Many remember when they were a kid helping Mom to prepare a meal by getting the wonderful opportunity to take a mallet (unbeknownst to us at the time that it was a meat tenderizing tool) with these pointy little teeth on them and then being allowed to just whack the dickens out of a piece of meat. Not just allowed, but actually encouraged to do so! What a treat that was, although we often didn't know why we would get the chance to do it sometimes, but not every time, Mom was cooking meat. Well, know we know.
With tough economic times, it is not unusual for families to gravitate towards the cheaper, but tougher, pieces of meat to continue to provide protein in the family diet. Without a meat tenderizer method, some of these cuts, no matter how well they are prepared, just wind up like shoe leather. Very long ago, someone discovered a trick to avoid this, and that trick was to help to break down the membranes in the meat prior to cooking - enter the meat tenderizer tool.
A very simple, yet practical, solution for converting a tough cut of meat into a tender tasty entree, a meat tenderizer is inexpensive, doesn't take long to use in the preparation of the meat, and allows for wonderful flavors to be added by the use of marinades or additional seasonings. For all intent and purposes, there are three different primary styles of a meat tenderizer tool (outside of professional cubing machines used by your butcher):
1 Hammer or Mallet Style
Often made of wood or metal, the hammer or mallet style of meat tenderizer tool works much like pounding a nail where one will strike the meat with the hammer or mallet in one spot a number of times until that area softens and the membranes break down, One then simply moves to another area and repeats the process over again.
2 Hand Masher Style
Although physically configured differently from the hammer or mallet style, this upright designed meat tenderizer tool operates in the same fashion as described above by repeatedly striking the meat until the membranes break down.
3 Blade Style
Somewhat harder to describe with words, this style of meat tenderizer tool works kind of like a punch press where the blades extend through a footing on the tool after pressure is applied downward on the handle portion. This downward pressure forces a number of blades into the meat penetrating the meat and cutting the membranes to tenderize the meat.
Known for significantly improving the texture and flavor of the meats prepared by tenderizing before cooking, the use of a meat tenderizer tool is actually required for the preparation of such entrees like schnitzel or chicken fried steak as the meats for these recipes must be "pounded out" into thin sections prior to preparation. Most often used on beef, pork, and venison, the use of this tenderizer tool is not limited to these meats as one can use this tool on poultry and fish as well. A wonderful tool in its own right, the ability to work seasonings and marinades into the meat should not be underestimated either, for short of a dry rub, it is hard to think of another method that works better.
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