Tenderness is a quality of meat gauging how easily it is chewed or cut. Tenderness is a desirable quality, as tender meat is softer, easier to chew, and generally more palatable than harder meat. Consequently, tender cuts of meat typically command higher prices. The tenderness depends on a number of factors including the meat grain, the amount of connective tissue, and the amount of fat.[1] Tenderness can be increased by a number of processing techniques, generally referred to as tenderizing or tenderization.

Influencing factors

Tenderness is perhaps the most important of all factors impacting meat eating quality, with others being flavor, juiciness, and succulence.[2]

Tenderness is a quality complex to obtain and gauge, and it depends on a number of factors. On the basic level, these factors are meat grain, the amount and composition of connective tissue, and the amount of fat.[1] In order to obtain a tender meat, there is a complex interplay between the animal's pasture, age, species, breed, protein intake, calcium status, stress before and at killing, and how the meat is treated after slaughter.[3]

Meat with the fat content deposited within the steak to create a marbled appearance has always been regarded as more tender than steaks where the fat is in a separate layer.[3] Cooking causes melting of the fat, spreading it throughout the meat and increasing the tenderness of the final product.[1]


The meat industry strives to produce meat with standardized and guaranteed tenderness, since these characteristics are sought for by the consumers.[4] For that purpose a number of objective tests of tenderness have been developed, gauging meat resistance to shear force, most commonly used being Slice Shear Force test[5] and Warner–Bratzler Shear Force test.[6]


Techniques for breaking down collagens in meat to make it more palatable and tender are referred to as tenderizing or tenderization.

There are a number of ways to tenderize meat:


Efforts have been made since at least 1970 to use explosives to tenderize meat and a company was founded to try to commercialize the process; as of 2011 it was not yet scalable.[13]


  1. ^ a b c "Meat processing : Meat Qualities". Britannica. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  2. ^ Troy, D.J.; Kerry, J.P. (2010). "Consumer perception and the role of science in the meat industry". Meat Science. 86 (1): 214–226. doi:10.1016/j.meatsci.2010.05.009. PMID 20579814.
  3. ^ a b "The Meat Tenderness Debate". Natural Hub. Retrieved 17 March 2016.
  4. ^ Luciano, F. B.; Anton, A.A; Rosa, C.F. (2007). "BIOCHEMICAL ASPECTS OF MEAT TENDERNESS: A BRIEF REVIEW" (PDF). Arch. Zootec. (56 (R): 1–8).
  5. ^ Shackelford, S. D.; Wheeler, Ph.D., T. L. (2009). "Slice Shear Force" (PDF). Centennial, Colorado: National Cattlemen’s Beef Association USDA-ARS.
  6. ^ Wheeler, Tommy L.; Shackelford, Steven D.; Koohmaraie USDA-ARS, Mohammad. "Warner-Bratzler Shear Force Protocol" (PDF). U.S. Meat Animal Research Center.
  7. ^ a b c d e McGee, Harold (2004). ON FOOD AND COOKING, The science and lore of the kitchen. Scribner. p. 155. ISBN 978-0-684-80001-1.
  8. ^ a b c LAROUSSE Gastronomique. Hamlyn. 2000. p. 1204. ISBN 978-0-600-60235-4.
  9. ^ Madhusankha, G.D.M.P.; Thilakarathna, R.C.N. (2021). "Meat tenderization mechanism and the impact of plant exogenous proteases: A review". Arabian Journal of Chemistry. 14 (2): 102967. doi:10.1016/j.arabjc.2020.102967.
  10. ^ Rossano, R.; Larocca, M.; Polito, T.; Perna, A. M.; Padula, M. C.; Martelli, G.; Riccio, P. (2012). "What Are the Proteolytic Enzymes of Honey and What They Do Tell Us? A Fingerprint Analysis by 2-D Zymography of Unifloral Honeys". PLOS ONE. 7 (11): e49164. Bibcode:2012PLoSO...749164R. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0049164. PMC 3492327. PMID 23145107.
  11. ^ Yoon, J. W.; Lee, D. G.; Lee, H. J.; Choe, J.; Jung, S.; Jo, C. (2017). "Microbial, Physicochemical, and Sensory Characteristics of Quality Grade 2 Beef Enhanced by Injection of Pineapple Concentrate and Honey". Korean J Food Sci Anim Resour. 37 (4): 494–501. doi:10.5851/kosfa.2017.37.4.494. PMC 5599569. PMID 28943761.
  12. ^ "Tenderizing Meat with a Baking Soda Solution". Cook's Illustrated.
  13. ^ Abrahams, Marc (5 December 2011). "Best way to tenderise meat? An underwater explosion". The Guardian.