12 Meat Mallet Substitutes That Can Help Tenderize Meat

We’ve all been there… you have everything for a recipe except for one thing! If you need a meat mallet for a dish, it’s probably for good reason – no one likes to gnaw on their food. If you don’t have a meat mallet, that’s okay. There are several options to help you.

Does Hammering Meat Really Tenderize It?

Hammering meat is a great method for tenderizing it. When you properly use a meat mallet, it breaks down the tough tendons and proteins found in some cuts of meat. It also allows the cook to thin the piece of meat which helps in the overall cooking process and delivers a tender end product.

Not everyone has a meat mallet and that’s okay. There are plenty of kitchen and household items that get the job done, you just may have to think outside the box.

Besides physically pounding the meat, there are also specific ingredients and techniques that aid in the tenderizing process. Depending on the cut of meat, you may want to use a marinade or something as simple as thinly slicing the meat to ensure its tenderness.

What is a Meat Mallet Used For?

Meat mallets are a great kitchen tool and are generally intended to tenderize meat. This is good for many reasons, but it really allows for the less expensive cuts of meat, that are typically tougher, to be delicious.

In addition to meat tenderizing, there are multiple uses for a meat mallet and it is an excellent tool to add to your collection. Other uses for a meat mallet include: cracking nuts, crushing ice, smashing garlic, and even serves as a way to crack open lobster and crab.

What Can I Use Instead of a Meat Mallet?

If you don’t own a meat mallet, don’t fret. There are several things you can use from around your house that will do in a pinch. If you have a rolling pin, cast iron skillet, or even a hammer – any of these will work great!

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Placing parchment paper, wax paper, or plastic wrap on top of the meat will help ensure the raw meat does not get on whatever tool you are using. It also protects the meat from tearing if you happen to hit it too hard.

If the main objective is to tenderize the meat, you don’t even have to pound on it. Certain marinades, cooking methods, slicing, and even salt will all help in the tenderizing process if you don’t have a meat mallet.

Household Items

If you are new to the cooking game or just don’t have a lot of kitchen tools, there are other things you can use in replace of a meat mallet to improvise. If you are in need of a tool to help do the trick, try and think of something that is heavy and that you can easily maneuver.

1. Rolling Pin

A rolling pin is a great substitute for a meat mallet. Wood, marble, tapered, and even a sturdy plastic rolling pin will do just fine. A marble rolling pin is great to use since it is heavier, just be careful when swinging it.

2. Hammer

Beyond your kitchen tools is a hammer. Most people have at least one of these lying around somewhere. In theory, a hammer is an excellent alternative for a meat mallet because of its shape. It is a good idea to wash the hammer before using it on food. Also, wrapping the hammer in plastic is a must to keep your food clean.

3. Heavy Book

Put that dictionary to good use! Any large, hardback book will do just fine to pound meat. Make sure you choose one that you can easily grip.

4. Cast Iron Skillet

Cast iron skillets come in all sorts of sizes and shapes. If you have one you can easily lift, this is a great choice to use as a meat mallet. Because it has a wide flat bottom and is sturdy, it should get the job done with just a few hits.

5. Canned Food

For smaller cuts of meat, go shopping in your pantry! Think canned pumpkin, canned coconut milk or anything a little heavier. This works well if you are needing to pound out chicken breast or pork.

6. Wine Bottle

Grab that bottle of Merlot and take a swing. Even using an empty bottle of wine will work well as a meat mallet substitute. Be careful when swinging so you don’t break the bottle.

Other Methods

There are other ways to tenderize meat without having to hit it. Different preparations and cooking methods help to tenderize even the toughest of cuts. Sometimes, using multiple techniques on one cut of meat is needed to get the tenderness desired. For example, marinating a flank steak before a quick turn on the grill yields a tender piece of meat.

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1. Slow Cooking 

Slow cooking a tougher cut of meat, such as a rump or chuck roast is ideal to ensure it will be tender enough to eat. Whether using a crock-pot or a dutch oven, you can slow cook many different meats. Low and slow as the saying goes.

2. Marinades

Marinades are an excellent alternative in tenderizing meat when you don’t have a meat mallet. Certain natural fruit juices, such as: pineapple, papaya, citrus, and others help to break down the tough fibers in meat. 

The easiest way to marinade your meat is to add all ingredients to a large ziploc bag and seal it well before putting it in the refrigerator. Depending on the meat, some marinades only need an hour or two to start working, while others are best to let sit in the fridge overnight.

3. Slicing 

For some cuts of meat, the way you slice it makes all the difference in the world. A trick when stir-frying meat is to freeze it for about 30 minutes, then use a mandoline or sharp knife to thinly slice the meat prior to cooking. Alternatively, if you are cooking a larger piece of meat, or even a whole chicken breast, you can simply cut it diagonally against the grain of the meat once it is cooked.

4. Salt

Salt is a natural tenderizer and great substitute to a meat mallet. You can use salt dry or in a wet brine to help tenderize any cut of meat. Depending on the type of meat you are using will depend on how long to let it sit in the salt.

The salt breaks down the tough proteins and then allows the meat to retain moisture. Make sure you use sea salt or kosher salt when using this method to tenderize your meat. Table salt works faster and may make your meat too salty.

Turkey is one of the most common things to soak in a brine. Many home cooks will brine the whole bird the day before Thanksgiving, ensuring it will be tender and juicy.

5. Tomatoes

Similar to fruit in marinades, the acid in tomato products works well to tenderize meat. Adding tomato paste or tomato puree is very common to most pot roast recipes. Not only does the acidity help break down the proteins of meat, it also aids in the flavor of the overall dish.

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6. Wine

Another acidic ingredient, wine serves as a tasty marinade – especially to steaks and other cuts of beef. Red wine is most common to use in a marinade and gives a robust flavor to the meat. Be careful not to marinade it for too long though as by doing so it can have a reverse effect. 

Is a Meat Mallet Worth It?

Adding a meat mallet to your collection of kitchen tools is a good idea. Sure there are other things you can use to get the job done, but at the end of the day – the meat mallet is the best option. Whether you need it to tenderize or flatten meat, crush ice, or smash your garlic – its multiple uses makes it a smart tool to have on hand.


Why are there two sides to a meat mallet?

Most meat mallets have two different sides – one smooth and one with points. You won’t always need to use both sides but they do both have a purpose. 

It’s best to use the flat side if you are simply wanting to thin a piece of meat or ensure it is even for proper cooking. If the cut of meat is especially tough, flip it over and give a few hard hits with the rigid side. The pointed side helps to pierce through extra tough fibers.

How do you tenderize a cheap cut of beef?

Tenderizing a cheaper cut of beef is key to its enjoyment. Several methods can be used together to get the job done: 

  • Pound the meat with a meat mallet or meat mallet substitute as listed above
  • Put the meat in either a salt brine or marinate overnight 
  • Braising or slow cooking are good ways to provide extra moisture 

Can you marinate meat in Coke?  

Marinating meat in Coke or another cola beverage is a great way to break down its tough proteins and adds a unique flavor profile.

To End

There are so many things you can use within your home to serve as a meat mallet. Whether you grab that hammer from the garage, get out the cast iron skillet, or concoct a delicious marinade – most people will be able to find something. Of course, there’s always that trusty meat mallet.