How to Use Baking Soda for Tenderizing Meat

Whether you have 15 minutes or 3+ hours, we have a technique that will help you score succulent, ultra-tender steak, pork, chicken, or turkey.

Baking soda is good for more than lending tenderness and loftiness to baked goods, deodorizing your refrigerator, and cleaning your home. Keep a box handy for one of our favorite recent culinary discoveries: using baking soda for tenderizing meat.

Tenderizing meat not only makes it easier to cut, chew, and enjoy, but also allows you to transform a leaner or more budget-friendly cut of protein into something that tastes much richer and juicier. Often, meat recipes call for tenderizing via a wet brine, a low and slow cooking method, or pounding with a meat mallet. If you opt for baking soda for a meat tenderizer, far less elbow grease, a bit less time, and about half as much sodium (compared to salt) is required.

Steak with Baking Soda

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Ahead, we’ll explain how to “velvet” meat with baking soda for a fast fix. Or if you can invest a few hours or overnight, we’ll talk you through how to use baking soda for tenderizing meat as a brine.

How to Use Baking Soda for Tenderizing Meat

Baking soda works its magic as a source for succulence since it helps change the physical composition of the fibers in meat. It raises the pH level on the surface where the baking soda comes into contact and makes it more alkaline. This chemical reaction makes it more challenging for proteins in the meat to stay so tightly-bonded and tough.

To follow either of these methods for using baking soda for tenderizing meat, round up these supplies:

  1. Baking soda.
  2. Your portion(s) of meat. Velveting works best with high-surface area options like ground beef, ground chicken, ground turkey, sliced chicken, sliced pork, or sliced steak. A dry or wet brine is suitable for chicken, turkey, steak, pork roast, beef roast, or ribs.
  3. A sharp chef’s knife.
  4. Measuring spoons and cups.
  5. A zip-top bag, stainless steel or glass bowl or other non-reactive container (avoid aluminum, copper or cast-iron).

Related: Tempering Your Meat Is the Secret to Avoiding Dried-Out Dinners 

How to Velvet Meat With Baking Soda

Velveting is a common technique in some Chinese cuisine dishes; it’s the secret to the soft and silky texture of the thin slices of meat you’ll find in many stir-fries. You can velvet with a mix of egg whites, cornstarch, and oil. Or for an even easier option, you can use water and baking soda for this style of meat tenderizing.

Before your next stir-fry, sizzling platter of fajitas, or skillet dinner, follow these steps to velvet sliced meat. For every 12 ounces of meat, use 1 teaspoon of baking soda and ½ cup of water.

  1. In a zip-top bag, stainless steel or glass bowl or other non-reactive container, dissolve baking soda in water (according to your protein weight).
  2. Allow the meat to soak in the baking soda solution for 15 minutes.
  3. Remove the meat from the liquid and briefly rinse the meat in plain water to strip off the baking soda solution (or as much of it as possible).
  4. Cook as desired.

If you’re using ground chicken, turkey, or beef for something like meatballs or are browning ground beef for chili, sloppy joe’s, or any other use, here’s your game plan:

  1. In a stainless steel or glass bowl or other non-reactive container, add the ground meat. Sprinkle on ¼ teaspoon baking soda and gently stir to combine.
  2. Allow the meat to rest for 15 minutes.
  3. Transfer the meat to a skillet, form meatballs, or proceed with your favorite ground meat recipe.

Test Kitchen Tip: For proteins with an ample amount of exposed surface area, there’s no need to allow it to soak for more than 15 minutes. In fact, over-soaking can yield mushy meat. The acid vs. base reaction and overall pH change happens rapidly, and doesn’t change much over time in these proteins, so we suggest sticking to a speedy 15.

Related: How to Cook a Pot Roast So Tender Everyone Will Beg for Seconds

How to Brine Meat With Baking Soda 

A traditional saltwater brine for 24 ounces of protein calls for ¼ cup salt for every 1 quart of water. For a baking soda dry brine, you’ll need just 1 percent of the meat’s weight in ounces of baking soda. (That means for 3 pounds of roast, you’ll need just shy of 3 teaspoons of baking soda.

Making the swap from salt to soda will not only reduce the sodium content of your finished product, but it will also keep the flavor more concentrated and help maintain the integrity of the meat. Salt brines work by “denaturing” the meat, which causes it to bond to and retain more water. (For example, an 11-pound turkey that has been brined for 12 hours weighs about ¾ more than its non-brined counterparts by the time you’re ready to cook. After roasting, it still weighs about ½ pound more—that’s all water weight.)

To dry brine large cuts of meat in baking soda:

  1. Sprinkle the baking soda over the exterior of the protein. 
  2. Using clean hands, rub the baking soda to cover all sides of the meat.
  3. Transfer the meat to a zip-top bag, stainless steel or glass bowl or other non-reactive container, and refrigerate for 3 hours or up to overnight.
  4. Remove the meat from the container and briefly rinse the meat in plain water to strip off the baking soda solution (or as much of it as possible).
  5. Cook as desired.

Now that you’re well-versed in two ways to use baking soda as a meat tenderizer, try out your new culinary skills in our ultimate roast chicken dinner, our best pork roast recipes, fan-favorite rib recipes, or ground beef recipes your family will request time and time again.

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