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How to Tenderize Meat with Baking Soda

Tenderizing meat is a great trick to improve every meat dish you prepare. And there’s a simple trick that can help! You just need to know how to tenderize meat using baking soda.

Sliced steak on cutting board sprinkled with herbs and peppercorns

Why Use Baking Soda to Tenderize Meat?

The theory behind most meat tenderizers is to break down the proteins in the connective tissues in meat. For example, a meat mallet literally breaks those fibers and marinades contain ingredients that dissolve them. 

Baking soda works differently. It works through a scientific process known as alkaline cooking.

Applying baking soda creates an alkalinity that raises the pH level of the meat’s surface, making it less acidic. As a result, proteins in the meat change structurally and become more soluble in water.

This increased solubility allows water to enter and bind with the muscle fibers, effectively breaking down tough connective tissues and collagen.

The end result? Meat that not only becomes incredibly tender but also retains more moisture during cooking.

The proteins aren’t able to squeeze together as tightly. This means they don’t squeeze out as much liquid and don’t become as tough when cooked. Your meat stays juicy and tender.

Prep Your Meat

Before using baking soda on your meat, it’s important to prepare it properly. Start by washing the meat with cold water and drying it with a paper towel. This gets rid of any extra liquid or dirt on the surface.

Steps to Tenderizing Meat with Baking Soda

To use baking soda for tenderizing:

  1. Lightly sprinkle baking soda evenly across your piece of meat.
  2. Gently rub the baking soda into the surface of the meat.
  3. Let it sit for about 15-20 minutes for thin cuts; tougher or thicker cuts may benefit from up to several hours.
  4. Thoroughly rinse off the baking soda under cold water.
  5. Pat dry before preparing as desired.

Cooking Tips

Now that your meat is tenderized with baking soda, here are some tips for cooking it just right:

  • Adjust the seasoning: Baking soda can slightly change the taste of the meat, so make sure to adjust your seasonings accordingly.
  • Reduce cooking time: Tenderized meat cooks faster because it’s already soft. Keep an eye on it and shorten the cooking time to avoid overcooking.
  • Try different cooking methods: Experiment with grilling, stir-frying, or broiling to bring out the best flavor and texture in your tenderized meat.

Is this Good for Every Cut of Meat?

It is, but you’ll notice the results more on tougher cuts that have a lot of connective tissues, such as chuck roast, brisket, or flank steak.

Troubleshooting Tips

Although baking soda is an effective method for tenderizing meat, it’s important to be aware of a few precautions:

  • Don’t exceed the recommended tenderizing time: Leaving the baking soda on for too long can give the meat an unpleasant texture.
  • Use sparingly on delicate cuts: Avoid using baking soda on delicate cuts of meats like fish or poultry as they may become too soft or mushy.
  • Be mindful of sodium intake: Baking soda contains sodium, so if you’re watching your sodium intake, consider alternative tenderizing methods.