Meat Tenderiser

Use the meat tenderiseer to tenderise meat

The meat tenderiser has a long-established history of practical use in the kitchen

ESSENTIAL USER NOTES

Essentially a spiky wooden hammer, this utensil is found widespread in UK kitchens and yet, despite its obvious versatility, is very little used in modern cheffery. Tradition would have it that the meat tenderiser is limited to the very specific purpose of tenderising meat - this being a more socially acceptable descriptive term for hammering away on a tough old steak until it's been pulverised to less than half its size and soft enough to eat. This is a shame, as the meat tenderiser we see these days has a long history, and is the result of many years of evolution of arguably the most essential kitchen utensil of prehistoric times - the club. Before the coming of civilization, the kitchen worktops of nothern European caves were only equipped with fire, sharpened flints (the ancestors of the potato peeler and pizza wheel) and clubs.

The club, a heavy stick that may or may not have had spiky bits, was used for prearation of kitchen ready food, such as woolly mammoths and sabre-toothed tigers, by means of beating them repeatedly over the head. This would also serve to tenderise the food. Centuries later, the Romans were keen to adopt local traditions, and the club soon evolved to the malleus culinarius, or kitchen hammer, which was put to good use by Roman cooks for nut-cracking, oyster-opening, and dormouse-flattening.

Kitchen hammers fell out of use in the Dark Ages, but came back into fashion in the court of Charles VII of France, primarily for their use in games of potato croquet, and for hitting servants on the head to the amusement of the nobility. But it wasn't until rationing in Britain during the Second World War that the meat tenderiser became an essential utensil in every kitchen. At this time, meat was of such poor quality and British cookery so bad that in order to even be remotely edible, meat had to be pounded to a pulp until it became sufficiently soft to cut with scissors, when it would be put in a pot to boil for an hour or two with the sprouts until suitable to serve.

As modern standards of British cheffery have increased, use of the meat tenderiser has declined, although there is today a renaissance in its application for specialist dishes, particularly in vegetarian cooking. The meat tenderiser finds itself nowadays mainly used for four functions: firstly, for flattening things with; secondly, for crushing crisps if you don't have a sutekki-noriten; thirdly, as a substitute pestle & mortar, using the handle end to muddle mint, lime and sugar when making mojitos; and finally, for hitting people on the head with when you really don't want them to be in the kitchen watching what you're doing with the food.

Do not confuse potato croquettes with potato croquet
Use this utensil to make flat meals, such as Curry Biscuit With Chocolate Vanilla Vinaigrette.

QUICK START GUIDE

DO:

  • use the meat tenderiser to flatten things with;
  • use the meat tenderiser to crush crisps if you don't own a sutekki-noriten;
  • use the meat tenderiser to threaten people with if you don't want them in the kitchen, and to hit them with if they won't take the hint;
  • use the meat tenderiser to play games of potato croquet;
  • use the handle of the meat tenderiser in cocktail making;
  • to a much lesser extent, use the meat tenderiser for ternderising meat.

DON'T:

Previous utensil: the chunkie glass

Next utensil: the ice cream scoop

Back to Essential Utensils