Does cornstarch tenderize meat?

In this brief guide, we are going to answer the question “does cornstarch tenderize meat” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not cornstarch tenderizes the meat. Moreover, we are going to discuss different types of tenderizers and the different methods that you can use to tenderize your meat.

Recent figures from Statistics Norway have shown that meat production has risen by 8.4% since 2012, while consumption increased by only 0.5% in the same period. Norwegians consume a yearly average of 77.8 kg of meat per person of which 7% is from sheep (1).

So without much ado, let’s dive in and figure out more about it.

Does cornstarch tenderize meat?

So when it comes to cornstarch, it does not tenderize the meat. To tenderize meat you have to denature proteins present in the meat and for this purpose, you require an acidic pH while the pH of cornstarch is 7 when it is mixed with water. Thus cornstarch is neutral and does not tenderize the meat (2).

All that cornstarch does is that it creates a covering all over the meat which prevents the meat from overcooking and drying out. 

What are the different types of tenderizers?

So there are three types of meat tenderizers: mechanical (physical), chemical and enzymatic.

Mechanical tenderization methods

Some of the tenderization methods applied are shock wave technology, electrical stimulation, pulsed electric field, high pressure processing, blade tenderization and ultrasound processing. Most of the mechanical tenderization methods do not leave any toxic residue and therefore the treated meat is generally regarded as safe to consume (2).

Enzymatic tenderizers

The enzymatic tenderizers are the ones that contain some special enzymes which help in the denaturation of the proteins present in the meat. Most of the fruits like kiwi, papaya, pineapple, and raw ginger are enzymatic tenderizers. The final texture and appearance can differ according to the type, amount of enzyme and the way of introducing it into the meat. Three methods of inserting proteolytic enzymes into meat have been practiced as dipping in a solution of a particular enzyme, pumping the enzyme solution into the blood vessels and rehydration of freeze dried meat. However, the first two methods were found to be unsatisfactory because of the over tenderizing effect. Enzymes which are capable of hydrolyzing the peptide bonds of proteins in meat are known to be proteolytic in nature (2).

Acidic tenderizers

So the acidic tenderizers are the ones that owing to their acidic content, denatures the protein of the meat. Lactic acid present in buttermilk and citric acid present in lemon juice helps to tenderize the meat owing to their acidic pH. Thus both buttermilk and lemon juice are acidic tenderizers. 

The incorporation of chemicals lead to modifications in protein solubility and improving the water holding capacity in order to soften the meat texture. Seasoning meat items with Sodium chloride, pepper and lime juice is a conventional practice and organic acids and using citrus juice marinades result in enhancing the texture and flavor. Organic acids penetrate into the muscles and reduce the pH significantly. It results in hydrating the protein fractions, weakening the intermolecular bonds to degrade the myofibrillar and connective tissue proteins (2).

What are the different methods to tenderize meat?

Using tenderizing tools

So if you are not afraid to do some mechanical work then you can surely opt for tenderizing tools having a big bumpy head. They are usually made up of wood or steel and can be used readily in boneless meat. 

So if you have bones present in your meat we recommend you not to tenderize it with the tenderizing tool or else the bones will crush. What you can do instead is to separate the bones from the meat and afterward tenderize it using the tenderizing tool.

So what you gotta do is to lay a plastic wrap on the counter. Place your boneless meat on it and pound the meat with the help of the tenderizing tool till you achieve your ideal meat thickness. Now grill it or fry it and enjoy your tender and juicy meat.


Brine is a strong solution of water and salt. A sweetener such as sugar, molasses, honey, or corn syrup may be added to the solution for flavor and to improve browning. Brining is the process that is used to make the meat juicier and to add some extra flavor to it. In brining, we immerse the meat in the water with a little salt, and some herbs added to it (5).

In the case of brining, it dissolves protein in muscle, and the salt and protein reduce moisture loss during cooking. This makes the meat juicer more tender, and improves the flavor. The low levels of salt enhance the other natural flavors of poultry


Marination is the process that is done to impart different flavors in the meat. Marination is done by using some acids (lemon), salt, and different spices. The acid degrades the structure of the protein and imparts the flavor of different herbs and condiments that are added to the marination mixture. Moreover, as the acid denatures the protein it also makes the meat tender and juicier.

Marination is a slow process where the natural or chemical compounds introduced in the meat will act to tenderize the product and sufficient time is required to get the maximum output.

Using dairy-based products

So you can use milk, buttermilk, or yogurt as a marinade to tenderize your meat. While talking about buttermilk, it has lactic acid present in it that denatures the proteins present in the meat because of its acidic pH. So all you gotta do is to make a marinade using buttermilk, salt, and some herbs like cumin, thyme, etc., and keep it refrigerated for a couple of hours or overnight. Afterward, take the meat out of the mixture, cook it, and enjoy your tender and juicy meat. 

A study showed that marinating the meat with buttermilk, kefir or yogurt increased the tenderness (lowering the hardness and chewiness) of steaks. During the marination process, limited proteolysis takes place, which also leads to weakening of myofibrils and is mainly caused by the structural weakening of the connective tissue resulting in an increase in the tenderness of meat. The best results were obtained by marinating steaks in buttermilk or yogurt for 6 or 9 days (3).

Using baking soda

Baking soda is the bicarbonate salt so what it does is to alkalize the meat, raise its pH, and make it difficult for the protein molecules to tightly bind together. Baking soda denatures the proteins present in the meat, thus, it makes the meat juicer and tender. 

Sodium bicarbonate can be used as a phosphate replacer in marinated meat, because it has an effect on the quality (color, water-holding capacity, texture and yield) of meat similar to phosphate. Although baking soda has an alkaline pH similar to that of phosphate, it has a greater capacity to raise the pH of meat compared to phosphate at the same level, probably due to its higher buffering capacity.. Moreover, it has the ability to tenderize tough meat which contributes to the generation of carbon dioxide during cooking leading to a change of the meat’s structure (4).

So if you want your beef steaks or chicken wings to be tender and juicier, we recommend you to use baking soda for it. All you gotta do is to make a baking soda and water mixture and soak your meat pieces in it for at least 15 minutes. Afterward, rinse, and cook. In the case of the larger meat pieces, you can rub the baking soda all over the meat and let it stay in the fridge for a couple of hours. Afterward, rinse it and cook as desired.


In this brief guide, we answered the question “does cornstarch tenderize meat” with an in-depth analysis of whether or not cornstarch tenderizes the meat. Moreover, we discussed different types of tenderizers and the different methods that you can use to tenderize your meat. 


  1. Bhatti, Muhammad Azher, et al. Adapting seasonal sheep production to year-round fresh meat and halal market in Norway. Sustainab, 2019, 11, 1554.
  2. Madhusankha, G. D. M. P., and R. C. N. Thilakarathna. Meat tenderization mechanism and the impact of plant exogenous proteases: A review. Arab J Chem, 2021, 14, 102967.
  3. Latoch, Agnieszka. Effect of meat marinating in kefir, yoghurt and buttermilk on the texture and color of pork steaks cooked sous-vide. Ann Agric Sci, 2020, 65, 129-136.
  4. Kaewthong, Pensiri, Chaiyawan Wattanachant, and Saowakon Wattanachant. Improving the quality of barbecued culled-dairy-goat meat by marination with plant juices and sodium bicarbonate. J Food Sci Technol, 2021, 58, 333-342.
  5. Poultry: basting, brining, marinating. United States Department of Agriculture. 2020.

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