Why You Should Add Baking Soda When Cooking Ground Beef

updated Mar 18, 2024
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overhead shot of cooked ground beef in a cast iron.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Olushola Wadley

I could talk about baking soda all day. This inexpensive, unassuming ingredient has seemingly endless uses. It helps baked goods rise, and it can clean anything from your oven to your sneakers. Baking soda deodorizes our fridges and polishes our silver. But, did you know it can also tenderize meat?

Quick Overview

How Baking Soda Improves Ground Beef

Baking soda acts as a tenderizer for ground beef, keeps it moist during cooking, and encourages deep browning by raising the acidity level of the surface of the meat. Simply add 1/2 teaspoon of baking soda to 1 pound of ground beef for more tender meat with better browning.

How it Works

According to America’s Test Kitchen, mixing raw ground beef with a little baking soda changes its pH, which in turn makes it harder for its proteins to form a bond as the meat cooks. Without the help of baking soda, proteins in meat are attracted to one another and squeeze out juices as the meat cooks. Baking soda transforms the meat, making it more tender and more moist.

How to Tenderize Ground Beef with Baking Soda

  1. Sprinkle baking soda over the beef. Add ½ teaspoon baking soda to 1 pound of ground beef. Try to distribute the baking soda as evenly as possible. I like to add the baking soda to 1 tablespoon of water first, which  helps ensure it will be evenly distributed through the beef.
  2. Mix well. Stir the baking soda mixture into the beef until well combined.
  3. Let it rest. Set the beef aside for about 15 minutes before proceeding to cook.
Credit: Photo: Vicky Wasik; Food Styling: Olushola Wadley

Will This Work on Other Meats?

Baking soda works its magic on meat mainly on the surface, so it works well with ground beef, but it will work just as well on other ground or thinly sliced meats both working to tenderize them and encourage browning. Try it on thinly sliced chicken breast or thighs, pork, or steak.

 A version of this story was first published on March 4, 2021 by Sara Tane