3 Quick Ways To Make Beef Tender

Learn to cook beef until fork-tender quickly.

IMAGE Bianca Laxamana

Tough cuts of meat are much more affordable but can be hard to chew if not cooked right. Whether you're cooking beef chunks or bulalo, these cuts of beef need to be cooked until these are tender so you don't have to fight with your food just to chew and eat it properly. 

However, when it comes to beef, these are notoriously tough. Even the most tender of cuts can be cooked wrong and wind up being chewier than your teeth (and jaw!) can handle.

The good news is that there are ways to ensure that your beef is always tender. You don't have to go out and use a chemical meat tenderizer if you don't have it. In fact, you can use everyday ingredients, an inexpensive kitchen gadget, or special pots to ensure that every piece of beef you eat is fork-tender each time you cook it.  

If you're tired of trying to eat hard-to-chew beef chunks or just don't have enough time to babysit a pot for hours just to tenderize your dish, here are how to cook beef until fork-tender quickly: 

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Use this metal meat mallet to pound meat thinly for faster cooking.
Photo from Lazada

1 Pound it with a meat mallet. 

When it comes to meat, thick cuts of meat will always be chewer than thin slices. That's why you can use an aluminum meat mallet (P99) like this one to pound meat thinly. The meat mallet has two sides to the head. There is the flat side used to pound the meat thinner but there is a textured side, one with what looks like spikes on the other, too.

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This textured side is responsible for tenderizing the meat. These little points will break down the connective tissues of the meat even before you start cooking it. The more you pound, the more tender that meat will be once you cook it. However, be careful. You can over tenderize meat to the point that it will fall apart when cooked. Once you have tenderized your meat, use the flat side to pound the meat evenly and as thinly as you desire. 

Photo by Bianca Laxamana

2 Marinate using acidic ingredients. 

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Acidic ingredients such as vinegar, citrus juices, and even fruit enzymes in marinades can help break down the meat strands, too. What's so great about marinades that contain acidic ingredients is that not only will these mixtures tenderize your meat, but it will impart a ton of flavor while doing it, too. 

Fruit enzymes like papain in papaya and bromelain in pineapples meanwhile will do the same thing as citrus juices from lemons, calamansi, and limes. The citric acid in soda that you use in your Pinoy pork barbecue marinade does the same thing as these juices! 

Photo by Dairy Darilag

3 Use a pressure cooker or slow cooker.  

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Time and effort can be the bane of anyone who is short on time or are too tired to do more than putting food in a pot and turning on the stove. 

There are special pots, though, to make sure that any meat you put in your dish will emerge fork-tender. There are two kinds of pots that fulfill your requirements: the pressure cooker and the slow cooker.

The pressure cooker is a special pot that you can use on the stovetop, and it can tenderize meats as fast as cutting half the normal tenderizing time. The way that a pressure cooker works is that water, when simmering, produces steam. This steam creates pressure when contained in a tightly closed pot and its this steam pressure that tenderizes the meat. The pot itself is capable of withstanding this pressure while any excess whistles out of the vent that's on the lids of these specialized pots. The downside of this pot is that you need to keep watch over the pot while it does its job. 

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The slow cooker meanwhile is literally what it means: it slow cooks your food. Time is your friend in this case, since the slow cooker uses a temperature-controlled heating element to make sure that your food is cooking at a gentle heat in as little time as one hour to as much as overnight or 8 hours. Some units can even go for longer. 

What's important to note for both of these kitchen appliances is that both need to contain lots of water to work safely and properly. These work at either a high temperature or for long cooking times and both work its best when the dish has enough water to work with. Don't worry though. Any excess water your dish may have can easily be reduced and will evaporate if simmered once your meat is cooked. 

Choose a method and see if you can apply it any of these recipes: 

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