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Meat Mallets (Tenderizers)

Wednesday, 19 January 2011 | Tags: ,

When meat is cooked, the fibres can shrink and bunch together, creating a pretty tough mouthful. Resting the meat for a few minutes after cooking can help it "relax" again, but tenderizing the meat before cooking breaks fibres down to prevent toughening up during cooking. And that's where the trusty meat mallet comes in.

The Basics

  • The tenderness of a piece of meat depends a few things: the cut, how long it was aged, and how it was processed.

  • Tenderizing helps meat cook more evenly, improve its flavour and texture, and cut down on cooking time.

  • If you wind up with a tougher piece of meat, you can use a marinade with acidic ingredients to help break down the fibres, or you can use a meat tenderizer (mallet) to physically soften boneless meat and poultry.

  • Mallets generally resemble a square, two-sided hammer. One side has a ridged surface with rows of dull, pyramid-shaped spikes, which break down the meat fibres. The other side is often smooth, used to flatten the meat for dishes like schnitzel or chicken-fried steak.

Shopping Tips

  • Available in a multitude of styles and materials, including stainless steel, wood, and rubber, choose a mallet that feels good and balanced in your hand.

  • Some styles are also available in different weights (e.g. 2, 3, or 4 pounds), depending on how flat you need to make your meat.

  • Make sure the mallet you purchase has one spiked side and one flat side, which means it is multi-purpose.

  • Other names for meat mallets are meat tenderizers, meat hammers, meat pounders and even meat bats.

Other Considerations

  • To keep your workspace and tenderizer clean and sanitary, use plastic wrap or wax paper underneath and on top of the meat when you’re tenderizing.

  • Meat mallets can also be used for other things, like crushing nuts, olives, toffee, candy and other hard items, to use in dishes or as garnishes and toppings.

  • If you are caught without a meat mallet, try other household objects like a hammer, rubber mallet, rolling pin, and even a fry pan.

TEST CRITERIA

We went to butcher school and had a tenderizing lesson from instructor John Carlo. We tested:

  • Norpro Grip-EZ Reversible Tenderizer/Pounder: $41.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Generic Wooden Meat Tenderizer: $4.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Fusionbrands Tenderpress Silicone Meat Tenderizer: $21.99
. . Amazon.ca Amazon.com
  • Vollrath Cast Aluminum Meat Tenderizer w/ Hickory Handle: $20.75
. . Amazon.com

(Note: prices listed above are approximate and in Canadian dollars)

  Look for these specialty food preparation tools at your local cookware supply store.

Tenderizing Test

  • The Norpro requires a pressing motion. It worked well for smaller pieces of meat. We liked that it had reversible heads, and that it could be unscrewed and stored flat.

  • The Fusionbrands Tenderpress was awkward to use, especially for people with large hands. It required you to press down rather than using a hammer motion. We felt it would work better as a body massager!

  • The wooden mallet was to sharp and went through the plastic, which was unsanitary, especially since wood can harbour bacteria. It also felt too light.

  • The Vollrath hammer had good heft to it, requiring less physical work due to its nice, balanced weight.

OUR TOP PICK

Even though the Vollrath was the biggest of our tenderizing tools and so requires a lot of storage space, we all liked they way it performed compared to the other three options.

(Look for the Vollrath tenderizer at your local cookware supply store. If they don’t have it, ask if it can be ordered in.)

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