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.