BBQ veterans have been debating this for ages: what is the BEST way to tenderize steak? Is it a salt brine, or is it with a good ol’ fork? Well let’s find out - we tried both methods to tenderize meat on identical strip steaks, and judged by the result.
What you’ll need
Tenderizing The Steaks
As with just about everything in the BBQ world, there are many different opinions on the best way to tenderize steak. We picked the two most common methods, for which you probably already have the tools at home.
The first method, and arguably the fastest, is using a fork. Just go over the entire steak, puncturing holes all over. Then flip and repeat. The idea is that opening lots of holes helps moisture escape during cooking. Will it work? Let’s see.
The second method to tenderize steak is salt brining. For this it is suggested that you use sea salt, but any salt will work. On either a cutting board or some other cleanable surface, lay down a healthy bed of salt the size of your steak. Place the steak on top, and completely cover the steak. No need to use all of the salt you have, you just want a thick-ish layer to cover the meat completely. Let the salt work on the meat for 15 minutes ( NEVER go longer than 20 minutes). Finally, rinse the salt off the steak thoroughly and pat it dry with a paper towel.
Comparing the methods
Time to get cooking… These Kansas City style strip steaks have both been tenderized, we now have to season them. I went with cow cover hot and SPG, one layer of each. We’re using the same seasonings so the only difference we can taste is the tenderness.
Cooking the steaks
Now, the meat we are experimenting with are some nice Kansas City cut steaks. We will be cooking them at 250ºF. First over indirect heat, until core temperature hits 100ºF. Then we will sear the steaks directly over the heat source for a few minutes per side.
The end result should be great flavor and KILLER sear marks on both steaks. Can’t wait to carve into them!
After having the steaks rest for 10 minutes, we sliced them and tried both out, to see the difference (if any).
Here are the results. Both steaks tasted identical (no leftover salt from the brine, since we rinsed that off) and both were indeed tendered. But the one we salt brined was noticeably more tender - it was practically falling apart!
(Once again, be warned: salt brining for more than 20 minutes will tenderize the steak too much - you will still be able to use it for fajitas or stir frying, but it won’t be a steak).
Have you tried either one of these methods? What do you think is the best way to tenderize steak? Let us know!