Does Olive Oil Tenderize Meat? (Steak, Chicken, Pork)

Last updated on September 22nd, 2022 at 10:04 am

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Olive oil is a great cooking oil. Both frying and sauteing can be done with olive oil. Even salad dressings can be made with this common kitchen ingredient. 

Some baked goods recipes also call for olive oil to keep it moist. You can cook meats and veggies in olive oil for flavorful meals. Speaking of using olive oil for meats, does it tenderize them? 

Does olive oil tenderize meat like steak, chicken, and pork?

Olive oil is known to provide flavor but is not a meat tenderizer. Still, it can be used to keep meat moist. For this reason, marinades usually feature some olive oil.

Everyone enjoys eating meat that is tender and juicy instead of touch and chewy. To make the meat taste better, you have to tenderize it. 

While you can just pound the meat with a meat mallet to make it more tender, there are some liquid ingredients that you can marinade it in to also break down the tough meat. 

Usually acidic bases are used to tenderize meat. Things like lemon juice and vinegar sort of break down the meat to make it more tender to chew. 

This will make the meat more appealing to eat. It’s a lot better to eat tender meat than tough meat (for obvious reasons). Olive oil is used in a lot of marinades for meat, but it is not the tenderizing agent. It instead provides flavor. 

Even though olive oil isn’t a natural tenderizer, it can help keep the meat moist. So, olive oil alone doesn’t tenderize meat, that job is for acidic liquids. But by adding some vinegar to your olive oil marinade for meat, you have a tenderizer and moisturizer that will result in delicious and tender meat.

Should You Marinate Steak/Chicken/Pork In Olive Oil?

When making a recipe, with meat like steak, chicken, or pork, you come across a step instructing you to add olive oil to your marinade. Should you marinade the meat in the olive oil?

You can marinate steak, chicken, or pork in olive oil. A marinade of olive oil, garlic and some herbs will provide you with some great flavor to the meat.

According to the article, Does Olive Oil Tenderize Meat?,”Tenderizing meat is a process also called denaturing. Certain substances that come in contact with the surface of the meat break down the protein structure of the meat a bit. The Science of Cooking describes this process as opening up “tunnels” in the meat to let in flavor. Usually, acids are responsible for the tenderization of meat. Lemon juice, vinegar, tomato products, yogurt and wine all have an acidic base that can help tenderize meat.”

The staple ingredient of olive oil is widely used in many cooking and baking recipes. Originating in the Mediterranean, olive oil is oil squeezed from olives. Some is refined to remove flaws from the oil to make it more sellable while other is unrefined and pure olive oil. 

Extra virgin olive oil is unrefined and the best you can use giving your food delicious flavor and taste. Olive oil provides meat with a lot of flavor and you can use it to marinate steak, chicken, or pork in. 

But keep in mind that olive oil isn’t a natural tenderizer. 

If the meat is really tough you will also need to add some vinegar or another acidic liquid in to help break down the toughness of the meat. But, you can use olive oil in marinades. 

In fact it is used quite often in some flavorful meat marinades. Steak, chicken, or pork meat can all be marinaded in olive oil.

What Is The Best Liquid To Tenderize Meat?

Wanting to cook some steak (or maybe chicken, and pork) you thaw it. After it is defrosted it seems as if it is still really tough. You will need to tenderize the meat before cooking it.

As I mentioned before, acidic liquids are good for tenderizing meat. So, what is the best liquid to tenderize meat with?

Acidic liquids are best to use in marinades to tenderize the meat. Ingredients like vinegar and acidic fruit juice such as pineapple, lemon, lime and orange juices are great options to tenderize meat with.

An article entitled, AN OIL MARINADE TO TAKE YOUR BBQ DISH FROM GOOD TO GREAT, states that, “Your olive oil marinate provides moisture to the meat. This marinade will help lock in the flavor, so that it does not dry out while being grilled. Olive and garlic oil have the ability to penetrate the meat faster than other oils…Olive oil help decrease the amount of moisture that is loss during the cooking process. Plus, it will deter your meat from sticking to the grill…Add a little vinegar to your olive oil marinade to reap these healthy benefits. The meat will become tenderized, as the marinade will help break down the protein chain. It is not necessary to have meats sit in a marinade for too long, as this can cause the surface to become soft and mushy.”

There are tenderizing powders as well in buttermilk or yogurt that can tenderize meats. If you are looking for a good tenderizing liquid, olive oil may come to mind. After all, it is in most marinades, so won’t it work? 

As I said before, olive oil provides flavor and moistens making the meat more juicy, but as far as tenderizing the meat, you will need a more acidic liquid. 

The best liquid meat tenderizers are wine, vinegar, and acidic fruit juices. Lemon juice is a common one used in many marinating recipes. It can also give the meat some flavor. 

Other acidic fruit juices are also good options. Pineapple, lime and orange juices can also be used to tenderize meat. So, olive oil is used in marinades for moistness but the best liquid tenderizers for meat are vinegar and acidic fruit juices.

Final Thoughts

Olive oil doesn’t tenderize meat but it does moisten it. Acidic liquids tenderize meat and break it down so it isn’t as tough to eat. A couple of the best liquid meat tenderizers are vinegar and lemon juice. 

Steak, chicken, and pork can all be marinated in olive oil. Most marinating recipes call for some types of oil but not because it tenderizes meat. The acidic liquid does that. 

Olive oil keeps the meat moist and juicy and full of flavor for a delicious dish, but doesn’t tenderize it.

Hannah R.

Hey, I'm Hannah and I'm the founder of Get Eatin'.

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