Ever tried baking soda as meat tenderizer? | casaveneracion.com

Ever tried baking soda as meat tenderizer?

I’ve heard my father say that papaya leaves are natural meat tenderizers. I tried it once, it didn’t work and I never tried again. I never was able to find out if it was just a myth or whether I didn’t pound the leaves sufficiently to extract the juices. At any rate, I really didn’t see any reason to use meat tenderizers so long as I chose my meat with care. But there was a discussion recently about adding baking soda to meat to tenderize it. It’s something I’ve heard and read before but never tried until early in January 2012. And it really works.

However, there is the matter of aftertaste. Use too much baking soda and the cooked meat reeks of baking soda. Use too little baking soda and you won’t get the tenderizing effect. Based on a reader’s comment (which you will find below because this post is an update of the baking-soda-as-meat-tenderizer cooking tip published on January 12, 2009), the ratio of 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to 500 to 600 grams of meat seems to indeed be the ideal. But if, like me, your taste buds have developed a high level of sensitivity (too many years of cooking), it is likely that you will still be able to discern the presence of baking soda in the meat. Not to worry, though, because there is a solution.

Here’s how to use baking soda as meat tenderizer:

1. Cut the meat (beef, in this case) into the desired size first. If you intend to use the meat to make a stir fry, for instance, cut across the grain into strips. Why not cut later? Because after treating it with the baking soda solution, the meat will be so tender it might break apart during cutting. So, just to be on the safe side, cut the meat first.

2. Working with the ratio of 1/2 teaspoonful of baking soda for every 500 to 600 grams of meat, prepare twice as much lemon juice or lime juice as the baking soda. To make that even easier to understand, if you have 500 to 600 grams of meat, you need 1/2 teaspoonful of baking soda and 1 teaspoonful of lemon or lime juice.

3. Dissolve the baking soda in the lemon or lime juice (it will fizzle!).

4. Pour the mixture over the meat and mix well with your hands. If you’re adding more seasonings to the meat, add them at this point and mix thoroughly.

5. Place the meat in a covered container and place in the fridge for at least two hours.

6. Stir fry the meat and worry no more about the baking soda aftertaste. The lemon or lime juice neutralizes it quite effectively.

Stir-fried beef tenderized with baking soda, Chinese style

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The Author

Hello, my name is Connie Veneracion. I cook, I shoot, I write. But I don't do the laundry. I don't like housekeeping very much either... (more about me)

39 Responses

  1. peterb says:

    Hi Connie,

    I’ve tried this before and like you was not able to get the correct proportions. I’m not sure, but i think i got this idea way back when the Pinoycook forum was still active or the comments section way back. I haven’t tried it again, it’s been more than a year already. Sayang kasi, i hardly could eat what i did before…in my case i added too much and couldn’t mask the flavor already. The many uses of baking soda!

  2. susan fabia says:

    happy new year connie!

    at what point did you add salt or pepper or other seasoning to your meat…together with the baking soda, or after several hours/overnight?

    thank you for the wonderful tip!

  3. Bernice says:

    I took a class on dimsum dishes and this is what they add to the spareribs in “steamed spareribs” which is why the ribs look kinda pale and are very tender and less greasy.

  4. Connie says:

    peterb, and there’s a flour-y sensation in the mouth when there’s too much baking soda.

    Susan, I added seasonings after, about 10 minutes before stir frying the beef.

    Bernice, any tips on the proportions? How much baking soda per kilo or half kilo of meat?

    • Lia says:

      I found an old traditional chinese recipe for beef steak which uses baking soda to tenderize. The recipe calls for 600 gms of beef tenderloin and 1/2 tsp of baking soda. The baking soda is mixed with the marinade of 2TB light soy sauce, 3TB corn starch, 1/2 c water and 3 TB sesame oil. I’ve tried it many times and it always tenderizes the beef wonderfully – just like in the Chinese restaurants. The Chinese bbq sauce for the beef steak is a mixture of ketchup, worcestershire sauce, water, sugar, chinese cooking wine, cornstarch paste (to thicken the sauce), soy sauce, salt and pepper.

      • Ross Reid says:

        I have heard of using baking soda for tenderizing meat but, in this case I really can’t see using it on beef tenderloin. That stuff is already melt in your mouth tender. Try it on top round or some other tough cut.

  5. brenda says:

    I’ve heard about this but havent really tried it. So just for clarification Connie, you don’t wash the baking soda off the meat before cooking after storing it for several hours?

    Kung wala akong pressure cooker pwede kayo to sa nilagang baka?

  6. Maricel says:

    The proportion is 1 tsp baking soda for 1 kilo of meat. I read somewhere that baking soda tenderizes food but the trade off is that it decreases the nutritional value of the food.
    The juice extracted from shredded green papaya also works wonders. Just be sure to dip the meat in the juice only a few minutes before cooking. I once marinated tapa with the papaya juice, when I fried the tapa, it literally turned into paste.

  7. Connie says:

    Brenda, the baking soda will the absorbed by the meat so you really can’t wash it off. I know it’s a technique used to make inexpensive cuts of meat okay for stir fries. Am not sure with larger cuts.

    Maricel, green papaya? The fruit, not the leaves then? I can make achara with the papaya and use the juice as tenderizer.

  8. Nikita says:

    Is it correct that this is only for beef that will be stir-fried?

  9. Connie says:

    Well, so far that’s what I tried it for. Will post results once I’ve tried it with stewing beef.

  10. ponchit says:

    make sure you wash the meat before you cook because the excess baking soda will react to any acid that you add to the dish and it will taste like firing a fire extinguisher into your mouth.

    Many chinese restaurants use baking soda extensively in meats and also to make vegetables green.

    I remember making bistek pilipino with baking soda. as soon as a added calamansi juice…… DISASTRO

  11. ponchit says:

    This technique is best for stir fries and other quick cooking dishes. About meat tenderizers. There are two basic ingredients to meat tenderizers. papaine from papaya and bromelian from pineapples. papaine is very common and effective. Kaya nga may Tinolang manok whick is actually the rooster that lost in the cockfights hence tinola from the word tinalo or looser. These roosters are quite tough and with the addition of papaya they get tenderized. You can score the skin of a green papaya and use the milk. A word of coution be sure to consume the meat rigjt after cooking as some of the papaine does tenderize even after the meat is cooked.

  12. beth sanchez says:

    hi,connie!!!! try using baking soda when making lechon kawali and fried chicken.same friend of mine who advised me to use baking soda on crispy pata said that it also works wonders for d 2 food items that i mentioned.

    i did try it with d crispy pata, WITH SUPER EXTRA CAUTION!!!!(remember my burn marks story?),lechon kawali and fried chicken.added just a teaspoon of baking soda while boiling d pata,lechon kawali and d chicken prior to frying.d meat did come out tender,d skin crispy.

    thanks again,connie!!!!!

  13. soloops says:

    wow, so the juice from papaya and baking soda really works? To think that I rejoiced when I chanced upon Mccormick’s powdered tenderizer.

    Re: papaya juice-perhaps this is why when I cook ginataang chicken with green papaya, the chicken becomes so soft, too soft actually.

    A friend of mine used to mix peanut butter into BBQ marinade, as tenderizer.

    • potpot says:

      peanut butter is a myth. the bottled meat tenderizer actually has bromelain in it. you can check the ingredients. try soaking the meat in pineapple juice (without the baking soda, malamang) before frying pork chop. the pineapple juice is mild and doesn’t overwhelm the taste of the dish.

      that’s why adobo with pineapple works great.

      • John Orford says:

        I suspect the true native papaya is the one that will tenderise meat. If you were using Del Monte’s money-maker, it might not do the job.

  14. Maria says:

    I still say papaya leaves mashed and left for certain period – is effective as a natural tenderizer.

    ohter fruits that can do as well are pineapple & Kiwi.

    Yogurt or buttermilk (good for chicken) You get a moist tender chicken. Flavour the yogurt or butter milk with dried onions & garlic & paprika. Later remove the marinade, dip the chicken in flour and eggwash, then in seasoned flour & fry.

    You could even try whole milk. In fact I use milk to remove blood from liver.

  15. Mananya says:

    Kiwi works, too. Kiwis have natural enzymes to break down meat.

  16. mike says:

    Baking soda does wonders:

    The amount to use for tenderizing meat or degas beans:

    Usual and normal amount usually adds up to 1/16th the of a tea spoon. however if you are looking for exact amount you should know this trick:

    Start adding about 1/16th of of a teaspoon; the meat or beans will start foaming; keep adding until the foaming stops.

    As rule of thumb, you have to remember that if you ad too much baking soda, it may change the taste of your food so always remember not to exceed more than 1/8th to 1/4th of a teaspoon
    per 1 gallon (3.78 Lit) volume of food.

    Another point to consider is that if the food is hot rather than cold, the baking soda will foam more; so it kind of depends on the temperature as well.

  17. carmen says:

    What helpful ideas! Baking soda I always have in the cupboard, and yes, also have a 1/8th measuring teaspoon for salt-sensitive dishes for my husband. Thanks for sharing, Connie!

  18. Bart says:

    I use kitchen Banquet rub all over it and let it sit outside refer for 3 hours prior to BBQ or oven — its the the stuff for gravys it seals the juice.. thus the juice makes it tendor works each time provided you cook no more than med rare.. the best tastes come from cheaper beef cuts.. I always buy flap meat or equal this makes NY steaks or strip steak at Costco taste you would die for. I buy slabs and cut nyself to thickness I like about 2inch. Same as Rib slabs-

    One other note is before cooking about hour I beat my meat give it a nice firm massage– that breaks the cels down and becomes very tendor.

    • Carol says:

      Try brining your turkey in baking soda for a tender turkey. Just add baking soda, lemon juice and other spices, such as sage, thyme, pepper, etc. and soak overnight. Rinse then season with William Sonoma turkey seasoning and base with olive oil. Turkey is very tender

  19. ponchit says:

    bromelain is the prefered tenderizer , papain is also used in some commercial tenderizing products…..thats why we put papaya in our Tinola to tenderize it…..Tinola comes from the word Tinalo or loser in the game of Sabong…these roosters are usualy tough..adding papaya tenderizes them I guess. The leaves work well too but you have to put a lot. If you want it to be really effectine add the skins….just take them of later….

    One last thing….make sure you boil them a long time because the papain continues to work if not boiled enough and you will end up with mushy meat

  20. nyxpooka says:

    After 20+ years of cooking, I am amazed that I never heard of the baking soda trick. I found it on another site and the author says to use 1 tsp bk soda, 1 tsp corn starch and 1/2 tsp rice wine and leave it on for 15-20 minutes only and then rinse off thoroughly. My thought is that the acid in the rice wine cuts the strength of the baking powder somewhat and the cornstarch keeps it from totally coating the meat and making the surface too “weird”….just a thought from a newbie! It got some great reviews anyway!

  21. maria peras says:

    Hi Connie,

    Can I cook the meat after treating with baking soda right away? Thanks and more power.

  22. Carl McNeill says:

    Does this work on chicken as well?

  23. ry santi says:

    Hi Ms. Connie!

    is it okay to add baking soda in my pork bbq marinade overnight? or should i add it just before grilling? thanks in advance!

  24. rcary says:

    So simple, I use cornstarch on pheasants which are very tough. I cut the bird up, & mix up cornstarch in a cup with COLD water. stir to a slurry like gravy. Pour into bowl with the meat & message it well with your hands for 5 minutes, let sit in bowl for 15 minutes on countertop. Rinse off the cornstarch very well ( the sink sprayer works well ) Flour the meat & fry like you would normal. If it works this well on pheasant it will work on any tough meats. Very important to rinse the cornstarch off good before continuing on to the cooking method you will use. THIS WORKS!

  25. WASIM says:

    We use pawpaw from generation as a tenderizer, use only green pawpaw, while buying check with the nail of your finger or a tip of knife from shopkeeper. make small just a pin size hole on pawpaw ( you find a milk is coming out of pawpaw, that is best for tenderizer , and natural as well instead of using chemically tenderizer.

    Good luck.


  26. Tony Gibson says:

    I haven’t heard of using the leaves as a tenderizer, but the skin of the papaya has a lot of a substance called Papain, which is the tenderizer. Cut off the skin with about half an inch of flesh. Chop it up and pulp it using a blender. When it’s sufficiently pulped, add some salt, but not too much, spread the paste on your meat and leave it to tenderize.

  27. Sam says:

    Greetings from India!

    Perhaps you ought to try raw papaya pulp as a meat tenderizer. In fact, that’s what we use in India for red meats. Mix it with a medium-viscous paste of ginger and garlic in the 1.5:1 ratio and rub it into the meat along with salt and pepper. That’s the basic marinade we use. Then, depending on what the recipe is intended to be, we may add other ingredients.

    Thank you,

  28. Shai says:

    Hello Connie,

    Do you think this technique will work with your Beef with Broccoli recipe? Thank you so much!!

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