Marinating the meat is one form of tenderizing the meat. It softens the meat, makes it is easier to cut and juicier to eat. Red meat takes longer time to cook because of higher concentration of muscle fibers. Depending on the cut of the meat, the concentration of tendons and collagen varies. For example, in case of beef - rump, chuck, and brisket are cuts that are tough to break down.
The meat is tenderized in two ways: physical and chemical.
In physical tenderization, the meat is softened by Pounding and Cutting.
A Mallet is used to beat the meat evenly on both sides. This is done to break down the connective tissue and softens the meat. In the absence of a mallet, use a fork to poke the surface of the meat and create the same effect.
With a Knife, make long thin deep cuts across the muscle tissues.
For Chemical Tenderization, ingredients with acidic or enzymatic properties are used to break down the muscle tissues. Vinegar, Lime, or Lemons are the commonly used natural ingredients with acidic properties. While marinating with Vinegar, use 1 tbsp of vinegar for 1 pound of meat. A word of caution here – excess vinegar and marination (more than 2 hours) can toughen the meat.
Commonly used Ingredients with Enzymatic properties are raw papaya pulp, pineapple juice and ginger juice. Use 2 tbsp of raw papaya pulp per pound of meat. Excess use of the ingredient or longer marination(more than 2 hours) will make the meat mushy.
The best tenderizer is the one derived from dairy like Buttermilk or Yoghurt. These mildly acidic ingredients don’t toughen the meat. Instead, it increases the flavor thus allowing longer marinating time.