I just learned something super neat not so long ago : pineapple is a natural meat tenderizer.
How cool is that? A natural tenderizer that’s also super nutritious on top of being super flavorful!
I call it a major WIN!
To be honest, I sort of knew about it already but never really felt the need to investigate and make some actual research on the subject until after I made those meatballs.
There was something sort of mystical about them… They were just so tender, so delicate in texture: they would just sort of melt in your mouth as soon as they’d hit your tongue, yet they held their shape really well until that moment where they landed in your mouth.
I thought the pineapple might be responsible for that, so I looked it up on the Internet, and indeed, I was right : pineapple contains a special enzyme called bromelain, which is quite efficient at dividing the amino acids found in meat, thus making it more soft and tender.
It sort of pre-digests the protein for you, if you will…
Left to interact with it for too long, bromelain will turn your meat into some sort of a mushy, non palatable mess, so you don’t want to overdo it.
Bromelain works in these capacities due to its ability to separate amino acids. The compound separates the all-important peptide bonds that link the proteins in collagen. Since the collagen gives the muscle tissue its shape, once it’s broken down, the muscle tissue begins losing firmness. If you left meat for a day or two covered with bromelain, it would be noticeably mushy, so much so that you wouldn’t want to eat it. When used shortly before cooking, however, bromelain efficiently softens the steak for chewing, but leaves it firm enough to enjoy its taste. The enzymes are neutralized by heat of about 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius), so they stop working once cooked. (source: How Stuff Works )
In short, just allow Mr. Pineapple and Ms. Meaty Protein to play together for a couple of hours and you’ll get a piece of meat that’s nice and soft in your mouth but still firm enough to hold its shape when stuck onto your fork!
In the case of ground meat, however, it looks like things might be a little bit speedier, so don’t let it rest for too long, else you’ll end up with fancy dog feed, me thinks.
Because heat is the only way to stop the action of bromelain, I think it’s best to form your meatballs and cook them as soon as your ingredients have been mixed together or, at the very least, within the hour.
Also, seeing as how those meatballs balls were extremely delicate, I chose to bake them as opposed to pan fry them.
Oh, I COULD have pan fried them if I’d wanted to, but after testing a few (for taste, you know) I decided that I just didn’t have the necessary patience, nor was I delicate enough to get the job done right.
So I took a chance and popped them in the oven, which totally paid off!
I couldn’t have been more satisfied with the results I got. They came out perfectly browned and crispy.
And did I mention tasty?
Oh yeah, that too!
An ice cream scoop works wonders to form the meatballs…
See how nice and round and uniform in size?
Fantastic little gadget!
Look at how nice and golden and crispy…
Can you believe that those meatballs were actually baked?
I wish you were the one who had just taken that bite…
Then you would know for yourself just how wonderful their flavor and texture truly were.