How to Tenderize Meat With Baking Soda
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How to Tenderize Meat With Baking Soda

May 07, 2023

By Sam Stone

As far as steaks go, London broil is not the most glamorous way to prepare a cut of beef. It doesn't have the star power of a sizzling T-bone, nor does it necessarily have the name recognition of a tenderloin. Still, a London broil has its own charm. For one, it's more affordable than some of its more well known siblings—I’m looking at you prime rib. But, with a little planning and a sprinkle of ingenuity, London broil can become the luxuriously tender, bracingly savory centerpiece of any dinner.

Although the two are often seen as synonymous, London broil is in fact a preparation of meat, rather than a specific cut. Although some butchers sell a cut of meat and call it a London broil, it's almost always made using flank steak, top round, or another tough cut of beef. Because the meat tends to require some extra chew, most recipes call for hours of marinating to tenderize the meat before cooking. That's where the genius of associate food editor Zaynab Issa's Always-Tender London Broil comes into play.

The marinades star ingredient? Baking soda. Here's where it gets science-y: The baking soda raises the pH on the outside of the meat as it marinates, in a process known as velveting (which can also be done with a cornstarch slurry). This makes it so the proteins have a harder time bonding to each other when it's time to cook the meat. Less than a teaspoon of baking soda ensures that your steak remains juicy and tender—even after a speedy marinade. While other recipes demand hours of marinating, this baking soda hack makes a flank steak or any other fibrous cut of beef ready to sear after just an hour.

The marinade itself is simple but incredibly effective: soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, balsamic vinegar, and fresh garlic build into a wave of savoriness, tempered by a flash of acid. Pricking your steak all over with a fork, an important step, allows the marinade to really sink in—which is just what we want when the marinade tastes this good.

Even after a hard sear in a cast-iron skillet, the steak, thinly sliced, surrenders to each bite without much of a fuss. It is savory, accompanied by a tangy pan sauce, and, showered with flaky salt. As a bonus: Leftovers can be born again as a stellar steak sandwich for tomorrow's lunch.