Tender is the name of the game when it comes to cooking damn delicious meat, but achieving that succulent texture isn't always easy.
Thanks to the folks over at Cook's Illustrated, though, we now know there's a simple, foolproof trick to take when tackling meat tenderness... and it's something that everyone has in their kitchen, whether you're a gourmand or not.
Meat heads, meet baking soda.
According to Cook's Illustrated, soaking the meat in a solution of baking soda and water for a brief period of time raises the pH on the meat's surface. This increase in alkalinity makes it harder for heat to denature the meat's proteins—which is responsible for the toughness of meat when cooking.
In layman's terms, adding baking soda to your meat shields its surface from high heat, which normally causes the meat to become overly tough. Ta-dah!
Cook's Illustrated suggests 15-20 minutes of soak time for thinner cuts of meat. Apparently, the acid/base reaction happens quickly and does not build much over time: they conducted a test in which meats were soaked for both 15 and 45 minutes and found no marked difference between the two.
This is good news for folks that don't like to wait long for tender meat... and even better news for those of you that tend to get distracted in the middle of cooking. ("I'll just check Facebook on my phone real quick... aaand now it's 45 minutes later.")
Cook's Illustrated uses ¼ teaspoon per 12 ounces of ground beef and 1 teaspoon per 12 ounces of sliced chicken breast and pork.
But if you're interested in cooking a big ol' steak (and who isn't?), the folks at Tasting Table don't use a measured amount; they just thoroughly rub the meat with baking soda and allow it to rest in the fridge.
Whether you go big or go small, make sure to thoroughly rinse all of the baking soda off before cooking, or you'll be left with some weirdly-textured, salty meat. (Ew.)
So give baking soda a try the next time you've got meat on the menu—it's an easy hack that will improve the texture of just about anything that you've got cooking.
Have you made any meat dishes using baking soda beforehand? Share them with us in the comments below!