Sure, you might splurge on expensive cuts of meat every now and then. But for weeknight dinners, budget-friendly proteins typically take center stage on the menu. If you want to take tough, chewy meats to the next level, we recommend adding a meat tenderizer to your kitchen tool stash. These handy utensils break down tissues and fibers to improve texture and flavor.
To help you choose the right one, we tested nine meat tenderizers and considered each for overall look and feel, durability, efficiency, ease of cleaning, and storage. We evaluated both mallet and blade meat tenderizers to flatten a chicken breast and tenderize an inexpensive skirt steak. Williams Sonoma's Reversible Meat Tenderizer came out on top due to its efficiency, durable construction, wide surface coverage, and compact size.
Backed by our testing, here are the best meat tenderizers currently on the market.
- Best Overall: Williams Sonoma Reversible Meat Tenderizer
- Best Budget: OXO Good Grips Die Cast Meat Tenderizer
- Best Mallet Style: Rosle Meat Hammer
- Best with Blades: JY Cookment Meat Tenderizer
- Most Versatile: Norpro 3-in-1 Meat Tenderizer
Best Overall: Williams Sonoma Reversible Meat Tenderizer
Why It's Great
- Heavy-duty design
- Large surface area
- Easy to store
Grain of Salt
- Handle can get slippery
Weighing nearly 2 pounds with a 3-inch diameter, Williams Sonoma's Reversible Meat Tenderizer flattens large cuts of meat with minimal effort. In comparison to mallet-style meat tenderizers, this option works more like a stamp than a hammer.
As for its versatility, this reversible tool has a smooth side for flattening meat (hello chicken parmesan) and a toothed side for slightly piercing meat, which helps with tenderizing and marinade absorption. Although its handle does not have a grippy texture, the tapered design feels comfortable and secure in the hand; however, it got a little slippery with wet hands.
This meat tenderizer is dishwasher safe but also easy to wash by hand. It's only 6 inches tall and 3 inches wide, so it doesn't take too much space in drawers or cabinets.
The Details: Triple-plated chrome with a zinc core; 1.88 pounds; dishwasher safe
Best Budget: OXO Good Grips Die Cast Meat Tenderizer
Why It's Great
- Cushioned, non-slip handle
- Fairly lightweight
- Durable construction
Grain of Salt
- Not ideal for marinade absorption
- Hand wash only
For half the price of other models, OXO's Good Grips Die Cast Meat Tenderizer is the best option for those who want a quality product at a reasonable price. It features OXO's trademark uber-grippy handle, which helps you keep a secure hold even with wet hands.
The mallet-style die-cast aluminum meat tenderizer is fairly lightweight, making it easy to pound out a lot of chicken paillards without exhausting your wrist. Like other models, this meat tenderizer has a flat and textured side. We love the angled design of the head because it offers control so you don't tear the meat. The textured side works well to break up connective tissue, but unfortunately, it doesn't pierce the meat for marinade absorption.
This tool is not dishwasher safe, but it is easy enough to hand wash—just make sure to remove any bits of food that collect in the grooves. It can be conveniently stored in a utensil holder or on a hook, thanks to the loop on its handle.
The Details: Die-cast aluminum; 8.8 ounces; hand wash only
Best Mallet Style: Rosle Meat Hammer
Why It's Great
- Offers more precision
- Effective weight
- Attractive design
Grain of Salt
- Narrow handle
- Small head
Even though the head on Rosle's Meat Hammer is on the smaller side, it was easy to pound chicken to an even thickness without tearing the poultry. The meat hammer weighs just under a pound, which we found to be very comfortable and efficient. Its textured side features a series of short spikes that help break down the connective tissue in tough cuts but do not necessarily poke holes into the flesh.
Featuring a sleek, contemporary design, the stainless steel tool has a mirror-like finish that is pretty enough to store on your countertop. One downside to this tenderizer is that its handle is quite narrow and doesn't have a grippy surface.
The Details: 18/10 stainless steel; 14.8 ounces; dishwasher safe
Related: The 11 Best Steak Knives, Tested by Allrecipes
Best with Blades: JY Cookment Meat Tenderizer
Why It's Great
- Ideal for thick cuts of meat
- Razor-sharp blades
- Comfortable handle
- Easy to operate
Grain of Salt
- Doesn't flatten meat
This blade-style meat tenderizer by JY Cookment pierces flesh to make meat extra tender while also allowing marinades and seasonings to soak in more effectively. This generously sized tool does a great job turning the toughest cuts into succulent bites.
Featuring three rows of 12 flat, angled blades, this meat tenderizer covers about 3 inches of meat at once. Its spring-action mechanism allows you to push as deeply as want into the meat, and the blades are sharp enough to work through tough meat without tearing it. On the handle, it has finger indentations that allow for a secure grip.
Thankfully, this tool is dishwasher safe with all of its blades and crevices. It's a bit bulky, but it's narrow enough to store neatly on a cabinet shelf or in a drawer. As a bonus, the tenderizer comes with a clear plastic cover to keep the blades clean and out of harm's way.
The Details: Stainless steel and plastic; 10.4 ounces; dishwasher safe
Most Versatile: Norpro 3-in-1 Meat Tenderizer
Why It's Great
- Has three functions
- Soft-grip handle
- Option to detach the prongs
Grain of Salt
- Spikes are too long
- Tricky to clean
If you want a meat tenderizer that can do it all, look no further than NorPro's 3-in-1 Meat Tenderizer. It flattens meat, breaks down tough cuts, and aids marinade saturation.
This versatile meat tenderizer has a flat pounding side, a side with pyramid tenderizing spikes, and a removable tip featuring 20 long prongs. While the flat side of the mallet was very effective at pounding out chicken breasts, the textured side of the mallet didn't perform as well as other tenderizers on our list. The prongs were very sharp and pierced the steak cleanly.
The cons? The prongs are so long that the meat has to be pulled off them every time. It also has to be washed by hand, and the handle was a little short.
The Details: Stainless steel and rubber; 13.6 ounces; hand wash only
Related: The Best Seafood to Buy Online
Our best overall pick, Williams Sonoma's Reversible Meat Tenderizer, topped its competitors because of its durable construction, wide surface coverage, and compact size. This meat tenderizer requires a straight up-and-down motion that gives you more control than you'll find with hammer-like designs.
Types of Meat Tenderizers
Most mallet (or hammer) meat tenderizers have a textured side that pierces the meat as you strike it as well as a flat side that flattens the meat so that it cooks evenly.
Not only does the hammering motion soften the meat, but the spikes create pockets that allow marinades and seasonings to penetrate further into the meat. For these reasons, mallet tenderizers are considered more versatile, as their dual surfaces let you flatten and puncture meat.
Blade Meat Tenderizers
Blade meat tenderizers and mallet meat tenderizers work to produce a similar result, just by different means. Blade-style tenderizers consist of dozens of needles that cut through the muscle fibers. Not only does this allow any added flavorings to better penetrate the meat, but it can also result in a shorter cooking time.
Keep in mind that needle or blade-style tenderizers aren't preferable for thinner cuts, as they may tear the meat apart entirely. For this reason, they're best reserved for thicker meats like steak. A disadvantage to blade-style meat tenderizers is the cleanup process can be tedious and a little dangerous if you're not careful.
About Our Tests
Allrecipes Product Tester Jessica Harlan rounded up a collection of meat tenderizing tools from well-known brands such as OXO, KitchenAid, Rosle, and Farberware. Each was used to flatten a chicken breast for this Quick Chicken Picatta and to tenderize a cheap cut of steak for this Argentinian Skirt Steak.
We paid special attention to the following metrics:
- Overall Look and Feel: Is it comfortable to handle? For mallet-style, what types of surfaces does it feature?
- Durability: What is it made of? Does it feel made to last?
- Efficiency: How quickly and easily does it both flatten and/or penetrate the meat? How deeply does it penetrate the meat?
- Cleanup and Storage: Is it dishwasher safe? If not, how easy is it to wash by hand?
The Leftovers: Other Meat Tenderizers We Tested
KitchenAid Gourmet Meat Tenderizer
This affordable, traditional mallet-style meat tenderizer doesn't have any tricks up its sleeve, but it'll do the job just fine. Its metal handle has rubbery inserts to prevent it from slipping out of wet or greasy hands, but it's not particularly comfortable to hold.
The flat side of the mallet works quickly and efficiently, although the squared edges can mangle the meat a little if you're not careful. The textured side is not as sharply spiked as others, but it does a nice job breaking down connective tissue without piercing.
Farberware Professional Dual-Sided Meat Tenderizer
In terms of comfort, Farberware's Professional Dual-Sided Meat Tenderizer didn't disappoint. The smooth plastic handle was nicely tapered and felt balanced, and the textured side of the mallet did a nice job tenderizing steaks without tearing or piercing. However, we didn't feel confident in the long-term viability of this model.
Rosle Spatula Meat Tenderizer
This Rosle meat tenderizer looks more like a spatula than the mallet-like design that most tenderizers embody. Weighing nearly 2 pounds, it has the largest pounding surface of any of the products we tested. The sizable surface area means it's efficient, but unfortunately, its significant weight easily tires the wrist.
It's also difficult to have any sort of precision for smaller cuts. Without a textured side, this meat tenderizer is essentially only designed to flatten meat. If you eat a lot of chicken piccata and have a strong arm, this meat tenderizer might be a good option for you; otherwise, stick with a lighter, more traditional design.
Norpro Grip-EZ Meat Tenderizer
With a grippy, ergonomically shaped handle, Norpro's blade-style meat tenderizer feels sturdy and comfortable in the hand. It also has a plastic sheath that conceals the prongs until you press down against a piece of meat. The downside to this model is that it requires a decent amount of effort to push down, and it's hard to tell how far the prongs penetrate into the meat.
Why Take Our Word For It?
Allrecipes provides cooking tips, recipe inspiration, expert product knowledge to home cooks all over the world. Our Ecommerce Writer Melanie Fincher and Product Tester Jessica Harlan, who has written nine cookbooks, selected the best meat tenderizers on our list after evaluating a variety of models' overall look and feel, durability, efficiency, and ease of cleaning and storage.