What’s That Kneading Thing You Do With Meat To Make It Tender?

Welcome to Advice for Impatient Foodies, R29's new cooking column. Each week, our executive food editor and Impatient Foodie founder, Elettra Wiedemann, will tackle any and all questions you might have about food. Seriously, no query is too big or too small. And don't be embarrassed! We've all had moments in the kitchen when we had no idea WTF was going on and wished we could ask someone other than Google for some pointers. So whether you need help frying an egg, knowing when your chicken is done, or deciding what to make for dinner, we've got your back.
What's that kneading thing you do with meat to make it tender? When it comes to cooking, I am all about not doing the things I don't have to do. For me, kneading meat is one of them. I guess the idea behind massaging your meat is that it will help to make the meat more tender, but guess what? You can do that effortlessly — and with better results — by making a marinade and letting the meat sit in it for a few hours or overnight in your refrigerator. The acids in the marinade will help to break down the proteins in the meat, thereby making it more tender. Plus — added bonus — the marinade will help to make the meat extra yummy and flavorful! Here are some great, easy ideas for chicken marinades. And if, like me, you have a drawer full of unused condiment packages from take-out that you feel guilty just throwing away, you can use those for marinades, too.
Photographed by Eric Heglas.
The only time you really need to get intimate with your meat and massage it is when you are making something like meatballs. And that's not because it will make the meatballs more tender, it's just to ensure that the ingredients — like raw meat(s), eggs, spices, salt, and pepper — are mixed together properly. Or, if you are making something like a chicken milanese (essentially, a flattened and fried chicken breast), you can flatten the meat by using a mallet. No mallet? Me neither. Don't tell anyone, but I've used a wine bottle in the past and it worked like a charm.

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