There are two ways to tenderize tough meat: cooking it and pounding it. Tough meat that you don’t want to braise to melting tenderness must be pounded. Even some tender meats benefit from pounding. And while you can certainly smack away at your meat with a skillet, using a proper meat mallet gives you concentrated force to do the job quickly and well. While there are all kinds of mallet’s available, Mac and I were unable to find one with multi-purpose sides like the one I found years ago in an antique shop. So we made it ourselves!
This mallet has four different surfaces for different uses. The horizontal bars are for seriously breaking down the toughest thickest cuts, leg, and shank. The big spikes are the next level, followed by smaller spikes for meat that is already thin but still tough, like veal for scallopini. And the flat side actually spreads the meat out for more surface area, something you want if you’re breading and frying.
One of the great meats to pound is that American staple, the boneless skinless chicken breast. Pound it to a uniform thickness, bread and fry it and you will transform it from a dry un-fun hunk of protein into a delectable culinary treat. It’s the uniform thickness that’s important.
Turkey breast is another excellent meat to pound—flatten turkey breast into what’s often called a “paillard” and treat it like the chicken, or better yet, marinate it in a mixture of olive oil, minced garlic, shallot, and fresh tarragon, then grill it—so delicious. The tougher cuts of beef, pork, and veal also benefit from pounding. Indeed, this is one of the great unsung benefits of the meat mallet. It allows you to transform tough inexpensive cuts into tender delicious dishes.
When I was working on Michael Symon’s cookbook, Live To Cook, he put a Pork Chop Milanese recipe in the book, which calls for pounding a bone in chop till it’s thin and spread out, then breading it and sautéing. A great dish, especially if you spoon a quick lemon-butter-caper sauce over it.
Finally, the Rustic Meat Mallet is simply a great kitchen object. I keep mine on the window sill beside the stove where it’s very much a great decorative piece in addition to being an awesome kitchen tool.