The native guide; All about unique Japan, pub-5441866818918003, DIRECT, f08c47fec0942fa0 How Do The Japanese Make Tough Meat Tender At Home | Japanmcconnell

How Do The Japanese Make Tough Meat Tender At Home

how do the japanese make though meat tender at home Food & Recipes

There are many hacks to make tough meat tender, and so we do in Japanese home cooking.

In Japan, buttermilk is not available, but, we have unique meat tenderizing hacks to get the best results all the time.

Brine With The Baking Powder Solution

Do you know baking powder can tenderize the meat?

This is my best for poultry and pork.

Even I can’t wait to cook every time when I brine the meat before going to sleep.

The chicken, turkey, and pork chops become tender and moist, and hard to get them cooking dry.

To be precise, baking soda contained in baking powder works to tenderize the meat while breaking down the meat protein.

In other words, you can use baking soda in this hack.

However, I’ll tell you to use baking powder now.


I don’t like the unique (unpleasant) bitter flavor of baking soda and it’ll penetrate the meat when if the brining time is too long.

I use “BAKING POWDER” instead of baking soda, and I don’t have a problem getting the tender meat so far.

I’ll tell you more details about the baking powder solution, please check out this post.

The Basic Ratio For The Baking Powder Solution

Water : Baking Powder : Salt = 1 quart (1L) : 2 tbsp : 1 tbsp

And, you can use the basic ratio of up to 2lb meat.

As the guide, I usually use this amount of the solution for

  • 4-5 chicken thighs
  • 6-8 chicken drum sticks
  • 3-4 thin sliced pork chops
  • 2 thick pork chops
  • 2 turkey thighs

How about a whole turkey? Read this post.

I Am Not So Meticulous Ever…

Honestly, I am not so meticulous about the ratio to brine meat with the baking powder solution.

If I want to brine the meat that is way far more than 2 lb, I double the ratio.

Besides, add water to cover the meat if it’s not enough.

Only you should be careful about the amount of salt.

It is better to reduce salt when using natural mineral salt.

I use Himalayan pink salt so generally, I use 3/4 tbsp for the basic baking powder solution.

How Long To Brine A Meat In The Baking Soda Solution

Generally, brine the meat anytime between 8 hours to 24 hours.

You can brine the meat for up to 48 hours, but don’t recommend more than that for safety reasons.

Contrary, you can reduce the brining time for the small batch of meat or when the meat is cut/ sliced into a small size.

How To Brine Meat Before Cooking With Baking Powder Without Salty

Japanese Cooking Hacks From My Kitchen: Brine The Meat In The Baking Powder Solution

Rico McConnellRico McConnell
LEARN HOW TO USE BAKING POWDER TO BRINE MEAT (NEVER GET SALTY)! Why baking powder can tenderize meat? Using baking powder can bring meat not only tender but also moist and juicy. It's the easy brine for chicken, turkey, pork, and maybe beef. (If you like meaty texture, I don't recommend brine beef steak🥩)Thankfully, I never have the terrible dry, tasteless, rubbery chicken (breast), turkey, and pork chops, since I use my secret brine with baking powder.
Prep Time 5 minutes
The Brining Time 1 day
Total Time 1 day


  • 1 quart water (*1 L)
  • 2 tbsp Baking Powder *not baking soda
  • 1 tbsp Salt *⅔ tbsp of natural salt


  • Dissolve salt in the boiled water if needed.
    *Boiled water is not on the list. Use ½ cup or less boiled water to dissolve the salt. You can skip this step.
  • In a large mixing bowl, add water and salt, and mix well until the salt is dissolved.
  • Add baking powder, mix them well.
  • Let the solution cool down if needed when using boiled water to dissolve the salt.

How To Brine The Meat

  • Pierce the meat on both sides as much as you can with a fork.
  • Soak the meat in the baking powder solution. If the water is not enough to cover the meat, add water without adding extra baking powder and salt.
  • Brine the meat for 8-24 hours while flipping the ingredients occasionally. (You can reduce the bringing time down to 4 hours if you use a small portion or small chunks.)
  • Rinsing off the baking powder solution is not really necessary. Wipe off the solution with kitchen paper before use if desired.



*Edited on January 2022.
©Japanmcconnell/Rico McConnell- Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
Keyword Beef, Chicken, Easy, marinade, meat, Pork, Tips & Hack

I’ll tell you more details about the baking powder solution, please check out this post.

Rub And Marinate The Meat With Sugar & Salt

Sugar helps keep the moisture in the meat (moisten the meat), and salt helps to break down the proteins and muscle fibers.

Pierce the meat with a fork or a meat tenderizer, and sub the meat with sugar, then, repeat with salt.

Ideally, marinate the meat overnight in a fridge.

I often use this way to tenderize and moisten chicken breast.

*The image…Tender Moist Chicken Breast (recipe)

Marinate The Meat With Shio-Koji

“Shio Koji” is a traditional fermented condiment from Japan made of rice koji.

Despite shio koji sounds (looks) mysterious and funky to you, it has such a powerful tenderizing effect and also brings “Umami” (the savory flavor) to meat.

Shio koji breaks meat protein and the Amino acid contained in it can add rich Umami flavor.

In Japan, it is often used for cutting off the fishy taste of marinating.

Shio koji goes well with especially pork so I always freeze pork marinated with Koji rice.

Shio koji goes well, especially chicken and pork.

Also, you can freeze them after marinating them with shio koji.

For more details and how to make shio koji at home, please click here.

Also, You can get “Shiokoji” on Amazon if you don’t have time to make Shio-koji.

Here is the Shio koji guide to know how to use and make it.

One of the great benefits of tenderizing meat with shio-koji is not only you can get tender and moist meat, but also, it will increase the rich Umami flavor with natural sweetness.

When you make Japanese pork cutlets, please try marinating the pork loin with shio-koji.

You’ll get the most delicious pork cutlet ever.

How Long You Should Marinate Meat With Koji Rice

Basically, use 10% Koji rice to the total meat weight.

Contrary to the baking powder solution, you don’t need the marinating time overnight.

Moreover, the meat will be salty when you do so depending on the size of the meat!

So, how long is the best marinating time?

Chicken (Thighs & Breasts)1 – 2 hours (up to 3 hours)
Whole Chicken2 hours – 3 hours (up to 5 hours)
Beef Steak60 min.
Beef Roast5 hours – 8 hours
Porkchop30 min. – 60 min.
Pork Roast5 hours – 8 hours
Fish60 min.
Thinly Slices Beef & Pork10 min. – 20 min.

Note that this is just a guide and you may need to adjust the marinating time depending on

  • Meat weight
  • how to cut meat
  • The type of Koji rice products

Rinse The Meat After Marinating With Koji Rice?

The taste of koji rice is often described as mild, sweet, and alcohol-like. If you have tasted Amazake in Japan, Koji rice is similar to it. (*Shio-koji is just salty taste.)

Anyway, I would say it is very unique, so you may need time to get used to it.

But, it doesn’t mean it is awful. Juuuuuust, Unique.

You may not like its unique flavor, so you can reduce the amount of shio-koji when you marinate, and also you can rinse or remove the shio-koji with kitchen paper towels.

(*For safety reasons, I recommend wiping off the shio-koji rather than rinsing it in the sink.)

Actually, shio-koji easily burns so it is better to remove shio-koji from the meat anyway.

Mairnate The Meat In Japanese BBQ Sauce

Marinating the meat with Japanese BBQ sauce called YAKINIKU SAUCE can provide tender and juicy meat with a savory Asian BBQ flavor.

Since YAKINIKU sauce contains apple juice, pears, honey, sugar, Japanese sake, and soy sauce, it guarantees to make the meat tender.

Why not make homemade Yakiniku no tare (Japanese BBQ sauce) in my recipe here.

How does the BBQ sauce make the meat tender?

The enzymes in fruits, onions, Japanese sake (made of Koji), and soy sauce work to break down the meat protein as well as sugar and honey.

Also, roasted sesame oil in the sauce can keep the juice inside.

The best result is marinating meat for 2 hours, not shorter and longer.

Marinating overnight will probably be alright if you like the strong taste, but soy sauce can work negatively-salty and may let the meat dry.

It’s better to freeze marinated meat rather than leave them in a refrigerator overnight.

Storing the marinated meat in YAKINIKU sauce in a freezer will be the perfect meal prep.

You don’t have time???

You can get AUTHENTIC Japanese-style BBQ sauce online if you don’t have time.

Ebara Ogon No Aji Fruit Base Yakiniku BBQ Sauce

“Ogon” means “Golden” in Japanese, and this BBQ sauce is the staple BBQ sauce for home Yakiniku in Japan.

In my memory, it was already there when I was a kid, it has been around since 1978. It is said medium spicy but has rich sweetness.

It can also be used for stir-fried dishes, so it’s useful as a seasoning.

Gyu-Kaku Japanese BBQ Sauce

Gyukaku is the most popular Yakiniku chain restaurant nationwide in Japan which serves delicious meat at a reasonable price and friendly service.

It’s strong soy sauce-based and has a hint of ginger.

Moderate sweetness and light taste.

Beef, pork, chicken, any kind of meat goes well with YAKINIKU sauce, h.o.w.e.v.e.r,

beef steaks is the best when using YAKINIKU sauce.

Quick Result! Marinate The Meat With Miso Paste Sauce

Misozuke is the traditional Japanese cooking technique to preserve food and marinate food.

Since Miso paste is a fermented food that contains the enzyme “protease”, it can provide tender moist meat while breaking down meat protein and moistening the meat as well as Shio-koji.

Moreover, it does not need a long marinating time which is only 20-30 minutes.

*The photo above is “oven-baked Chicken leg”, then you can see how tender it is! (The meat is fallen off the bone!)

Simply, marinate the chicken leg with miso paste for 30 minutes. Scarpe off the miso paste and bake it in the oven.

*The photo below is Miso-marinade fillet mignon. Super-tender and juicy, it is like french-style roast beef!

What is it taste like after marinating the meat?

The meat marinated with Miso paste will be tender, juicy, and delicious with a naturally sweet taste, and you hardly taste the Miso flavor.

You can use any type of common meat such as beef steak, pork, and chicken.

How To Make Miso Paste Sauce

Making the miso paste marinade sauce is super easy to make.

What’ll you need are Japanese miso paste (red/ yellow/white), sugar, and Sake/white wine.

You can read this recipe to make it which I use for MISOZUKE TAMAGO.

Use Nagoya-Style Miso Sauce

You can also use this sweet Miso sauce to marinate the meat.

This miso sauce is versatile and mainly is used as the dipping sauce for deep-fried dishes and tofu salads.


Miso Marinade Sauce

Rico McConnellRico McConnell
This miso marinade sauce is for making the meat tender quickly! Adding sake and sugar to miso paste, it is easy to spread and boost making the meat tender and juicy.
Prep Time 5 minutes
Marinating Time 30 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes


  • Your Choice of meat
  • ¼ cup Miso paste (red/ yellow/ white)
  • 2 tbsp Japanese sake/ white wine/ sherry
  • 2 tbsp Sugar


  • (Boil Alcohol Down) Place the sake/ white wine/ sherry and sugar in a small bowl, and microwave it for about 1 minute until the sake gets boiled.
  • Dissolve the sugar, and combine the mix with the miso paste.
  • Marinate the beef steak for 20-30 minutes.
  • Scrape off excess miso paste.
  • Cook the meat. When grilling it, be careful that the miso paste burns easily.



©Japanmcconnell/Rico McConnell- Content and photographs are copyright protected. Sharing this recipe is both encouraged and appreciated. Copying and/or pasting full recipes to any social media is strictly prohibited.
Keyword Beef, Chicken, Fermented food, marinade, meat, Miso, Pork, tenderize, Tips & Hack
Copied title and URL