How to Make Tough Meat Tender

Often the tougher the meat, or the more fatty it is, the cheaper it is. Although many people avoid these cuts because they aren’t always as gorgeous as a prime cut – they are packed with flavor. 

They might not all start tender and juicy, though; with tougher cuts, you’re going to need to put in a little more work. It will be worth it in the end, though. 

Let’s take a look at some tasty ways to make those tough cuts juicy and delicious! 

Against The Grain

As you look at a tough cut (or any cut), you’ll see that there are long muscle fibres, and those present you with a grain. If you cut along those grains and fibers when preparing the meat, you’ll end up needing to chew – a lot! Instead, look for the grain, and cut it in the opposite direction. When cooked, the meat will pull apart beautifully. 

Low and Slow

Even an expensive hunk of meat will benefit from a low and slow cook. But for tough meat, it is a must. With an expensive cut of meat, the meat is typically more supple, and a quick seasoning and sear in a pan are enough. With a tough cut, use them against the grain cutting method, and then a hearty beef stew recipe is going to turn a tough cut into a melt-in-your-mouth cut. 

Through slow cooking, the meat, the juices are soaked into the meat, the muscle fibers are broken down, and the collagen in the meat breaks down too. 


One of the fail-proof methods of softening meat up is by using a meat tenderizer. It is a very effective way to help the muscle fibers break down. The trick, though, isn’t to hammer it too hard, instead an even pressure across the whole piece of meat. If you don’t have a tenderizer, another option is to use a fork to ‘stab’ the meat all over. The idea is to help break down the fibres. 

A crosshatch slice with a sharp knife across the meat will also work. 


Although marinades are ideal for packing meat and veg with flavor – they can serve another purpose too. With tough meats, you can use some more acidic ingredients to help to break down the proteins. You’ll see this commonly with chicken in buttermilk or salmon in lemon juice. 

Using acidic ingredients is similar to a pre-cook – the trick, though, is to make sure you take the meat out after about 2 hours because the acids work quickly and can make the meat too soft. 

Salt Bae

While the salt bae is a funny meme, they aren’t wrong! Let the meat see the salt. It pulls moisture from inside the meat and creates a brine. 

The brine, in turn, gives the meat a richer flavor, softens it up, and gives a deeper color too. You can let the meat sit in salt for about a day before you need to cook it for maximum impact. 

Learning how to prep tough cuts of meats is great for keeping the cost of feeding the family down; here are some other options: 5 Tips To Help You Plan Your Family Meals « THE FRUGAL MATERIALIST