Therefore, meat is often tenderised before cooking by ageing or marinating meat because it will
reduce the need for long cooking times, which cause strengthening of the protein network, and
toughening of the meat.
Tenderising meat : Meat can be naturally tenderised by leaving it to age. After an animal has died,
enzymes it naturally contains will start to attack everything that they can. During the first few days,
internal proteolytic enzymes in the meat start to partially hydrolyse the muscle fibres, loosening them,
and starts to degrade the muscle proteins, softening the meat. After approximately a week, enzymes
begin to break down the collagen protein in the connective tissue, which increases the tenderness,
and allows the collagen to be more readily converted into gelatine during cooking.
As well as reducing toughness, ageing improves the taste because the amino acids produced by
partial protein degradation are more flavoursome than the original proteins. Other of the meats
enzymes are involved in improving the taste –fats are converted into aromatic fatty acids by the
lipases present. All of these molecules improve the taste of the meat, and additionally provide more
substrates for the Maillard reactions that may subsequently occur on cooking the meat to further
aromatise and flavor the meat.
These tenderising enzymes act more quickly as temperatures are increased to around 50°C, so will
continue to act as the meat is heated up. However, as temperatures reach over 50°C, these enzymes
are denatured and will no longer be able to act.
Tough meat can also be artificially tenderised in a number of ways:
· Physical – mincing or hammering the meat breaks up tough connective tissue and strong
muscle tissue into smaller more digestible pieces. Meat can also be tenderised by slicing the
meat into smaller pieces, which makes the collagen fibres and muscle tissue smaller and
weaker and easier to break apart. Sometimes slithers of fat are inserted into tough cuts of
meat before cooking – this breaks up some muscle fibres and connective tissue as the fat is