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I was recently reading a cooking manga named Shokugeki no Soma, in which the protagonist uses unconventional methods to cook specific dishes. In one chapter, he uses honey specifically to tenderize meat in a short amount of time. Here's the chapter page specifically:

enter image description here

I tried it for myself but can't seem to replicate the same thing he's done, if anything the beef remained relatively hard, and not soft as the manga describes. While some scenes are somewhat outlandish there is a certain truth to most of the cooking terms thrown around in the manga, so I'm curious: does honey actually contain proteases that tenderize meat quickly?

This article on LIVESTRONG.com seems to support the other fact in the same page which claims that pineapple can be used to tenderize meat, but it doesn't make any reference to honey at all.

If you're curious, this is the anime version of it:

https://youtu.be/5GCUzTyp9sE?t=6m36s

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    Professor Google reports "Fresh Pineapple Juice contains an enzyme bromelain, which is a natural meat tenderizer. It is used in many commercial meat tenderizers. This enzyme is destroyed in the canning process, so canned Pineapple Juice won't work." – Optionparty Jan 27 '16 at 15:20
  • The acidity of pineapple is enough to tenderize. Bromelian also tenderizes and very effectively, but it's not the only tenderizing agent in pineapple. – Escoce Jan 27 '16 at 16:02
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    A note to anybody (like myself) not very familiar with manga: the panels are apparently meant to be read right-to-left. Not that answers to the question are dependent on the story, but this does help make more sense of the fictional chef's claims about honey. – logophobe Jan 27 '16 at 20:30
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    It would be atypical for that manga to present a false fact - most of the methods and ingredients described in it are accurate, albeit overdramatized; also one of the storywriters is a professional chef. – rackandboneman Jun 4 '17 at 0:05
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Based on the description given in the manga (specifically "I rubbed it on the meat before boiling" [emphasis mine]) I would guess that this is not actually an effect of tenderization at all. Instead, the effect is possibly closer to that of velveting.

The velveting technique is typically done with a thin coating of corn starch, and my working theory is that this seals in the natural juices of the meat while preventing the outer layers from drying out. Being thick and viscous, honey might have much the same effect. As a result, the final product seems more tender, but that's just because it's been more delicately cooked - not due to any special tenderizing power of the honey itself.

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Honey is not a tenderizer, pineapple juice is. It's the acidity of the pineapple juice.

Honey has a low pH but it is far too viscous to penetrate pores.

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    I was under the impression that it's not just the acidity, it's the protease enzymes in the pinapple: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bromelain#Meat_tenderizing_and_other_uses It's potent enough to use on its own, without the acidity. (You sort of said this in a comment, so I think maybe it's just an accidental overstatement in the answer?) – Cascabel Jan 27 '16 at 21:33
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It's possible that a specific variety of honey may contain enzymes that would tenderise meat, but standard commercial honey would act as a preservative.

  • How do you know that there aren't enzymes which are present in all honey? Is it because you think they're denatured by heat processing in commercial honey? – Cascabel Jan 27 '16 at 21:31
  • There are enzymes present in all raw honey, but I was thinking of the difference between honey derived from, for example, sage blossom and that derived from manuka. Different pollens create different honey – user42902 Jan 27 '16 at 22:21
  • Sure, I know there are differences (mostly fragrance, as far as I know), I'm asking why you think that the enzymes in question are one of those differences. – Cascabel Jan 27 '16 at 22:25
  • Only because of something I half remember regarding the more specialised bee-keeping practiced in Japan. I'm also pretty sure that the Asian bee produces different enzymes in the digestive process than the European honey bee. I'm simply saying that it's possible to create specialised honey, like manuka, which is purely medicinal in use as it tastes like reduced sarsaparilla – user42902 Jan 28 '16 at 8:08
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Yes, it will work by osmosis, but not very well, and very slowly. It will take lots of time, just like salt does. You tenderise by either adding enzymes (which honey does not have, because it is very pure without any proteins or fats, energy storages of bees) or activating enzymes...like salt does by breaking cell walls or getting fluids between the cells. Honey does that as well, but not as effective. Acidity will also destroy cells and activate enzymes (or inhibit the destruction of other enzymes) and tenderise, but that is not an enzyme reaction.

Time and salt are your best options. Acids and plant enzymes will mainly work on the surface, and likely mush up your meat.

http://www.beefresearch.org/CMDocs/BeefResearch/PE_Fact_Sheets/Adding_Enzymes_to_Improve_Beef_Tenderness.pdf

https://www.reddit.com/r/askscience/comments/330c7a/does_honey_contain_protease/

http://www.seriouseats.com/2011/03/the-food-lab-more-tips-for-perfect-steaks.html

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    Honey is certainly not pure sugar. Pure sugar is ... sugar. Honey contains all sorts of things. – Joe M Jan 27 '16 at 18:04
  • Honey is more than 96 percent glucose and fructose , and these are sugars.Sugar loosely refers to carbohydrates, monosaccharides, disaccharides, or oligosaccharides. So yes, it is sugar. But i see the confusion with "refined sugar". I meant it was pure in sugarish chemical substances, I edited it towards that. – Marc Luxen Jan 27 '16 at 19:06
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    And no, honey does not contain much of all kind of things. It is essentially very pure sucrose and fructose. With some water and minerals, and very, very few proteins that could act as enzyms. Why would bees put many things in it, if it is just to store energy to get through the winter? Traces of substances, sure, but so minute and non-protein based they are irrelevant in tenderising meat. Only osmosis. – Marc Luxen Jan 27 '16 at 19:06
  • ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492327 for example. Honey contains proteolytic enzymes not because bees "put things in it", they're not scientists; it contains them because they're part of the bees' digestive system. – Joe M Jan 27 '16 at 19:15
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    "Proteases are used to produce proteins, which are in turn used to construct enzymes." No - enzymes are a specific kind of protein (well, some of them are RNA, but nearly all are proteins), and proteases are a specific kind of enzyme (they break up proteins, which means they do have an effect on meat). – Cascabel Jan 27 '16 at 21:19

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