Brown Ground Meat Faster (and Keep It More Moist) With Baking Soda

How to use baking soda in meatballs

Baking soda creates a chemical reaction within the food, and this is the primary reason it is a common ingredient in the kitchen. When preparing a meatball recipe, baking soda comes in hand for the purposes highlighted below:

When it comes to cooking, ending up with tender, mouthwatering meatballs is always the goal. Achieving the tender texture isn’t so easy, and that is why using baking soda is a highly recommended trick.

When added to ground beef, baking soda neutralizes the acid in the meat and raises the PH level on the meat’s surface. This means that it alkalizes the meat’s surface, making it hard for the proteins to bond.

  • Add ¾ teaspoon of baking soda to 2 tablespoons of water to make a solution.
  • Add your ground beef into a bowl and drizzle the baking soda solution while gently breaking apart the beef with your hands to distribute the solution evenly.

Let it sit for 15 to 20 minutes.

Baking Soda as a Fire Extinguisher

For some fires, water is the worst thing to throw on to it. Grease fires and electrical fires are two fires that can be made more dangerous if water is added. Baking soda, however, is a good compound to use to put out small electrical fires or grease fires. (The exception being a fire from a deep fryer, then neither water not baking soda should be used.)

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Baking Soda Bath

One cup of baking soda can be added to a warm tub of water. Baking soda baths bring relief to all sorts of itchy issues including chicken pox, shingles, insect bites, poison ivy, and dermatitis. Baking soda baths are soothing to those with a cold or the flu. Baking soda absorbs through the skin and helps the alkalize the body.

How Does Baking Soda Work?

Baking soda is most commonly used in baking as a leavening agent, hence its name. Before the commercialization of baking soda, biological leavening and fermentation processes were used but less convenient due to the extensive length of time associated with biological leavening. As most have formerly learned through science class and experimental measures, when a base meets an acid, a chemical reaction occurs. This concept is the same for baking soda as it pertains to baking. When baking soda is mixed with an acid and a liquid, it will create bubbles of carbon dioxide that give it a fluffy texture. That being said, baking soda can react without acid if it is warmed above 122°F or subject to long-term heat and humidity. If baking soda is stored within reasonable temperatures (at or below 77°F and 75% humidity), it will keep indefinitely.

Baking soda is generally used as an active ingredient in quick-bake recipes such as cookies, muffins, and pancakes. This is because of the fast-acting chemical reaction associated with baking soda and the acidic counterpart. When baking soda is combined with acid, CO2 gas bubbles are released, creating the “airy” effect in batter and dough. Furthermore, once the dough or batter starts to bake, the carbon dioxide will begin to filter through the dough and expand air that is trapped inside. The sources of acid combined with the baking soda will determine if the dough or batter can be kept in the refrigerator or needs to be baked immediately. For example, if the sources of acid are dry, such as cream of tartar or cocoa powder, then they can keep longer once combined with baking soda. However, if the acids are wet, such as yogurt or lemon juice, then the resulting batter will need to be used promptly. Baking soda can also provide dough with increased pH levels, which creates a heightened alkalinity. Through the increase in pH, the gluten in the dough becomes weakened, which creates a tender texture for cookies and pastries versus something chewier such as bread. Quantity is an important component, considering the effect baking soda has on baking recipes.

Baking Soda vs. Baking Powder

Similar to baking soda, baking powder is a leavening agent used in quick-bake recipes. Often confused and mistaken for one another, these two interact within recipes in different ways and are very different in composition. It is important to consider the differences between both baking soda and baking powder when exploring baking recipes. As previously mentioned, baking soda is a leavening agent that, when mixed with acid and liquid, becomes activated and produces CO2 bubbles. Similarly, baking powder is a leavening agent that produces CO2 bubbles. However, the composition is one of the major differences.

Baking powder is comprised of baking soda itself, paired with another dry acid, such as cream of tartar. As a result, baking powder has the ability to be single or double acting. Single-acting baking powder performs in a similar way to baking soda that has been combined with an acid. It quickly releases CO2 and creates the leavening process that must be quickly taken advantage of. However, a double-acting baking powder can be activated twice through different means. Once the liquid is added to the baking powder, it becomes activated and produces the CO2 bubbles. In addition to the first activation, there is a secondary activation that can take place once the solution, or batter, is exposed to heat (placed in the oven). This also creates the ability for an elongated time frame that is not present within the reaction caused with baking soda and acid. This means that because baking powder is activated by liquid and already has the dry acid component (cream of tartar), it can preserve in the refrigerator longer. This is why items such as cookie dough can remain in the refrigerator, while cake batter must be cooked promptly.

Tenderizing meat with baking soda

For larger beef cuts that you may intend to grill or pan-sear, you should do the following:

  • Rub the entire meat’s surface with baking soda.
  • Put the meat in a refrigerator and let it sit there for 3-5 hours.
  • Rinse the meat’s surface with plenty of running water until no more baking soda is left.
  • Cook the large beef cut using your desired method and serve!

For smaller beef cuts or slices that you might intend to stir-fry, you can follow the steps below:

  • Make a baking soda solution. Add 1 teaspoon of baking soda to ½ a cup of water for every 12 ounces of beef cut.
  • Soak the meat in the baking soda solution for 15-20 minutes.
  • Remove the meat and rinse it with plenty of water until no more traces baking soda solution is left on the surfaces.
  • Cook the meat cuts using your desired methods and have a tasty and tender bite!

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Can baking soda make my meat crispy?

Baking soda is a common ingredient in poultry and beef stir-fries and it can make meat a little crispy. However, do not use more than a teaspoonful of baking soda for every pound of ground meat. It can be used as a mixture with salt and rubbed on the meat or mixed with ground beef.

  • Should I wait for the meat to cook before adding my sauce?

No, you should brown the meat first before adding your sauce. It leaves your meatballs with an incredible texture but ensures the juices of your meats are retained. It also enhances the taste of your sauce.

  • How do I make my meatballs tasty with baking soda?

Start with lean meat to ensure that when you add baking soda, they become tender while maintaining moisture.

How to Use Salt as a Meat Tenderizer

This method works great for thick steaks and chops, especially on the grill. The salt draws water from the meat, then some of the salt is absorbed into the meat. Salt relaxes the muscle fibers, causing the meat to become more tender. The salty protein cells also tend to trap fat, making the meat juicier.

  • To use this method, coat – don’t sprinkle – the meat or poultry with salt. Let it rest for 20-60 minutes, but no more. Rinse the meat thoroughly and pat it completely dry with paper towels. Grill until desired doneness.
  • For even more flavor, add crushed garlic to the salt. As the salt enters the muscle fibers, it will take the garlic with it.

Which Marinades Will Make Meat More Tender?

Any acidic liquid will help tenderize meat and also infuse flavor. This include wine, vinegar, and acidic fruit juice like pineapple, lemon, lime, and orange. You can also add other flavors like minced garlic, rosemary, basil, or sliced onions.

Just cover the meat with the marinade and place in the fridge for a couple of hours to overnight. The tougher the cut, the longer it needs to marinate.

For tough cuts of beef for the grill, I often use the powdered tenderizer method and a marinade. Here are some of the grilling marinades I use:

  • White wine (chicken, fish, shrimp)
  • Red wine (beef)
  • Pineapple juice (chicken, pork)
  • Orange juice (chicken, pork)
  • Teriyaki or soy sauce (chicken, beef, shrimp, pork)
  • Lemon juice (shrimp, fish)
  • Lime juice (shrimp, fish, chicken)
  • Vinegar (game, large pork roasts)
  • Italian dressing (chicken, wild game)

Also, experiment with mixing liquids together for great marinades. Try Italian dressing and pineapple juice for chicken wings, vinegar and orange juice for pork roasts, and white wine and line juice for shrimp. Be creative!

Learn the culinary arts of tenderizing in online cooking school!

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