How to Make Your Meat Tender & Moist

Tenderizing meat
A chef tenderizes the meat before cooking it. (Image: hemeroskopion/iStock/Getty Images)

Moist, tender meat is as much a matter of timing as it is of proper prep work and cooking method. Even the most tender cut of meat will dry out and get tough if it is overcooked or prepared using the wrong method. Some cuts, like chuck mock steak and flank steak, come out perfectly moist and tender when braised, though cooking in liquid for a long time would ruin a filet mignon. Making tender steaks and cooking moist roasts is not difficult once you understand why different cuts of meat require different types of handling.

Step 1

Tenderize your meat before cooking it. Pound it gently with a meat mallet or score it with a hand-held tenderizer. The latter resembles a very long-toothed comb. In both cases, the purpose is to break the tough muscle fibers that hold the meat together. Breaking these down is what makes meat tender. Tender meat cooks faster, meaning it is less likely to dry out.

Step 2

Marinate your meat for 2 hours to overnight to tenderize it. The acids in a good marinade help to break down the collagen between the muscle fibers, turning it to soft gelatin. Marinating also adds moisture to meat, helping to keep it juicy.

Step 3

Use the appropriate cooking method. Tender cuts of meat can be pan-seared, broiled or grilled; very tough cuts of meat like flank steak and cube steak need to be braised. Braising involves cooking the meat for a very long time in a liquid like broth, water or wine, which adds moisture.

Step 4

Keep your eye on the time. Meat continues to cook for a few minutes after you remove it from the heat; its internal temperature can rise as much as 5 to 10 degrees. The difference between a tender cut of meat at 150 F and 160 F is the difference between barely medium and almost well-done.

Step 5

Get an accurate reading on the level of doneness. Meat can turn brown before it reaches a safe temperature and it can also stay pink well after it has reached its peak of tenderness. Insert an instant-read thermometer into the thickest part of the meat to get an accurate reading. Beef is safe to eat at 145 F and begins to get tough at temperatures higher than 170 F.

Things You'll Need

  • Mallet or tenderizer

  • Marinade

  • Timer

  • Instant-read thermometer

Tip

Learn which cuts of meat require which method of cooking so you’ll always know the best way to prepare them.

Warning

Never leave meat marinating on the counter overnight or bacteria could develop.

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