makes the meat more tender by breaking down the fibres and connective tissue.
Chefs tenderise meat in several different ways:
1. Marinate meats in acidic components
Acidic components such as buttermilk, citrus juice, yogurt, soda, vinegar or wine help break down the tough muscle fibres and connective tissue. When meat is marinated for at least an hour in these components, a more thorough breakdown of the tough fibres happens. And because the acid is usually mixed with seasoning and oil, more of the flavour is incorporated into the meat.
This is why Chinese cuisine prefers to use citrusy marinades to flavour and tenderise their meats; Greeks typically use yogurt, Koreans use cola-based marinades when grilling, and Tex-Mex cuisine use limes and so on…
Something to add with regards to Chinese cuisine – they have a particular method of marinating meat in a cornstarch-based slurry. This is a technique called Velveting, where aside from tenderising meat, the cornstarch helps promote even browning and helps the sauce coat the meat better.
The cornstarch slurry is typically made with equal parts cornstarch, sesame oil, soy sauce, and flavour components with acidic nature, such as rice vinegar, rice wine or oyster sauce.
2. Pounding the meat
The act of pounding the meat helps tenderise the meat. Typically, a meat mallet is used, but one can use any heavy kitchen tool such as a rolling pin, saucepan, or skillets. The meat is placed between wax paper or plastic wrap before pounding.
The advantage of using a meat mallet is that you can choose between the two sides of its head, one flat and one spiky. The spiky points create indentations that look like small cubes and cut up the muscle fibres so that the steak cooks quickly. At the same time, the flat side helps to achieve a uniform thickness so that the steak cooks evenly. This method is ideal when you want the meat to be thin and tender.
RELATED READ: Sourcing Ingredients For Your Restaurant: Meats
3. Scoring the meat
Scoring meat is done by cutting shallow slits into the meat surface. The small slits cut the long fibres, which makes the meat tough to chew. The slits also allow any marinade and seasoning to settle in the meat for better flavour.
Salt seasons the steak, but it can also tenderise it by breaking down the meat proteins. To tenderise meat, liberally salt the steak cuts for up to an hour before cooking.
5. Slow Cooking
Slow cooking requires very low heat for long hours of cooking. This process effectively breaks down connective tissues and releases collagen resulting in shreddable meat.
Slow cookers make it easy to do this technique with very minimal supervision.
Another form of slow cooking is by sous vide. Sous vide is a cooking technique in a vacuum-sealed bag immersed in warm water.
6. Using plant or fruit enzymes
There are certain fruits with enzymes that are effective in tenderising meat.
- Pineapple – Bromelain
- Papaya – Papain
- Fig – Ficin
- Kiwi- Actinidain
- Ginger – Zingibain
They are so effective that meat marinated for more than 12 hours can turn mushy. The way to do this is to add any of these plants/fruits to the marinade.
Tough meat cuts are easily dismissed as poor quality meat, but there are several ways to tenderise these affordable cuts to turn them into steak house-worthy mains.
And in the house of skilled chefs and cooks, serving tender and flavorful steaks is not tricky.
If you are looking for skilled chefs and kitchen staff based in Perth and Western Australia for your staffing needs, give us a call at Anytime Staff.
We have a roster of professional chefs and kitchen staff that are available as short-term hires for :
- peak periods
- events/private parties and celebrations/pizza chefs
- fill in for an emergency or annual leaves
- start-up team for opening venues
As part of our team, we have polite, professional Kitchen Stewards to assist you in cleaning and organising your kitchens.
Anytime Staff can also assist you in looking for permanent hires by facilitating your recruitment process.
We also offer a Consulting Service to assist you in opening or running the cafe or restaurant of your dreams.
That’s it for this week.
As always, professional chefs are on call at Anytime Staff!
Ciao for now,