Sodium bicarbonate (otherwise known as baking soda) has been used in cooking and baking for centuries. The powder acts as a leavening agent, helping your favorite baked goods to rise and become fluffy. 

In cooking, baking soda also stands in as a crispy coating on seared chicken. This is not all, though. Baking soda is also a great thing to have because it can tenderize your favorite slab of meat. 

Want to learn how? Put on your lab coats as Break Thru Kitchen analyzes the science of tenderizing meat with baking soda. 

The importance of tenderizing meat

But first, what is the purpose of tenderizing meat in the first place? For starters, not all meat needs to be tenderized in the first place.

See, some meats are already tender enough for consumption, whereas others are not. This tenderizing process helps to aid consumers in the chewing and consumption process. 

The amount of density in a meat determines if it should be tenderized or not. Other factors play into that analysis as well including muscle fibers, cartilage and collagen in that specific kind of meat. 

The science behind baking soda

So how does this work? Well, when tenderizing a piece of meat, collagen fibers will loosen up and eventually break down. Once this happens, it will be much easier to eat that piece of meat.  This process is crucial to consumption.   

I can hear you asking,  “so what does baking soda have to do with all of this?” Well, baking soda is actually a great tool to break down large kinds of meats. 

Let’s take steak for example. Some thick cuts of steak can be too chewy to eat properly. In turn, this affects digestion or could cause you to choke when swallowing. This is where the beloved baking soda comes in. 

Two things happen during this chemical process. First, the baking soda will aid in raising the pH levels in your steak. When this happens, the muscle fibers and connective tissue will begin to break down. 

Next, the baking soda will draw out moisture from the steak. This helps it to cook thoroughly and break down even more of those muscle fibers and connective tissue. 

How does it work?

Food content writer Michael Jenkins follows this up on his website “Table STL”. When doing so, he takes a deep dive into the chemical reaction that occurs when you use baking soda to tenderize meat. 

The chemical reaction that occurs between baking soda and meat is called alkaline hydrolysis. The baking soda’s alkalinity causes the protein molecules in the meat to break down into amino acids, which are more easily absorbed by the body. This process also softens the meat’s texture and makes it easier to chew.

Michael Jenkins / Table STL

Now that we know why baking soda works, it is time to put it to the test. Here is how to tenderize your favorite piece of meat with baking soda! 

How to tenderize meat with baking soda

Let us preface first that large cuts of meat should be handled differently during this process than with smaller cuts. This is because smaller cuts of meat are more delicate and will get mushy faster with this method. 

First, pre-measure your baking soda. A 4-pound steak should use around 60 ounces of baking soda. Then rub the baking soda on the outside of the piece of meat. Place your piece of meat inside of a zip bag and place in the fridge for at least 3 hours. 

Voila! You have successfully tenderized a piece of meat! 

What is your favorite way to use baking soda in the kitchen? Let us know in the comments!