Meat Tenderizing Enzymes

As the name implies, these enzymes are used to treat tough cuts of meat and make them more acceptable to consumers. In addition to beef, pork, and chicken, these enzymes can also be used on seafood such as squid or clams. Enzymes for Meat Tenderizing

Protease from the fruit of pineapple (Ananas comosus) characterized by its controlled selective hydrolysis over a wide range of conditions.

Purified, standardized, soluble papain powder obtained from the fruit of papaya (Carica). Will rapidly hydrolyze a variety of proteins over a wide range of conditions.

Specially formulated liquid papain.

A special combination of bromelain and papain available as a powder. Particularly useful for tenderizing seafood such as clam and squid.

A highly concentrated fungal proteolytic enzyme produced from Aspergillus Oryzae. Available as a powder. 300,000 HUT/gram.

Derived from amyloliquefaciens fomerly B.subtilis, this enzyme preparation was approved for use as a meat tenderizer in 1999. The enzyme has similar temperatures of inactivation as Ficin but is much less expensive and is in more consistent supply.

As a starting point we recommend 1000 to 3000 Milk Clot Units per pound of meat.

Meat Tenderizing Enzymes, a brief discussion

The two most often used meat tenderizing enzymes are Papain and Bromelain. Both are derived from plant sources. These are the papaya fruit and the pineapple plant. To a much lesser extent, Ficin, derived from fig tree latex is also used. Other sources of enzymes have been cited for meat tenderization such as Bacillus subtilis, Aspergillus oryzae and even pancreatin derived from the pancreas gland (typically hog).

Papain is usually produced as a crude, dried material by collecting the latex from the fruit of the papaya tree. The latex is collected after scoring the neck of the fruit whereupon it may either dry on the fruit or drip into a container. This latex is then further dried. It is now classified as a dried, crude material. A purification step is necessary to remove contaminating substances. This purification consists of the solubilization and extraction of the active papain enzyme system through a government registered process. This purified papain may be supplied as dried powder or as a liquid.

Bromelain is prepared from the stump or root portion of the pineapple plant after harvest of the fruit. This stump or root portion is collected from the fields, peeled and crushed to extract the juice containing the soluble Bromelain enzyme. Further processing includes precipitation of the enzyme to further purify it. This process is carried out in factories under strictly controlled conditions to assure microbiological quality and enzyme purity. The Bromelain products are all supplied as powders. The other enzymes mentioned are produced using selected micro-organisms, such as Bacillus subtilis and Aspergillus oryzae in commercial enzyme production facilities.

Roughly 95 plus percent of the meat tenderizing enzymes consumed in the United States are from the plant proteases – Papain and Bromelain. The microbial tenderizers constitute a minimal portion and have never been successfully applied on a large scale.

The technical details concerning the various muscle tissue acted upon by the enzymes is discussed in depth in Part VIL Chapter 27, “Applied Enzymology of Meat Texture Optimization” of the book entitled, Source Book of Food Enzymology, by Sigmund Schwimmer, Ph.D. There are various opinions and approaches to the process of tenderizing meats. One is the antemortern use of meat tenderizing enzymes. This consists of the physical injection of a controlled solution of either papain or some other enzyme into the living animal. This practice has been discontinued and is no longer used. Postmortem application is generally acceptable for the lesser quality cuts and a variety of application methods are available. Often, the enzyme is included as part of a marinade.

The major area of consumption of meat tenderizers that we see in the United States is in consumer households. This consumer use probably accounts for 90% of enzyme tenderizer sales. Typically two products are being sold in grocery stores … papain and bromelain.

For this application, the consumer sprinkles the powder containing the standardized enzyme material on the meat and through a mechanical process called “forking” have the enzyme penetrate the meat cut and then immediately cook in order to produce a tenderized and highly palatable product. Some of these types of tenderizers are blended with various spices and flavor enhancers such as monosodium glutamate.

Further refinements of home use are the incorporation of the enzymes in marinades that both flavor and tenderize tough cuts of meat. The major application of tenderizer in today’s market is beef. However many interesting approaches are possible for other types of meat such as hams and even chicken from non-prime sources such as old egg laying hens. A newer area is seafood. The products being treated are squid (calamari), clams, and other very tough and chewy seafood.

The general characteristics of the two plant derived enzymes vary somewhat since they all have different temperatures of inactivation and operate with different kinetics when applied.

Papain is the most temperature stable and can require a temperature as high as 170-185oF to completely inactivate it. This has certain advantages and certain disadvantages. The main disadvantage is that a piece of meat cooked to what we call “medium rare” will not reach a temperature high enough to inactivate the papain. Thus, subsequent storage of the meat will allow the enzyme to continue to tenderize and if extended over too long a period will produce a mushy unpalatable texture. Papain should be used in very controlled processes where each step and cut of meat is under controlled time and temperature and served properly to the consumer. This is the best process for large scale highly organized restaurant chains where the process is thoroughly outlined and adhered to. The pH optimum of papain is typically similar to that of meat itself.

Bromelain has a lower temperature of inactivation and a slightly different mode of operation. The temperature of inactivation of Bromelain is around 160o F which, again, will not be high enough for inactivation in a medium rare piece of beef. The rate of action for both papain and bromelain are similar and, therefore, timing for processing would be similar.

We also supply blends of these products in a ratio which provides, for certain applications, a unique tenderizing effect.

The microbial enzymes such as Aspergillus oryzae are not commonly used and we cannot give you much Information concerning their applications in this area. They are, however, mentioned in the Schwimmer book.

The most important consideration in selecting a tenderizing enzyme is the activity of the enzyme. Further considerations are that the material be of food grade quality, that it have a low microbial count, and that it meets all incidental government specifications. Activity is a measure of the enzyme’s ability to react with a specific substrate chosen by the supplier. Enzymes are sold on the basis of activity or potency. One of the most common assays for Papain and Bromelain is the Milk Clot Assay.

The Milk Clot Assay is a very accurate and yet simple test procedure which measures the amount of time required to form clotted milk in the presence of the proteolytic enzyme under specified and controlled conditions, i.e., temperature etc. Using this number, whether it is 100 units per mg. or 500 units per mg., the buyer can immediately assign formulations that will consistently yield the same quality of tenderization during the application.

A Finished Blend for Home Use

Typically enzyme preparations used for direct application by the ultimate consumer are standardized to contain 0.75 to 1.5 MCU (milk clot units) of enzyme activity per mg of finished product. The general application rate of this finished product is 1 teaspoon or 3 grams per pound (500 grams) of meat. This is the type of product that would be sold in the grocery store and applied by the consumer. At 3 grams of blended tenderizer, the consumer would be using a dose of papain calculated as follows:

3 grams = 3000 mg

Formula 1 , standardized at 0.75 MCU/mg

3000 mg x 0.75 MCU/mg enzyme activity = 2250 Milk Clot Units per pound of meat

Formula 2, standardized at 1.5 MCU/mg

3000 mg x 1.5 MCU/mg enzyme activity = 4500 Milk Clot Units per pound of meat

For Commercial Marinades and Other Food Service Applications
The action of the enzyme will depend on the time and temperature that the enzyme has to work. As an example, a cut of meat may be injected with a marinade and then vacuum tumbled to finish absorption and forming. The meat is then flash frozen and thawed when ready for use. Depending on a variety of factors, the marinade should be formulated so that one pound of meat receives between 1000 and 3000 Milk Clot Units. As an example, if PANOL® papain, (Activity 300 Milk Clot Units per milligram), were used in the formula, the researcher would start testing at 3.3 mg per pound of meat to be treated and increase the dose up to 10 mg. or until the desired tenderness were achieved.

Suggested Reading

Use of Meat Tenderizing Enzymes in Marinades

These suggestions and data are based on information we believe to be reliable They are offered in good faith but without guarantee since conditions and methods of use of our products are beyond our control. Suggestions for use of our products should not be understood as recommendations that they be used in violation of any patents or government regulations.