How to tenderise meat with lemon juice

Tenderise meat with lemon juice

Make your braai as healthy as possible by using lemon juice to tenderise your meat.

People have been roasting meat over open fires since ancient times and, today, braaiing is still as popular as ever.

In recent years, however, research has shown that two cancer-causing substances are generated when meat is fried or grilled at high temperatures, or when its cooked for prolonged periods.  These cancer-causing chemicals are called heterocyclic amines (HCAs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs).

Fortunately, this doesn’t have to mean that our days around the braai are over. By taking a few simple precautions – such as marinating meat with healthy, natural lemon juice before lighting a fire – can lessen the cancer-causing substances that tend to form during the cooking process.

How lemon juice tenderises the meat

An acid-containing marinade not only helps to flavour meat; it also helps to tenderise it. Acid causes The protein and connective tissue in meat are broken down by acid. At a molecular level, meat proteins have a spiral shape. These spirals, when exposed to acid, start to unwind through a process called denaturation. This, in turn, leads to softer, juicier meat. Not only will this shorten the meat’s cooking time on the braai grid, but it will also help to limit the time in which harmful cancer-causing chemicals may develop.

A basic marinade

A tasty, basic marinade for meat can be made by mixing 375 ml lemon juice with 125 ml of cold-pressed, extra-virgin canola oil with, 1 clove of crushed garlic, chopped onion and freshly ground pepper. Don’t add salt to the marinade, as it can dry out the meat. Salt may also reduce the smoke point of the oil, which will make it burn faster. This, in turn, may cause the cancer-causing chemicals to develop. Only salt the meat when ready to eat. Cold-pressed, extra-virgin canola oil is a healthy, natural oil that has a high smoke point. This makes it ideal for use during high-temperature cooking, such as braaiing or frying.

A few more braai tips

  • For best results, meat should be marinated for 4-6 hours.
  • Tender cuts of meat can be marinated for a shorter period of time.
  • Always discard the marinade when you remove the meat for grilling or braaiing.  Unused marinade that is used at a later stage may cause food poisoning.

Good to know

Remember –  cancer cannot be blamed on a single factor, such as cooking methods. If you’re worried about cancer, speak to your doctor about getting the appropriate screening tests done for your age and gender.

Best South African Braai Recipes by Christa Kirstein (Struik)

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