3 Ways To Tenderise Or Soften Mutton For Curries
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Prepping the meat for a good desi curry is nothing short of art! If you’re using smaller cuts, it’s easier to tenderise them since it takes less time to break down their protein structures – a process which can make meat tender. If you’re using tougher cuts or bigger pieces, think well about how you want to tenderise the pieces. 

A good marination is usually the best idea but there are ways to escalate the process so your meat is ready sooner. Even if your mutton isn’t totally melt-off-the-bone, it at least needs to be fork-tender. In most cases, stewing or slow cooking for a long time over a low temperature can soften the meat by breaking down the collagen. But your work is halfway through if you prep them right before they go into the cooker, so they’re softened already. Here are some easy ways to tenderise your meat for curries: 

Use Natural Tenderisers

Certain fruits and enzymes can tenderise mutton in an even way. Marinating the mutton in acidic ingredients can help break down tough muscle fibres. Using ingredients like yoghurt, vinegar, or citrus juices tenderise the meat. But you can also use some fruits like raw papaya which contains enzymes, such as papain, which can help tenderize meat. Make a paste from raw papaya and apply it to the mutton. 

Keep it for a few hours before cooking. Kiwi, similar to papaya, contains enzymes that can break down proteins and tenderise meat. Make a kiwi puree and apply it to the mutton. Allow it to marinate for a few hours before cooking. When using natural tenderisers, try to go for slow cooking methods such as braising or stewing which can help break down tough meat fibres and cooking for a low temperature for an extended period allows the collagen in the meat to dissolve, resulting in a more tender texture. 

Use Baking Soda

What makes meat tough are the connective tissues and the process of tenderising usually entails breaking down these tissues and preventing them from tightening up. However, baking soda works differently. Rather than breaking down tissues, it initiates a chemical reaction on the meat's surface that prevents proteins from contracting during cooking. 

This ensures the meat remains softer and more succulent, as it avoids the tightening that typically leads to the expulsion of liquids. You can use 1% of your meat's weight in baking soda to tenderize. If you’re using bigger cuts or biryani cuts, simply weigh your cuts and then measure out 1% of that in baking soda (for reference, one tablespoon of baking soda has 0.6 ounces, which is good for 60 ounces). 

For smaller curry cuts, mix a small amount of baking soda with water to form a paste. This process is known as ‘velveting’ and you can also swap laking soda for cornstarch. The ratio can be about 1 teaspoon baking soda to 1-2 tablespoons of water. Coat the surface of the smaller meat pieces evenly with the baking soda paste and let it be for 15-30 minutes 

Use Apple Cider Vinegar

Apple cider vinegar can be used to tenderise mutton. The acidity in apple cider vinegar can break down some of the tough muscle fibres in the meat and also impart a gentle sweetness which can serve you well in yoghurt-based dishes. Mix apple cider vinegar along with herbs, garlic, and spices to create a marinade. 

Place the mutton in a container or a resealable plastic bag and pour the marinade over it. Ensure the mutton is well-coated and let it marinate for a few hours or overnight in the refrigerator. Remember a prolonged marination time or using too much vinegar may result in an undesirable taste and add a weird tartness to the meat. If you’re using apple cider for the first time, stick to 15-20 minutes for 400 grams.