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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Kitchen Tips: The Secret to Tender Chicken

I love my meat tenderizer mallet. It’s my secret to tender chicken.

This handy dandy tool came into myย possession pretty much by happenstance. When Nate and I were first married, I was kind of clueless about cooking.ย As a result, we had more than our share of tough chicken dinners. In an effort to make our chicken actuallyย chewable, I randomly grabbed this meat tenderizer at our local grocery store. I had no idea what I was buying, I just hoped it would work.

Well, It did work and has ever since! Whenever I have a recipe that calls for boneless, skinless chicken breasts served whole, I always pound them with my tenderizer mallet before cooking. For recipes where it makes sense, I have been able to pound the chicken very thin and the results are great.

Here are the reasons I like my particular mallet.

  • I like the hammer style of my mallet. I feel like I can get good leverage and power by pounding the chicken with a hammer motion.
  • I love the pointy tenderizer surface of my mallet. Not only does my mallet physically get the chicken flat from the force, but the textured surface really does what it says it does – tenderizes meat! Nate’s mom mentioned to me once that when she wants super tender chicken, she stabs the breasts like crazy with forks. We decided the result of our two methods is the same, and it is a darn good result at that!
  • I would offer a link to the mallet I have, but I haven’t the foggiest idea where it came from. Just search “meat tenderizer mallet” and look around…there are many variations out there. Who knows? Maybe your grocery store has a simple one like mine, too!

If you’ve never pounded meat before, place the meat on a cutting board and then lay plastic wrap over the top of the meat before pounding. The plastic wrap holds up surprisingly well, even when I stab it repeatedly with my scary looking mallet!

Another side note. I don’t pound my chicken when I’m cutting it into bite-sized pieces or slices before cooking. But if I plan on cutting or slicing the chicken after cooking (or not cutting it at all, for that matter), then the tenderizer makes an appearance!

By the way, I highly recommend pounding your meat when you’ve had a bad day. Cheaper than therapy and the meat can take a beating. ๐Ÿ˜‰


  1. I came to the realization of this a year or so ago too…amazing the difference it makes!
    cathy b.

  2. 2

    Did you see that Modern family where the lovely Columbian lady tells her husband he needs to scare the chicken? And he has to pound it and make ridiculous grunting/chanting sounds as he does it? It cracked me up.

    • Jane Maynard

      no, I didn’t see that…and I think I NEED to. sounds hilarious. I think I’ll probably think of the columbian wife every time I pound chicken now. so funny!

  3. I have that exact mallet! (but I’ve never actually used it!!! LOL Shhhhhh!!) Maybe I’ll get the guts to pull it out & beat the chicken breasts next time.

  4. I used to have one of these, and now wonder whatever happened to it?! Thanks for reminding me how to make my chicken taste better ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. 5

    I love my meat tenderizer and it totally helps me get my aggression out ๐Ÿ™‚ I don’t think my neighbors love it when I’m pounding away at chicken, pork, and more, though ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. 6

    This is a tool I would like to steal from MY mother. I have one that I really like but my Mom’s is HEAVY… works like a charm with very little leverage from the person doing the whacking. Maybe she will ‘will’ it to me – until then I will limp along with my lightweight version.

    This was an indispensable tool for me back in the days when I had kids at home and actually cooked. It makes the BEST salisbury steak! And yes, you did eat salisbury steak… and it was delicious!

  7. 7

    Hee hee, learn from my mistake. DO NOT put the chicken on a glass cutting board, even one of those that claim to be “practically unbreakable”. They are not.

    I put a dish cloth down, cover it with parchment paper, lay the chicken on that, cover with more parchment paper and whack away. Throw the cloth into the washer when done obviously. The cloth also helps cushion the banging sound so you don’t wake sleeping babies…or scare unsuspecting husbands, lol.

  8. 8

    I thought I had a well stocked kitchen, but I do not own one of these! Time to add it to my wish list!

  9. 9

    I have had the same mallet for about 100 years. It works better than the heavy round pounder I have — that one pulverizes the meat to mush if you’re not careful. I also have a tenderizer that pierces the meat, but I always forget about having it. My mother used the edge of a saucer to pound meat. Works pretty good.

  10. My mallet is my wooden rolling pin, and you’re right, it’s nice on those days you need to scream a bit ๐Ÿ™‚ My favorite trick is to put the chicken breast in a large ziplock instead of under saran wrap. Just squeeze the air out before the mallet party, and your good! Keeps the mess to just the bag and throw it away when you’re done ๐Ÿ™‚

  11. 11

    Before I got a mallet (in my 30th year of marriage – lotsa tough chicken- no one told me either) my son Jake’s friend showed me the other stress reducing way to tenderize chicken. Two forks – one in each hand- stab away!

  12. 12

    That meat tenderizer gives me chills! I have the same exact one (from Walmart a few years ago), and my two-year-old son used it to “tenderize” one of our almost-new custom made kitchen chairs…that was the day it went from the utensil drawer to the highest shelf in my pantry. It does work well to tenderize meat though, so I still like it.

  13. 13

    I use this too, but the plastic wrap doesn’t stand a chance against my beatings! Any suggestions on how to keep chicken bits and juice from flying around all over the place?

    I’ve also learned to use chicken broth when cooking chicken on the skillet. Even after I’ve lightly fried it, I’ll cook it in the broth and that keeps the chicken moist inside but still slightly crispy outside! (Ok, you all probably already knew this, but I’m not much of a cook, so this was a new discovery for me.)

    • Jane Maynard

      ha ha – maybe you need to take boxing and get your frustration on out on a punching bag rather than your chicken ๐Ÿ˜‰ just kidding…but honestly, maybe try a heavy duty ziploc bag, or several sheets of plastic wrap.

      and thanks for the chicken broth tip!

  14. 14

    ha! I’d kick that boxing bag’s ass! ๐Ÿ™‚ I just pounded some chicken on a chopping board in my kitchen sink (I cleaned it first!). It kept the side splatter contained at least. I’ll try the ziplock bag next time!

  15. 15

    Hi Jane,

    I have two tenderizers; the first one is like the one you have. And, I think like you, I have had the tenderizer so long that I’ve forgotten where I got it.

    I have a second tenderizer Nate’s mother would love. I have a picture of it which I wish I could attach to this email. It has twenty sharp, stainless steel spikes in a plastic handle with a disk all of the spikes fit through. When you “stab” the meat, the disk allows the stabber to release from the stabbed meat. Like I said, I wish I could attach a picture of this tenderizer to this email. And, as with the other tenderizer, I’ve had it so long that I forgot where I picked it up.


  16. 16

    Just found your blog and love it! I was hoping you’d have a video about pounding chicken. I have a similar meat pounder and I don’t use the pointy side because it rips up the meat. Even when I use the smooth side, sometimes my chicken ends up in pieces. Any tips? Maybe I’m pounding too hard? I always read “pound the heck out of the chicken” but when I do it shreds,

    • so, I suppose that my meat does get ripped up some, but when you cook it it all comes out fine. I find when I pound that I need to pound the thick side of the breast quite hard, but when I get to the thinner end I hardly need to pound at all, so I adjust the weight of pounding depending on where on the chicken breasts I am pounding. I feel like the spot that gets torn up (if a spot does get torn up) is generally that thin side, but the thicker side is pretty resilient. also, if the chicken breast is a tiny bit frozen that may help a bit.

      just use your judgement when pounding – and, like I said, once you get it cooking it should all come together well. I hope this is helpful! lmk if you have more questions!

  17. 17

    Thanks for your great information and tips. I am meat dishes fan and intended to buy meat tenderizer. I Just wonder which one is better for meat dishes: dishes: a simple mallet or a blade tenderizer. Thanks all!

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