What Makes Meat Tender?

Posted on: January 16, 2023

A sizzling tender and succulent steak can make any barbeque lover drool. It’s not just the rich smoky flavor that has made barbequed foods popular but the juicy tender meat that this cooking process offers. However, all barbeque meats don’t become tender on their own, it requires some tact and tricks to get that perfect tenderness. Here are two common methods to tenderize meat.


Brining is the process of soaking the meat in a concentration of water and salt. This adds ample moisture to the meat to prevent it from drying out during the smoking process. It is preferred mostly for leaner meats. Additionally, spices can be added to the brine to flavor the meat. Craving more useful brining tips? Read Our Articles On How Brining Meat Influences The Flavor and Directions On Brining And Curing Your Meat For Food Smoking !


For larger cuts of meat, a mix of spices and salt is prepared as a rub. This mixture is rubbed all over the meat to add flavor. During smoking, the connective tissues in the meat secrete juices that combine with the rub making it tender and succulent.

10 popular meat tenderizers for barbeques

Many chemical meat tenderizers are storming the market that ensures convenience and good results. However, the real essence of barbeque lies in using natural ingredients as tenderizers because they preserve the original taste of the meat and will preserve the juiciness even after prolonged cooking. Here are the ten most popular natural tenderizers approved by pitmasters:

1. Fruit juice

Some fruits like pineapple, figs, kiwi, etc. contain an enzyme called papain that helps to melt protein in the meat to produce juice. This juice moisturizes the meat keeping it tender while it is smoked.

2. Tea

Tannin is a natural tenderizer present in tea. Boil tea leaves in water and then strain it. Use the liquid to marinate the meat before the barbecue. It helps to keep the steak juicy and succulent after smoking.

3. Coffee

Just like tea, coffee is also a natural tenderizer. It is even better because it also adds a mild flavor to the meat. Brew some coffee and let it cool. Then dip the meat in it and let it rest for a while before cooking. This marinade will never let the meat dry out during smoking.

4. Baking soda

Bicarbonate of Soda breaks down muscle proteins in the meat as it is absorbed. Baking soda can be sprinkled on the meat or mixed in the rub. It can also be used with water to prepare tenderizing brine.

5. Ginger

Ginger adds a spicy flavor to the steak and also keeps it succulent. It contains an enzyme called proteolytic that helps to break down protein in muscle fiber making the meat tender and juicy. Ginger can be used as pulp, slices, or in a powder form.

More Meat Tenderizers

6. Vinegar

Vinegar contains a large percentage of acetic acid that breaks down muscle fibers in the meat to make it tender. It also adds flavor to the meat making it delectable.

7. Yogurt/ Buttermilk

The calcium in yogurt and buttermilk reacts with the protein in the muscle and breaks it down to produce juice. This juice moisturizes the meat preventing it from drying.

8. Fish sauce/ Soy sauce

Soy sauce or fish sauce can add flavor to the meat with its saltiness and also tenderizes it. This can be added as a barbeque sauce or as a marinade before smoking.

9. Citrus

This is a traditional tenderizer used in Filipino cuisine. Citrus is naturally acidic and helps to break the protein bond in muscle fiber. This releases juice from the meat that helps to keep it succulent even after smoking.

10. Wine/ Beer

Beer and wine contain tannins and acids that loosen the proteins in the muscle fiber to tenderize the meat. Also, they flavor the meat and can be used as a marinade or brine.

Tips for perfectly tender steaks

Mere tenderizers may sometimes not be enough to get succulent and juicy steaks, especially if the meat is lean. This requires some quick-fix that we share here.

Don’t forget marinade: Marinade adds moisture to the meat increasing its potential to absorb the smoky flavor and preserve tenderness.

Cook low and slow: Food Smoking is a prolonged process that should be done at low temperatures to prevent drying the meat. For instance, smoking pork butt will require 225 to 240 degrees F (107.2 C to 115.6 C) while pork belly bacon can be cooked at less than 100 degrees F (37.8 C).

Use a pro food smoker: A pro food smoker can automate all prerequisites of smoking to deliver perfect results. The Bradley Smoker is one such example. It is designed with dual heating functions that perform both hot and cold smoking. The Bradley Smoker has an auto feeder that ensures consistent performance for up to 9 hours of no wood refilling. Digital controls for cooking time and temperature make it user-friendly.

Use the right fuel: The fuel should flavor the meat rather than turning it foul-smelling. This is why Bradley Bisquettes are the best option for a perfect smoking experience. Bradley Bisquettes are specially designed to deliver 17 different flavors to choose from, and burn for the specific time before it turns down to ash, delivering only flavor to your meat while heat is handled by our electric heating elements.

Let it rest before serving: Don’t serve the steak immediately after smoking. Let it rest for a while to absorb all the juice that has been secreted during the cooking. This will make the steak juicy and flavorful.

Final Thoughts

These Bradley tips & tricks on smoking tender steaks have been shared to help beginners try the art with confidence. We hope these tips have been useful. For more great ideas on how to get the most of your Bradley Smoker, check out the awesome articles on our Bradley Smoker Food Smoking Blog for more tips & tricks.