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Best Overall: OXO Good Grips Bladed Meat Tenderizer
Take your steak from tough and chewy to tender and juicy with the help of a tenderizer like this bladed version from OXO. It has 50 sharp blades that slice through the meat's tough fibers to create channels for marinades to penetrate easily. The rounded top fits comfortably in the palm so it’s easy to tackle enough steaks for a whole dinner party. A clear base makes it easy to control the placement of the blades for even tenderizing. When it’s time to store the tenderizer, a toggle lock keeps the blades covered, and because the lock is recessed, it won’t unlock accidentally. It’s dishwasher safe and comes apart for more thorough cleaning.
Best Budget: Norpro Professional Meat Tenderizer
Made from plastic with no moving parts, this budget tenderizer can still get the job done. Rather than thin blades, it has spikes that leave larger holes to hold marinades and spices. Since the spikes aren’t as hard or sharp as metal blades, this tenderizer can be left loose in the kitchen gadget drawer without worrying about accidental cuts. The top handle is comfortable to hold when pressing the tenderizer into the meat, and it’s safe enough for kids to use. When it’s not being used for steaks, this tenderizer can be used to poke holes in potatoes or to dock dough before baking. It should be washed by hand.
Best Hammer: OXO Meat Tenderizer
Mallet-style meat tenderizers are quite popular and easy to use. Wield one-handed or with one hand over the other for a bit more power or control. There's a smooth side for flattening meat without creating any holes and a side with pyramid-shaped teeth for tenderizing. The head is angled so it hits the meat flatly while using a normal hammering motion. Like other OXO products, this tenderizer has a comfortable, soft-touch handle.
Best with Blades: Jaccard Meat Maximizer Tenderizer
One of the original bladed meat tenderizers for home use, this updated model has 45 blades that plunge all the way through a steak, chop, or boneless chicken breast for more tender, easy-to-marinate meat. Since it has so many blades, this tool makes short, easy work of tenderizing: Just press down to send the blades out, and they retract automatically as the tenderizer is lifted away from the meat. While this doesn’t flatten meat like a mallet-style tenderizer, the meat can get a little thinner as the meat relaxes and spreads out. This can be washed in the top rack of the dishwasher, and for a more thorough cleaning, the blade assembly can be removed to be cleaned separately.
Best Pounder: Norpro Grip-EZ Reversible Tenderizer/Pounder
Similar to a hammer-style tenderizer but perhaps easier on the wrists, this tool has a dual-sided round base that screws onto the handle. The flat side of the base pounds and flattens meat, and the other side has spikes to tenderize. To use, you simply hold it by the Santoprene handle and pound straight down, a motion that's a bit more precise than swinging a hammer. The base is wider than most mallet-style tenderizers, so less pounding is needed before you’re breading your pork for your favorite schnitzel recipe. The Norpro should be hand washed.
Best Splurge: Rösle Meat Tenderizer
This stainless steel tenderizer works similarly to a meat mallet, but its base is wide and flat like a spatula. This allows the tool to hit a wider portion of the meat with each blow for even results—great when working with uneven cuts like chicken breasts. The heavy weight provides extra power so fewer hits are needed to flatten the meat for breading or for quick pan-frying. There's a loop at the end of the handle for hanging, but it also fits easily into a drawer alongside spatulas. The joint between the base and handle is seamless, so food won’t get stuck, and it’s dishwasher safe for easy cleaning.
Best Cuber: Weston Manual Meat Cuber-Tenderizer
Perfect for making cube steaks at home, this manual cuber is easy to operate and handy for cube steaks, Swiss steaks, chicken-fried steaks, and more. There will be no need to look for cube steaks at the grocer or to ask the butcher to run a steak through his machine—you can do it at home with any meat you have, whether steak, pork, chicken, or game meat. It works like a pasta roller: Just feed the meat in at the top, crank the handle, and the meat meets 31 stainless steel blades that pierce and tenderize it. This cuber can handle meats up to 5 inches wide and 1 1 /4 inch thick, and it disassembles easily for cleanup with the work is done.