Does Cornstarch Tenderize Meat?

by Charlie
Published: Last Updated on
Does Cornstarch Tenderize Meat

Everyone wants to create meat that is tender and succulent, but the juiciest and softest cuts are also the most expensive in many cases. If you are working on a budget, it’s a great idea to know how to make meat more tender with clever kitchen hacks, rather than having to spend a lot of money.

Does cornstarch tenderize meat? Cornstarch does not tenderize meat, but it can make it juicier. To make meat tender, you need to break down the proteins that contribute to toughness, and cornstarch will not do this. You will have to use an acid to tenderize meat, and cornstarch has a neutral pH value, so it won’t work.

Why Doesn’t Cornstarch Tenderize Meat?

Meat is tenderized when the proteins in it are damaged and broken down; this process gets rid of the toughness. This will happen if you add acids to the meat or strike it hard repeatedly. You can also add certain enzymes that will denature the proteins and soften the meat.

Cornstarch won’t do any of these things, because it isn’t acidic, and it doesn’t contain these enzymes. It also won’t break down the proteins by striking them, so it won’t make tough meat softer.

However, cornstarch will make the meat juicier and can play an important role in cooking – so let’s look into how this works.

What Does Cornstarch Do to Meat?

Cornstarch makes meat velvety and juicy, which can help it to seem more tender once it has been cooked. This works because it coats the meat and traps the juices inside it, ensuring that they can’t leak everywhere when you start cooking it. Your meat won’t be more tender, but it won’t dry out either.

A lot of juice is usually lost when you cook meat, and many cooking methods are aimed at preserving this juice. The more juice you can keep in the meat, the softer and more satisfying it will be to bite into.

Overall, meat cooked with cornstarch will seem more tender, even if its proteins have not actually been altered. it certainly won’t be as dry or tough as it would be if you cooked it without the cornstarch. Many kinds of cooking call for cornstarch to ensure that the meat stays juicy and tempting.

One of the advantages of using cornstarch is that you don’t risk losing juice from the meat if you cook it for a little longer. You can therefore get ultra-tender, melt-in-the-mouth meat that has been cooked for long enough to comply with food safety guidelines.

Without the cornstarch, you may often find yourself trying to whip the meat out of the pan as quickly as you can to avoid losing juices unnecessarily, and this could cause food safety issues if you get overly zealous.

How Can You Use Cornstarch to Keep Meat Juicy?

There are a few things you can do, but many people simply coat the meat in cornstarch and then massage it. This helps to ensure that the cornstarch is fully covering the meat strips so no juice escapes, and the massage tenderizes it by breaking down the proteins.

You can also use a marinade to soften the meat before you coat it. There are many different marinade options, but most include using vinegar or lemon juice. The acid will break the proteins in the meat down and soften them and will also help other flavors to soak into the meat.

It’s then possible to roll the meat in cornstarch to keep the juices in.

Are There Any Issues with Using Cornstarch to Tenderize Meat?

Cornstarch shouldn’t cause any issues when added to meat, but many people use it in conjunction with other ingredients to prevent it from going lumpy. The goal is to get a smooth but generous coating all over the meat. No parts should be left exposed, since these may leak juices.

It’s best to mix cornstarch with some form of liquid so that it becomes a paste instead of a powder; this makes it easier to apply evenly.

Cornstarch won’t change the flavor of the meat as it has very little taste itself, so it shouldn’t be a problem in your cooking.

Can You Use Normal Flour for The Same Purpose?

Most people don’t use ordinary all-purpose flour instead of cornstarch for coating meat, even though it would help to keep the juices contained. There are two reasons for this: flour makes the food cloudy, while cornstarch keeps it clear, and flour has more flavor than cornstarch.

This kind of coated meat is often used in clear broths and using normal flour would result in a murky liquid, rather than a glistening, tempting one. Cornstarch won’t cause this issue.

Secondly, flour is likely to alter the intended flavor of the meal, which cornstarch should not do. When you cook flour, it takes on a slightly toasted flavor. Therefore, we use flour when making a roux and in other cooking, but it isn’t what is usually wanted for this kind of meal. It’s best to stick to cornstarch for coating meats.

What Other Tricks Can You Use to Tenderize Meat?

Most people use either vinegar, lemon, or other acidic options to tenderize meat. You can also use enzyme tenderizers, which include raw ginger and certain kinds of fruits, such as kiwis and pineapples. Meat tenderizing tools may also help by pounding the meat to break down its connective tissues.

Using some salt may further tenderize the meat, because it helps to restructure the proteins and will encourage water-soluble flavors to soak into the meat. Furthermore, it will loosen up the fibers in the muscles, which makes the meat less chewy and more enjoyable. Soy sauce and miso can be used, as well as standard sea salt.

Final Thoughts

Cornstarch doesn’t tenderize meat, but it can help to keep your meat soft and stop it from drying out when you cook it. If you marinate your meat and add cornstarch, you should find that it turns out deliciously succulent and tender, and melts in the mouth.

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