A meat pounder can both flatten and tenderize meat. Great if you want a large chicken cutlet or if you just have a tough cut of meat. The most traditional type of meat pounder is the mallet. However, is it really that great? Since you are whacking it, its hard to flatten meat evenly. Not only that, the surface area of the mallet is quite small. Thankfully, there are more modern iteration of the classic meat pound.
How does a Meat Pounder and Tenderizer Work
It works by shear force. You use the weight of the pounder and it pushes the meat outward. The advantage of this is that you can help flatten the meat. Take for example a chicken breast. It will always cook unevenly due to the thicker portion. You can smash that bigger area flatter so that everything cooks at the same rate.
Now the thing about the pounder is that it doesnt actually tenderize the meat. You need the spikey side of the pounder if you want to tenderize it. What that does is that it cuts or smash the sinew and protein strands that makes meat tough. Granted, the meat will look a bit unsightly, but its better than chewing all day.
Meat Pounder Tool Disc Style vs Hammer
The problem with A hammer pounder is that its heavy and not precise. If you whack something, the head will always come down first. You never come at it perpendicular angle. The result is that the front edge can cause gapes and damage the cut of meat. The benefit to it is that you have a lot of leverage. It has more flattening power than the disc style pounder. As such, it can be made lighter.
The advantage of the disc style meat pounder is that the force is coming straight from above. You have more control and cause less damage to the breast or cutlet. However, it produces a lot less force than the hammer style. When you lift it up, you really got to bring it down to get good results. Some manufacturer make it heavier to compensate for this. Great if you are looking for a workout.
There are a few different materials available for the meat pounder. They range from metal to wood. I personally like metal since they are more durable. I personally have never seen one fail. With the wooden one, they are more gentle and lighter. However, the results are not as good. Plus, they have a tendency to snap if you are too gun ho with it.
Alternative to Meat Pounder
If you are in a pinch, you can always use a small skillet. It will essentially act like a hammer with a wider surface. Or you can use a heavy dutch oven and push it downward. While neither are as effective as dedicated tool, you can get some pretty good results.
Tenderizing Meat Naturally
Technically pounding a meat is pretty natural. However, if you are looking for marinades or spices that can tenderize meat, then you might want to consider pineapple. It has special enzyme that will break down tough cut of meat. However, if you leave it on too long, it can turn it mushy.
Another way to tenderize meat is called velveting. This is a technique that Chinese cook use in chicken and beef. They marinate cuts of meat in baking soda for 30 minutes to soften it. Thats why their stir fry always have that distinct texture.
Best Meat Pounder and Tenderizer List
Below, you will find a list of the Best Meat Pounder and Tenderizer around. There are a lot of options available, so choose one that best suit your need.
Norpro Grip-EZ Stainless Steel Meat Pounder (Best Overall)
Norpro meat meat pounder is one of the most comfortable and easy to use meat pounder. This disc style meat pounder gives you the most control. It uses a rubber handle to help maintain grip and comfort. This pounder comes in at 28 oz, for the right balance of heft and usability. Best of all, its relatively affordable. Just be aware, this only pounds meat and does not tenderize.
KitchenAid Gourmet Meat Tenderizer (Best Hammer Style Meat Pounder)
If you are looking for a traditional meat pounder, then consider the model by Kitchenaid. The head is a combination of pounder and tenderizer. After you are done flattening, you can just switch and tenderize it. Great for chucks or shanks. The handle and head is all one piece so it will be unlikely to break during use. In the center, there is a silicone insert on either side for comfort and grip. This model comes in at 10 oz so its lighter than the disc style meat pounder. One thing to note is that the model is Aluminum, not stainless steel. Dont put it in the dishwasher. The finish will become ruined.
Jaccard 48-Blade Meat Tenderizer (Best Dedicated Meat Tenderizer)
If the though of whacking the meat is tiring, then consider Jaccard meat tenderizer. It uses little blades to poke hole in the meat. They cut the sinew and protein strands to make it tender. All you need to do is place it over the meat and press down. This lets marinades flow in easier as well.
Meat Pounder and Tenderizer are fantastic tools to have. The help you cook food more evenly and tenderize as well. There are two main type, disc and hammer. Both have their advantage and drawbacks, choose one that best suits your need. Disc Style pounder are a little heavier but have more control. While the hammer are more effective but the results can be a little uneven. It really is a trade off.
Looking for more ways to cook food evenly? Check out our article on the Best Spatula and Steak Weights for Smash Burger.