Ingredients in meat tenderizer

Written by barbara bryant
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Meat tenderizers contain enzymes that "break up the collagen holding [meat's] muscle strands together and 'loosen' or 'relax' the meat's protein molecules," Uncle Ken's Corner Table Restaurant explains. Commercially produced tenderizing powders and the juices of certain fruits and at least one spice contain these enzymes, which can be applied separately or added to marinades. A kitchen tool designed to break down meat tissue can be used as well.


Papain, found in papaya, is the enzyme most frequently used in powdered tenderizer products. It's sprinkled on the meat before cooking. Alternatives include bromelain, found in pineapple, and actinidin, from kiwi fruit. Figs contain a suitable enzyme as well.

These enzymes can also be introduced by soaking the meat for several hours in a flavoured marinade that includes the juice of one of these fruits. Cooking the meat after it's been marinated tenderises it even further.


The juice of acidic fruits, such as lemons, limes, oranges and tomatoes, has a meat-tenderising effect, as do acids in other products such as: white or apple vinegar; milk, buttermilk and cream; cola and lemon-lime sodas; beer, wine, sake and hard liquor.

Other Options

Ginger contains a highly effective tenderising enzyme.

Chinese cooks often coat meat slices with a mixture of baking soda and cornstarch before frying it to soften it up.

For those who want to take matters more into their own hands, pounding raw meat with a meat mallet will also break down its tissue and soften it.

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