Meat Science!

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Author: Tricia Edgar
See in slideshow:
10 Food Experiments for Kids

Discover the science behind the meat that you eat. Can science help you rock the barbeque? Let’s get cooking.


What techniques tenderize meat most effectively?


  • One large flank steak at least 7 inches across
  • Baking soda
  • Cup
  • Water
  • Soy sauce
  • 8 food safe containers
  • Meat knife
  • Tenderizing tool
  • Toothpicks
  • Masking tape
  • Pen
  • Barbeque and barbeque equipment


  1. You’ll be getting meat ready for the barbeque in several different ways. To begin, find an adult who can help you.
  2. Wash your hands and get a clean cooking surface ready. To cut the first piece of meat, look for the grain—the lines of fiber on the meat. Cut in the same direction as the grain and remove four three-inch slices of steak. Put them aside.
  3. Now, cut against the grain (perpendicular to the lines of fiber in the meat) to produce four more 3-inch slices of steak.
  4. Place each piece of meat into its own container, and make sure that you label the pieces you cut first as “With the Grain”.
  5. Start with the four pieces of steak that you’ve cut against the grain. Take the first one, get a teaspoon of baking soda and sprinkle it over the meat. Rub it in a bit if you wish. Place the meat in a container in the fridge overnight. In the morning, you’ll wash it thoroughly to remove the baking soda.
  6. Take the second piece of against-the-grain steak and place it in a bath of soy sauce. Place it in a container in the fridge overnight.
  7. Take the third piece of against-the-grain steak and pound it with a meat tenderizer for two minutes. Place it in a container in the fridge overnight.
  8. Leave the last piece of steak that you cut against the grain as it is, and place it in the refrigerator overnight as well.
  9. Repeat steps 5-8 with the steak pieces you cut in the same direction as the grain.
  10. When done, make sure you wash your hands. Always wash your hands after handling raw meat!
  11. Make sure each container is labeled so that you know which piece of steak is which. Create a hypothesis, your best guess about what is going to happen. What piece of steak will be the easiest to chew?
  12. Cook the pieces of steak. Once they’re off the barbeque, cut each piece into three smaller pieces so you have twenty four pieces of meat total.
  13. Put each piece of meat on the end of a toothpick. Make sure not to lose track of which pieces are which. To help keep track, label each toothpick with a number written on small piece of masking tape.
  14. Borrow three friends. Give each friend a piece of one of each types of differently tenderized streak (eight pieces total). Have your friends rank the pieces of steak in order from least chewy to the chewiest.


Meats cut with the grain will be chewier than meats cut against the grain. For both groups, the meat pieces that had no tenderizing methods applied to them will be the chewiest. The meat pieces that were tenderized with soy sauce and the pieces that were tenderized by pounding should both be softer than the meat pieces that had no tenderizing methods applied. Meat pieces with baking soda applied to them will be the softest.

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