Collagen. Enzymes. Proteins. And how the bromelain in pineapples tenderizes meat.
If you love your meat tender, how do you cook it? Recipes sometimes suggest that we use pineapple juice. Why is that so? It has to do with what the enzymes in pineapple juice do to the proteins in meat.
A piece of meat contains collagen. Collagen are long, tough and fibrous strands of protein that hold the tissues together, giving structure to muscles. This structural protein however can also make meat “tough” as a result. Just how tough can collagen be? Simply take look at tendons and ligaments: their primary component is also collagen!
Pineapples contain bromelain, which is made of two enzymes that digest proteins. These protein-digesting enzymes are known as proteases. And when proteases meat.. I meant meet…meat, they digest the collagen.
The meat becomes softer, giving us tenderized meat. It also gives the meat a hint of sweetness from the pineapple juice, and is perfect for those of us who love our meat tender and sweet.
Because it is so good at digesting proteins, if we leave it to sit in the pineapple juice for too long without cooking it, the bromelain will turn the meat into a mushy mess.
It is thus recommended that we use the pineapple juice just before we are ready to cook the meat. Then when we cook the meat, the meat is of the right tenderness because the bromelain is destroyed by the heat at around 70°C/158°F, and does not digest the meat further.
According to the University of Melbourne, pineapples are the only known natural source of bromelain. This is extracted into powder form that can be used for marinating and tenderizing meat.
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photos: in order – depositphotos/Sasajo; electropower; oilslo; aremafoto; sergwsq