Does Orange Juice Tenderize Meat? (Yes, Here’s How)

You might have noticed that not all of the orange juice stocked in the pantry makes it to the breakfast table. As it turns out, orange juice has uses other than quenching your thirst.

It’s best known as a refreshing drink brimming with health benefits but does orange juice actually tenderize meat? I fact-checked the details and here’s what I got! 

Does Orange Juice Tenderize Meat? 

Orange juice is an acidic marinade that can tenderize different kinds of meat like pork, chicken, beef, and fish. Soaking the meat in orange juice marinade for two to four hours will make it tender and flavorful. However, leaving your meat in the orange juice marinade for too long can make it tough and chewy. 

For a more detailed explanation as to why orange juice is capable of tenderizing different kinds of meat, check out this article below! 

Why Can Orange Juice Tenderize Meat?

Orange juice has acidic properties which can break down the proteins present in the meat. 

The active ingredients in citrus marinades can denature the proteins responsible for muscle toughness in the meat.

Once the orange juice reacts with the meat, water is also pushed out making it easier for the meat to become softer. This also makes the marinated meat flavorful. 

Does Orange Juice Tenderize Chicken?

Yes, orange juice does tenderize chicken. 

Acidic marinades made from citrus are highly effective in softening the chicken’s muscle fiber. Their pH level is enough to make the chicken tender and flavorful. 

Will Orange Juice Tenderize Pork Chops?

Yes, orange juice will tenderize pork chops. 

Pork chops are made from lean meat which lacks fat, making them naturally tough and dry. The high acidity of orange juice is effective in making them tender and easier to cook. 

Can You Tenderize Fish Meat With Orange Juice? 

Yes, you can tenderize fish using orange juice. It requires a watchful eye, but it is possible. 

Fish meat is naturally tender because it contains less collagen than other meat varieties. The addition of orange juice to fish meat results in denaturation. 

Since the juice is rich in citric acid, it breaks down the structure of the meat, making it even softer. 

To some, such a preparation already makes an edible dish. An example of this is the traditional Peruvian ceviche

How Long To Tenderize Meat With Orange Juice? 

Does Orange Juice Tenderize Meat?

Orange juice can soften the meat within two to four hours. Any more than that and your meat will become overly tender. 

Orange juice marinade is acidic and should not be used to soak meat for a long time. This is because the acidity of the orange juice can chemically cook the meat. 

How Do You Tenderize Steak With Orange Juice?

Here are the steps to tenderize steak using orange juice: 

  • Place the steak into a ziplock bag or an airtight plastic container. 
  • Add cumin, garlic, soy sauce, and other chosen flavorings into the bag.
  • Pour a cup of orange juice. 
  • Shake the bag and make sure the steak is fully coated. 
  • Let it sit in the refrigerator for thirty minutes to an hour. 
  • Remove steak from marinade and grill on medium-high heat for 6 to 8 minutes per side.

Which Is Better In Tenderizing Meat: Orange Juice Or Vinegar? 

Orange juice and vinegar are both acidic marinades. However, vinegar contains a stronger acid which makes it quicker in tenderizing meat. 

Orange juice contains citric acid which has a pH level ranging from 3 to 6. On the other hand, vinegar has an acidity level of about 2 to 3. 

As a result, vinegar can break down the protein molecules in the meat faster than orange juice can, making it tender in no time. 

However, vinegar smells pungent, unlike orange juice. They also offer different flavors, with orange juice more on the sweet and sour spectrum. 

Can Orange Juice Harden Meat? 

While orange juice is a common tenderizer, it can still toughen the meat when soaked for long durations. 

Undiluted orange juice has a pH level of 3.9. This level of acidity is enough to weaken the meat’s tissue and soften muscle fibers. 

However, if you leave your meat soaking for more than four hours, it can do the opposite. That’s because the remaining protein bonds can turn too tight and expel the trapped liquid. This makes the meat dry, mushy, and hard to chew. 

If you want to learn more about orange juice, you can see our related posts on whether orange juice is acidic, if orange juice is carbonated, and whether orange juice has alcohol.


Orange juice has acidic properties that are enough to break down the proteins in the meat. This reaction can make pork, beef, chicken, and even fish tender and easier to chew. 

It will only take two to four hours for the meat to turn soft and juicy when soaked in an orange juice marinade. However, soaking the meat longer than four hours can actually make it hard and dry. 

Leave a Comment