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Rex Stout has a recipe for "Broiled Georgia Ham" where the ham is soaked in milk for an hour. Elsewhere I have read that you can soak chicken livers in milk before sautéing them.

Having read a little, it seems that this is done to tenderize the meat and I'm tempted to experiment by making meat loaf with milk soaked ground beef.

Before I set about ruining tomorrow's dinner I'd like to ask if anyone knows already what the outcome of this experiment might be.

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Bolognese sauce, at least the classic Italian version, has milk added towards the end of stewing, and as Elendil mentioned, soaked bread in meatloaf or meatballs, and there's plenty of meatball-in-cream-sauce type dishes; I just can't think of any that call for pre-soaking ground beef in milk before cooking; If cooked over high heat, I'd assume the sugars from the milk would carmelize, but the extra moisture might steam the meat ... I have no clue what it'd do to a meatloaf. –  Joe Feb 1 '11 at 22:24
    
I adore Rex Stout, but always assumed that the dishes he uses are only the most impossible figments of his imagination, only used to emphasize how much Nero Wolfe is different from mere mortals. As for the milk, I have never seen it used for soaking meat, but when boiling potatoes, adding some lemon juice to the water makes them very soft and easy to mash, while adding milk makes the flavor milder, but they get harder and slicker, you cannot mash them. I don't know if it has the same effect on meat, but using an acid to make meat more tender is usual, so maybe milk is not so good an idea. –  rumtscho Feb 1 '11 at 23:11
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If this is an old recipe, it could be the ham was more like salted pork, where you needed to soak to decrease the salt concentration? –  J. Winchester Feb 2 '11 at 0:29
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3 Answers

It is quite common to make meat loaf with milk-soaked cubes of bread, but I've never heard of tenderising meat with it. Having said that, some kind of fat is common for marinades (yoghurt for example), so it might work. I'd try it with full cream milk, not half-and-half.

I think the reason for soaking liver in milk is to make the taste milder, as lamb, pork and cow liver can be quite strong tasting.

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I believe milk helps to absorb strong flavor from meat. It may also impart a pleasant flavor of its own, but I have not been able to discern this. I have never heard that it can tenderize meat, and cannot think of an explanation that would support this.

I have used milk to soak organ meat before cooking (beef kidney).

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Not sure how much lactic acid is in non-sour milk, but that would help in a tenderizing - seems like not as much as other things, though, that are more used, and more acidic. –  zanlok Feb 2 '11 at 1:10
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Maybe the purpose of soaking the ham in a cup of milk for an hour is to flavor the milk, which is then used as an element of the sauce that's included in the recipe.

Soaking chicken livers in milk is for drawing out the bad smell.

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An interesting idea, except that the milk isn't used for the sauce in the Georgia Ham recipe. –  Chris Steinbach Feb 2 '11 at 20:03
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