Meat tenderizers are absolutely necessary when dealing with leaner, tougher cuts like flank or skirt steaks. And while fruit like papaya, kiwi, and pineapple contain enzymes that can tenderize meat, the results can be hit-or-miss, and impart a fruity flavor that you may not always want.
Now, you can tenderize meat a number of ways. However, you get more consistent results with far less effort when you use a tool beloved by professional butchers and chefs—the Jaccard meat tenderizer—which makes cheap cuts of meat taste like expensive ones.
This gadget contains either 45 or 48 stainless steel blades that pierce the meat, breaking down the connective tissue and making it tender. Unlike more physically demanding methods, there's no danger of overworking the meat until it's mushy, and there's less shrinkage when cooking. It works great on pork, beef, chicken, lamb—any animal protein, really.
Plus, it's easy as hell. You just stamp the Jaccard all over the surface of the meat on every side and you're good to go.
The blades are attached to a removable cartridge, so you can disassemble it and pop the parts in the dishwasher to make sure it's really clean, or buy a replacement cartridge if they ever start to dull. White models require a screwdriver for full disassembly, though they don't need to be taken apart for general cleaning; black models come apart easily without any tools.
An advantage of the Jaccard over more traditional meat mallets is that they allow marinades, spice rubs, and brines to actually penetrate into and flavor the meat rather than just sitting on the surface. It only takes about five minutes for absorption, so if you forgot to marinate your meat beforehand, this makes it easy to get good flavor without hours of soaking.
Another huge benefit: it cuts down on cooking time by up to 40 percent, since heat can flow through all of the little holes.
- 45-Blade Meat Maximizer / ABS Columns (normally $24)
- 45-Blade Meat Maximizer / Stainless Steel Columns (normally $30)
- 48-Blade Super Meat Tenderizer / Stainless Steel Columns (around $20)
There are 15 and 16 blade models, but for the cost difference, you're better off getting a bigger one that makes sure you cover the whole surface of the meat. If you own a restaurant, there are even commercial versions available (for a hefty price) that are mesmerizing to watch in action.
However, there's one thing the Jaccard can't do, and that's make meat flatter and thinner for dishes like chicken-fried steak. For that, you'll have to rely on more old-fashioned methods, like a small, heavy skillet wrapped in plastic or a meat pounder. Of course, you can still use the Jaccard afterward.
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