The meat tenderizer is the hero of the budget cook. Using these simple tools (and a little elbow grease) is a common technique to take a tough cut of chuck or chicken and transform it into a softer-to-chew, flavorful protein by physically breaking down dense tissue and fibers.
There are a couple of considerations to make when shopping for a meat tenderizer that will properly turn tough cuts into ready-to-cook meats that taste as tender as more expensive varieties. Look for a model that sits comfortably in your grip and is not too heavy to avoid hand fatigue. Also, keep in mind the types of tasks you will perform. If you prefer creating cuts in the meat to help marinades and seasonings get in deep, go for the bladed or needled models. If you are a fan of wiener schnitzel and piccata, be sure to get one of the mallet-style tenderizers. If you want something easy, you should also consider a dishwasher-safe version.
From models with retractable blades and safety locks to traditional double-faced mallets, we researched and home-tested the best meat tenderizers and pounders to help put juicy cuts of beef, pork, and poultry on your plate. Factors like weight, material, and price were highlighted, but we also looked at each tool's performance in terms of speed, ease of use, and cleanup.
OXO Good Grips Meat Tenderizer
Angled head may or may not work to your advantage
With a smooth side for pounding and a textured side with pointed teeth, this is the perfect tenderizing tool. There's a solid steel core inside to maximize power and an angled head for efficiency, along with OXO's signature non-slip grip. Plus, it's dishwasher safe.
This tenderizer is small but forceful, executing well-balanced swings with no tearing in our tests with both pork and chicken cutlets—leaving them in pristine condition for a tonkatsu or chicken marsala. It was super easy to use, thanks to the combination of textured and smooth sides that push and flatten meat to the edges with precision. The comfortable silicone handle was a definite plus, as well. Out of all the meat pounders we tested, this one took the least amount of time to flatten a pork cutlet (35 seconds).
Price at time of publish: $12
Dimensions: 9.7 inches | Weight: 13 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"This model was easy to swing but packed a punch, precise, and made quick work of the tasks."
Aliglow Meat Tenderizer Hammer
Easy to use
May be more difficult to clean
This pounder-tenderizer combination hammer proves that big things can come in small (and affordable) packages. At just 10 ounces, what it lacks in weight, it makes up for with an ergonomic design and zinc alloy construction that lets gravity do all the work.
We love how using this pounder required almost zero effort. It felt light in our hands but didn't sacrifice power—as evidenced by pounding a chicken cutlet in just 36 seconds, the fastest of the pounders we tested. Our only qualms? The lightness of the hammer means that it didn't always produce even cutlets. Plus, the manufacturers recommend hand washing over putting this in the dishwasher. All things considered, however, we're willing to overlook these factors for the low price and ease of use.
Price at time of publish: $9
Dimensions: 8.9 inches | Weight: 10 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Hand wash recommended
"Even though this didn't produce the most even cutlets, it was so easy to use and so quick. Very easy to aim with precision at the spots that need flattening more than others."
Best Ease of Use
Oxo Good Grips Easy-Clean Bladed Meat Tenderizer
Safety lock for blades
Not easy to clean all parts
Take your steak from tough and chewy to tender and juicy with the help of 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 steak, like large top rounds, 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.
Price at time of publish: $23
Dimensions: 2 x 3 x 4.5 inches | Weight: 4 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
KitchenAid Gourmet Meat Tenderizer
Brushed aluminium construction
Larger surface area
With a brand known for churning out high-quality products, we weren't surprised to discover such amazing reviews for this KitchenAid meat tenderizer. It has more of a traditional hammer design with wide surfaces—a flat side for pounding and a grooved side for tenderizing.
We appreciated how this tenderizer's large surface areas made even cutlets without making too much noise in our tests. It is just over 10 ounces in weight, and the entire hammer measures 9.45 inches long, giving it a gentle, light, and balanced feel. Another plus was the brushed aluminum material, which is attractive and less likely to smudge. Once our testing was over, the pounder was relatively easy to wash by hand, though we did note that excess material could get stuck in the silicone handle crevice. Likewise, the handle itself has a square shape rather than a rounded one like the other pounders we tested, which some users may find more uncomfortable in hand.
Price at time of publish: $17
Dimensions: 9.45 inches | Weight: 10.4 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: No
"Light but effective."
Best Lightweight Hammer
Oxo Good Grips Die Cast Meat Tenderizer
Two surfaces for pounding and tenderizing
Angled head offers precision
May rust/corrode over time
Mallet-style meat tenderizers are quite popular and easy to use. This one can be wielded 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, making light work of pounded veal cutlets for classic scallopini with lemon and capers. Like other products from this brand, the Oxo meat tenderizer has a comfortable, soft-touch handle.
This tenderizer produced even results in our tests, pounding a pork cutlet in an impressive 40 seconds flat. Thanks to the smaller surface area, it was also very well-balanced and easy on the wrist.
Price at time of publish: $18
Dimensions: 9.8 x 2.5 x 1.9 inches | Weight: 8.4 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: No
"So easy and light, well balanced, and nice to hold."
Best With Prongs
Norpro Meat Tenderizer
Easy to operate
Sharp prongs for adding flavor
Creates somewhat large holes in meat
Get the job done with this affordable tenderizer made from plastic and no moving parts. Rather than thin blades, it has thick, spikey needles that leave larger holes to hold marinades and spices—perfect for marinating various cuts and sizes of beef. 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 dock dough before baking. It should be washed by hand.
Price at time of publish: $11
Dimensions: 7.5 x 2 x 2 inches | Weight: 4 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: No
“Meat tenderizers are great to use for steaks that are lean, have tough muscle fibers, and come from frequently utilized muscles of the cow, such as flank, skirt, and tri-tip, as well as lean game meats. Tenderizing the meat prior to seasoning and marinating allows the steaks to absorb more of the flavor." — David Rose, Executive Chef for Omaha Steaks
Weston Manual Meat Cuber-Tenderizer
Easy to operate
Can be mounted to the counter
Combs included for clearing jams
Perfect for making 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 certain steaks at the grocer or ask the butcher to run one 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 meat cuber-tenderizer can handle meats up to 5 inches wide and 1.25 inches thick, and it disassembles easily for cleanup when the work is done.
Price at time of publish: $136
Dimensions: 6.75 x 13.5 x 13.75 inches | Weight: 9.86 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best Short Handle
Norpro Grip-EZ Tenderizer/Pounder
Ample surface area
Not easy to clean
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, 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 start the breading process for your favorite schnitzel recipe. The Norpro should be hand washed.
Price at time of publish: $26
Dimensions: 5.75 x 3.25 x 3.25 inches | Weight: 1.5 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: No
Best With Blades
Jaccard Meat Maximizer Tenderizer
Double-sided blades for extra tenderizing
Easy to operate
Meat comes out very flavorful
One of the original bladed meat tenderizers for home use, this updated model has 45 blades that plunge all the way through a steak or boneless chicken breast for more tender meat—use it to help pork chop marinade work its magic into thicker cuts faster. Since it has so many blades, this tool makes short easy work of tenderizing meat. 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.
Price at time of publish: $33
Dimensions: 4.5 x 6 x 2 inches | Weight: 10.6 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes, top rack only
Best Double Sided
HIC Dual Sided Meat Tenderizer
Produces even cutlets
Large surface area
Tenderizer side flips to attach
Made from chrome-plated zinc, this piece has a weighty disk that flips and reverses from a flat side for pounding to a textured side for tenderizing. The handle measures six inches, and the round, detachable tenderizing plate has a wide 3.25-inch surface area. This tool has some heft—it weighs nearly two pounds—but that also means it will work well flattening other foods like nuts, garlic, or whole peppercorns—to make that creamy sauce to go with your steak.
The tenderizer took just 40 seconds to flatten a chicken breast and produced some of the most even cutlets of all the pounders we tested. Although it is heavy, the rounded handle makes it easy to hold, and we love that the disk is reversible to save space while storing. The two pieces do have to be taken apart for washing, but they're both safe to put in the dishwasher.
Price at time of publish: $36
Dimensions: 6 x 3.25 x 3.25 inches | Weight: 1 pound 14 ounces | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
"It's a cool feature that the tenderizer side can be flipped and screwed back on."
Rösle Meat Tenderizer
Easy to clean
Large surface area
Hard to achieve precision
Wrist may fatigue with prolonged use
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—perfect for flattening out uneven cuts for dishes like chicken breast with spinach and artichoke stuffing. The heavy weight provides extra power, so fewer hits are needed to flatten the meat for breading or 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.
During testing, this tenderizer produced even chicken cutlets and was easy to wash. The joint between the base and handle is seamless, so food won’t get stuck, and it’s dishwasher safe.
Price at time of publish: $52
Dimensions: 12.3 x 3.5 x 3.5 inches | Weight: 1.6 pounds | Dishwasher Safe: Yes
“My favorite type of meat tenderizer is the old-fashioned mallet style with a textured face. The textured face being repeatedly pounded into tougher pork chops, flank steaks, top or bottom round steaks, skirt steaks, and even tough chicken breasts can help break down the tough fibers within the meat.” — Jessica Randhawa, Head Chef and Owner of The Forked Spoon.
The Oxo Good Grips Meat Tenderizer is our top pick because it's lightweight, balanced, and has a strong swing. It impressed us during testing with both chicken and pork cutlets. The Aliglow Meat Tenderizer, however, is a great budget option.
How We Tested
We used a combination of research and home testing to compile this list. Our team of editors and contributors spent hours researching the best products on the market in this category, evaluating their key features in addition to reviews from customers and other trusted sources. We then used this research to assign a star rating from one to five (five being the best; one being the worst) to certain products on the list.
We also sent a total of nine popular brands of meat-pounding tools in a mix of styles to our expert home tester to use in their own kitchen. They rated each on speed, ease of use, and cleanup while paying special attention to each tool's weight, width, and materials. To get a better idea of performance, each tool was put to the test by flattening chicken and pork cutlets.
What to Look for in Meat Tenderizers
Even within this category, there are a few considerations. One is safety, especially with models that have blades. Be sure to look for a model that is non-slip if you choose a bladed version to ensure there is no slippage while in use. Sometimes hands can be wet or have food residue on them, and you want to be very careful with sharp blades.
Another aspect of design is the type of tenderizer. Mallets often have two sides so you can pound meat cuts thin and then switch to the gridded side to create pockets for marinade. Look for one that fits comfortably in your hand, provides enough heft to get the job done, but is also lightweight enough to not cause hand fatigue on bigger tasks.
For bladed or needled models, retractable blades are an important safety feature, and keep in mind that the more blades it has, the quicker tenderizing happens. This is also job-specific: If you have a smaller cut of meat, too many blades will tear it apart. Another important consideration with bladed and needled models is to be sure the blades are durable and sharp. Dull blades and needles, like knives, can tear the meat. Other great safety features to look for are blade locks and guards, which help keep injuries at bay.
Ease of Cleaning
A meat tenderizer you can throw in the dishwasher is probably the easiest to maintain. If convenience is important, be sure to look for the dishwasher-safe designation on the packaging. On the contrary, hand washing is not that burdensome, and sometimes, especially with blade or needle models, you can get a more thorough cleaning of all those nooks and crannies if you do it manually.
With all kitchen tools, including meat tenderizers, look for something that fits comfortably in your grip and offers the amount of control you need for your tasks. Beyond that, there are two types of handles: the ones built into the body of blade or needle styles that you depress to tenderize and the ones that extend out from the head of the tenderizers that you grasp to swing manually against the cut of meat, much like the action of a hammer. At this point, it becomes about the purpose of the tool. If you intend to pound a chicken cutlet thin for piccata, a mallet-style tenderizer is the right choice. If you have a tough cut of pork shoulder, a bladed or needled version will offer enough space for marinades to sink in.
What types of meat can you tenderize?
According to Devan Cameron, the chef and owner of Braised & Deglazed, “Meat tenderizers work best with tough, thin cuts of meat. Buy large, tougher cuts of meat, and then slice them into thinner pieces that can then be tenderized for maximum effectiveness. A few examples of meat cuts that will become tender with a tenderizer are pork shoulder, beef brisket, and chicken breast (as in schnitzel)."
When should you use a meat tenderizer?
When you have cuts of meat with tough muscle tissue, a tenderizer breaks down that tissue yielding a softer, easier to chew protein. Chef Cameron says to “only use a meat tenderizer on tough cuts of meat, like shoulder, brisket, or chuck, for best results.”
What is the difference between a meat tenderizer and a meat pounder?
Many of the tools labeled as "meat tenderizers" have both a smooth side for pounding or flattening meat and a textured or "teethed" side for breaking down and softening the connective tissues. On the other hand, there are also tenderizers that focus exclusively on breaking down the proteins—typically through needles, blades, or prongs that repeatedly penetrate the meat. Keep in mind that if you are working with a particularly thin piece of steak or chicken, the pounding side is less likely to tear the protein than a sharply-textured or pointed tenderizer.
What is meat tenderizer seasoning?
If you do not have or want to buy a meat tenderizing mallet, hammer, or tool, a seasoning blend can be used in its place. It is a seasoning salt containing natural enzymes that help to break down tough meat fibers without physical force. You can get a similar effect using a marinade of acidic liquids, such as lemon juice or pineapple juice. Something like a soy papaya marinade will provide optimal results.
Why Trust The Spruce Eats?
Donna Currie, is a product tester and writer for The Spruce Eats. The cookbook author specializes in kitchen tools and gadgets for our site.
Carrie Honaker is a food writer who loves turning a budget cut of meat into something extravagantly soft. As a restaurateur and avid home cook, she knows the importance of tenderizing meat for maximum seasoning penetration. She personally owns the Oxo Mallet model from this list and uses it regularly to make chicken piccata at home. Carrie's work has appeared in many publications, including Bon Appetit, Allrecipes, and Wine Enthusiast.