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At some Chinese restaurants, I've had beef dishes where the meat was unusually tender. It also has a somewhat unusual texture, which is hard to describe. I understand that this is a result of using baking soda to tenderize the meat.

How should one use baking soda to tenderize meat? And can the technique be applied to other tough meats like chicken or pork?

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5 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Add the baking soda to the cut meat and then wash it off. Measure about a teaspoon in your palm and then sprinkle it over the thinly sliced meat from high up. This way you get a thin layer over all the meat. Wash after some time (you can do it overnight). There is an eHow that you may follow

The baking soda will work like other meat tenderizers, by denaturing the proteins on the surface of the meat, so it should work on pork or chicken as long as the baking soda is on the meat (and not the skin or fat). The tenderizers penetrate the meat very slowly, millimeters per day at refrigerator temperatures, faster at cooking temperatures, so in practice it will only work on thin slices. If you use thicker pieces, you will still change the meat's surface texture.

If you use the baking soda straight into the dish in the same proportion (some people like it this way), adjust your salt accordingly, as the baking soda will make the dish salty.

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Some Chinese restaurants use a powdered form of Papain (found in any Asian grocery store) to tenderize meat.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Papain

Koreans use kiwi fruit. There are other enzyme based methods for tenderizing meat as well.

The problems with the above methods are:

  1. As mentioned, they only tenderize the surface on thick cuts.
  2. On thin cuts, the meat can become mushy.

I've been told that good restaurants tenderize beef as follows:

  1. Buying a more expensive cut. (ok, this isn't really a method. ;-)
  2. Cutting the meat against the grain to severe the collagen/muscly bits.
  3. Pounding on the meat (mechanical)
  4. Choosing the right cooking method. Beef has to either be cooked really fast in dry heat (grill) or really slow in most heat (braise). Anything in the middle will result in meat that's as tough as leather.

I don't think you can tenderize chicken. All you can do it to preserve its moisture (especially breast cuts) by brining it before cooking.

I don't know much about pork.

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I once worked in a Chinese restaurant and we used it for beef only, It was always the same, 1/4 teaspoon baking soda per lb of meat (lean meat, we used top round), tablespoon ShaoXing wine, pinch of salt and clove of garlic mashed. Marinated about 15-20 minutes, then "blanched" in hot oil for about 30 seconds, meat will look horrible after this last step, grey and ugly but when added your stir fry it will be tender and juicy. You can also use the egg white marinade with cornstarch, Shaoxing wine, white pepper, soy sauce...marinade 1/2 hour...blanch in hot oil. We used that marinade on chicken and didn't use that on beef as it does leave a slight coating that was not wanted in beef. As far as the baking soda leaving a taste....I never noticed it as it was not that much. Also when using the baking soda marinade, you should throw the meat into the bowl with force and manipulate it with your hands for a few minutes to activate the process faster, we used to slam it into a large bowl with as much force as we could. The meat will feel slimy, that is normal. Try it and let me know.

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The goal of using Baking Soda in treating meat, generally beef, is one wanted to tenderize cheaper cut of beef such as round steak, for stirfry dishes, e.g., stirfry beef and Chinese Brocoli. Pork and chicken generally are not very tough after cooking hence will not require treatment with meat tenderizer or baking soda.

When round beef was cut in small pieces, not necessary very thin cut, stir fry them would result in very chewy meat because the meat is in contact with oil for very short time. Pre-treatment with baking soda will make the meat very tender after stirfry but the baking soda did leave a strong alkaline taste which is very unpleasant.

So it is very important to adjust the amount of baking soda and the time of exposure of meat to it as well as proper washing of treated meat with fresh water containing some lemon juice or rice vinegar to remove excess baking soda taste is very important. After removal of excess baking soda, the beef will be marinated with spices, oyster sauce, pepper, garlice etc... to enhance the taste of the final product.

Bon Appetit

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The effect of sodium bicarbonate on meat was aimed at making cheap cut (round beef etc...) acceptable for stir fry dishes (e.g., Beef and Chinese broccoli). Round beef even beaten up with a meat tenderizer hammer is still chewy.

Having the round beef sliced thinly help but even with extensive wash out, there still remain an alkaline taste which is overbearing.

I found the following approach worked for me.

Cut the beef thinly then sprayed with sodium bicarbonate generously. Leave in refrigerator overnight. The next morning clean the slices with tap water for at least 15 minutes. Then add to the slice half a cup of vinegar (cheap quality is ok. No need for Kikkomen Rice Vinegar costing as much as a cheap .wine. The vinegar which is acid will interact with residual Sodium Bic .After 15 minutes wash again profusely with tap water The reason that this technique works was because it is very easy to wash out remaining vinegar which interact with the remaining sodium bicarbonate to free CO2 which emerged as tiny bubbles. Since Vinegar can be washed out much faster than sodium bicarbonate that form strong bindings with meat, your thin slices will be tender without alkaline after taste. Voila

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