How do you get your chicken so tender?

Dear Home Ec 101:

Okay, I’m new to cooking. Why do I need to pound the chicken breasts with a mallet or rolling pin? Like, why do I need to pound them at all?

~Are you really telling me to beat my meat?

Heather says:

I sure am.

Meat is nothing more than muscle. I know, I know, it isn’t a lot of fun to think about, but muscles are built of fibrous cells. These cells are held together in bundles by connective tissue. The amount of connective tissue depends on the type of animal and the location of the muscle. The more connective tissue, the tougher the cut of meat.

There are several ways to tenderize meat: mechanically, chemically, and through long slow cooking. Pounding meat with a mallet or rolling pin is a mechanical means of breaking down the muscle and connective fibers.

Is it crucial? Not always, if you are in a hurry your chicken fingers will be fine. However, if you are making a pasta with a light sauce, the overall experience will be lessened if combined with a tough bite of meat.

Give it a try sometime, it is a great way to release pent up aggression. I place dishtowels under the cutting board to absorb some of the shock and reduce the noise. I also cover the meat with plastic wrap or wax paper to minimize any “splatter effect.” If you choose to use a meat mallet, omit the cover as the teeth will shred the paper or imbed it in the meat. I use a rolling pin.

Please don’t forget to disinfect your cutting board and mallet when you are through with the beating. Cross contamination is always something to consider when working with raw meat.


  1. Heather on July 9, 2007 at 6:39 pm

    I listen to the little birdies.

  2. Margo on July 9, 2007 at 6:38 pm

    How do you know these things?? 😉

  3. Jasmine on July 9, 2007 at 8:40 am

    Beating the meat up is a great way to let out all that built up angry you may have after a hard day… To make my meat nice and tender i just tend to put a bit of water at the bottom to stop it drying out works every time.

  4. Cresanna on July 8, 2007 at 4:17 pm

    Personally, I just cover the chicken with some plastic wrap and pound on it with my fist – works great!

  5. Billy on July 8, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Tenderizing the meat is key to a lot of meat dishes. You will be surprise how easy it is with a good mallet. Visit a department store with a kitchen appliance section, and there will be several types of mallets available. Pick the one with spikes, it looks cool and definitely effective in beating the meat in question to a pulp.

    Yeah, I beat my meat in the cooking sense. 🙂