Does Ketchup Tenderize Meat? + Other Common FAQs

Any meat can instantly become tastier and more appetizing when you tenderize the meat first. Luckily, you can use ingredients you likely already have in your pantry to tenderize meat, such as ketchup.

If you have seen recipes that call for ketchup to tenderize meat, you may be wondering if it works. I looked up the facts, and here is what I discovered!

Does Ketchup Tenderize Meat?

Ketchup can tenderize meat since ketchup has an acidity level of 3.9, which is acidic enough to break down proteins in meat. However, ketchup is not as strong as other acidic ingredients like lemon juice or vinegar, so ketchup is best for slightly tough cuts of meat. You may also need to marinate the meat in ketchup for a longer time.

Are curious as to how ketchup tenderizes the meat, if ketchup is the best ingredient to tenderize meat, and more? Keep reading!

How Does Ketchup Tenderize Meat?

Ketchup is usually made out of tomatoes and vinegar, which are considered acidic ingredients, and acidic ingredients denature the long protein in the meat’s muscles.

If you look at marinade recipes for meat, many of these recipes will call for an acidic ingredient such as lemon juice, vinegar, and even ketchup.

Marinating meat in an acidic ingredient like ketchup will break some of these proteins down, tenderizing the meat.

Moreover, if you were to leave the meat in a very acidic ingredient such as vinegar, the meat will eventually completely break down to mush.

However, it is unlikely that ketchup will completely break down meat since ketchup has a lower acidity level than vinegar, lemon juice, etc., but ketchup contains just enough acidity to soften meat.

Why Does Meat Need To Be Tenderized?

Technically, you do not need to tenderize meat if you do not want to, but tenderizing meat is very helpful since some cuts of meat, such as brisket, if you want to have a more enjoyable meal.

Tenderizing meat can make it easier for people to chew meat and fully enjoy the overall meal, which is why tenderizing meat is crucial.

However, it is only important to tenderize cuts of meat that are tough since softer cuts of meat do not have to be tenderized.

For instance, parts of the animal that move frequently, such as the loin, tend to be tougher than the parts that do not move, such as the ribs.

Is Ketchup The Best Ingredient To Tenderize Meat?

Normally, ketchup is not the best ingredient that you can use to tenderize meat since ketchup does not have as much acidity as other ingredients, such as vinegar or lemon juice.

However, ketchup can make a fantastic tenderizing ingredient if you just need to slightly tenderize meat.

For instance, ketchup usually has a pH of 3.9 whereas vinegar has a pH level of 2-3, and lower pH levels indicate stronger acidity.

Therefore, if you were to apply ketchup to a somewhat tough cut of beef, ketchup will work fine, but you may want to opt for a stronger acidic ingredient if you have a very tough meat cut.

How Do I Use Ketchup To Tenderize Meat?

Typically, simply slathering on some ketchup onto your meat and leaving the meat to marinate in ketchup while refrigerated for a few hours to overnight should work.

However, simply marinating your meat in ketchup may not result in flavorful meat, so you may want to mix your ketchup with other ingredients like soy sauce, garlic, sugar, and more.

If you want to maximize the use of ketchup without adding too much ketchup to your meat, you can cut your meat into thin slices.

By thinly slicing your meat, you give the tomato more surface area to gently break down the proteins in the meat.

If you have a fairly tough cut of meat but still want to use ketchup to tenderize your meat, you may opt to mix your ketchup with other acidic ingredients like balsamic vinegar to tenderize your meat well.

Does Ketchup Tenderize Beef?

Ketchup can tenderize beef since ketchup can take the proteins in beef and break them down, creating a softer cut of meat especially once you cook the meat.

However, it may be ideal to use ketchup on semi-tough cuts of meat since ketchup may not work well on very tough meat cuts.

Does Ketchup Tenderize Pork?

Does Ketchup Tenderize Pork?

Similar to beef, ketchup can be an excellent ingredient to tenderize semi-tough cuts of pork like pork loin.

Does Ketchup Tenderize Chicken?

You may use ketchup to tenderize chicken, but ketchup’s flavor may be too strong for chicken, so you may want to mix ketchup with other ingredients before putting the ketchup on your chicken.

Moreover, chicken is not generally a tough type of meat, especially if you cook the chicken properly, so ketchup may not be necessary for chicken.

Does Ketchup Tenderize Shrimp?

Like chicken, ketchup has the capability of tenderizing shrimp, but you may only want to use ketchup to tenderize shrimp if you are making a barbecue-style shrimp recipe.

Shrimp is fairly delicate-tasting meat that easily absorbs flavor, so using ketchup for a lighter-tasting shrimp recipe may not be ideal.

However, if you were to mix the ketchup with other ingredients like soy sauce to make a barbecue-style marinade, ketchup would be great on shrimp to make the shrimp tasty and tender.

Does Ketchup Tenderize Fish?

Ketchup can make fish tender, but you may not want to smear ketchup on fish since ketchup and fish do not usually taste good together.

Does Tomato Sauce Tenderize Meat?

Since tomato sauce is made out of tomatoes, tomato sauce contains some acidity that can tenderize meat.

However, tomato sauce usually does not contain vinegar, so tomato sauce may not be enough to tenderize meat by itself. Although simmering meat in a pot of tomato sauce can help slowly tenderize meat.

Take a look at our other articles to find out if ketchup needs to be refrigerated, if ketchup belongs on a hot dog, and if ketchup belongs on pizza.


Ketchup can tenderize meat because ketchup has vinegar and tomatoes, which are acidic ingredients that help break down tough proteins in the meat to create tender meat.

While ketchup can be a great ingredient to use on beef and pork, you may not be too keen on adding ketchup to chicken, shrimp, and fish recipes since the flavors do not match well.

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