Is meat tenderizer bad for you?

Certain types of meat will no doubt need to be tenderized so they are easier to chew after they are cooked. Yet in recent years, some concerns ask the question- “Is meat tenderizer bad for you?” Other times, simply from a lack of culinary education, people might worry ‘how does meat tenderizer expire’, or ‘is meat tenderizer salty’… Let’s cover some kitchen basics and clear the air about what a meat tenderizer really is.

Is meat tenderizer bad for you?

If you’ve been to the grocery store, it’s more than likely that you may have seen a product on the shelf called ‘meat tenderizer’. This product is often a powder that you sprinkle on tough meats and let sit for a while. It can also be mixed into water to create a marinade combining other spices to enhance the flavor of your meat. To be perfectly clear, meat tenderizer is not bad for you despite being a natural enzyme.

The main active ingredient comes from two sources that are fruits which include papaya and pineapple. It can also come from kiwi fruit and even from figs. Fruits that have highly concentrated enzymes in the papaya are called papain, whereas pineapple produces bromelain. If you look at the list of ingredients of meat tenderizer, chances are it includes either papain or bromelain.

Big brands such as McCormick and Adolph’s indeed include additional ingredients like salt, sugar, and a bit of cornstarch. None of these added ingredients are considered bad for you and have been used for centuries to tenderize tough cuts of meat. Except for using fruit enzymes, they help to penetrate muscle fibers and help to break these proteins down. This is sped up through the cooking process and helps to make the meat soft and tender.

Especially tough cuts of meat will need longer cooking times while others only need a matter of minutes. Meat tenderizer is often used when you don’t want to slow cook cheaper cuts of meat in favor of eating tenderized meat right away.

Does meat tenderizer expire?

Depending on the commercial brand of meat tenderizer that you buy at the store, they recommend that you use an opened bottle of meat tenderizer within two years. Storing this is very simple since it only needs a cool, dry, and dark place that works best. Inside a kitchen cabinet is perfect, but keeping it outside on a spice rack will only make it expire much sooner due to exposure to light.

If you’re using a freshly made marinade that includes pineapple, papaya juice, or kiwi juice, all of these will spoil if not refrigerated. After they are exposed to raw meat when used for marinades, they must be disposed of and poured down the sink after using.

Is meat tenderizer salty?

Many of the commercial brands will include salt and other additional spices in their meat tenderizer mixtures. It will be salty because of the salt that’s added otherwise the natural enzymes used are not salty at all. If you’re using fresh pineapple juice, this will not be enough to tenderize your meat in a marinade, so it’s necessary to add salt. This activates enzymes in bromelain and papain to do their work on meat protein.

This will make a fresh liquid marinade salty and further helps to penetrate into the muscle fiber. Salt is the only natural ingredient in your kitchen that can be absorbed through any muscle tissue, helping to distribute meat tenderizer where it’s needed the most.

Can meat tenderizer hurt your stomach?

The answer is absolutely no since tenderizer cannot and will not hurt your stomach. The reason is simple bodily chemistry and the power of your gastric acids. Even if you ingest juices that include pineapple and papaya, your stomach acids deactivate the effects of both bromelain and papain. Even if they’ve become activated with salt, your stomach lining will not be harmed and stomach acid will counter and instantly neutralize these enzymes.

Do meat tenderizers really work?

The reason that meat tenderizer powders and marinades work is partly due to the addition of salt in any of the formulas. This helps to penetrate deep into the muscle fiber of meat. Once the proteins have a chance to start their work on these fibers, they become softened further using heat. This becomes more obvious when the meat is being cooked and will help to soften the toughest cuts of meat that might otherwise take hours of slow cooking to soften.

If you’re worried about using powdered tenderizers, natural alternatives work excellent for meat marinades. These ingredients found commonly in your kitchen can provide the same kinds of results to tenderize meat. Each of these alternatives does have a recommended time to allow each of these to work effectively, so some will take longer than others.

Is meat tenderizer MSG?

You’ll probably see a little shaker such as Accent seasoning on some dinner tables which is primarily a flavor enhancer that includes MSG. The active ingredients in Monosodium Glutamate (MSG), are not used to tenderize meat at all but can be used in combination with a meat tenderizer to give meat additional flavors. In the 1950s and 1960s, when MSG was still very new, it was widely promoted as a meat tenderizer.

This was before studies in the 1960s showed MSG also comes with health risks that include headaches, burning skin, and rapid heart beating. To this day, many folks from the older generation still associate Accent food seasoning with a meat tenderizer.

Can meat tenderizer cause diarrhea?

There is no medical proof that any natural meat tenderizer will cause you to have diarrhea. Many of the cases where someone is experiencing stomach discomfort or diarrhea after eating red meat or meats softened with tenderizer are often from slightly tainted meat. Many people are intolerant of eating red meat. Another possible reason is mechanically tenderized meat that may have transferred bacteria deep into meat tissue.

Any meat that hasn’t reached an internal temperature of 145 degrees Fahrenheit is just asking for the risk of bacteria poisoning. Anything that hasn’t been killed in the cooking process will most certainly include severe stomach cramping and diarrhea.

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