How To Make Sirloin Steak Tender: 9 Easy Ways To Tenderize Sirloin

June 29, 2023
Written by Kristy J. Norton
Edited by John Smits 

One of the easiest ways to tenderize sirloin steak at home is to use a meat mallet to manually break down the tough fibers. Marinating and a getting proper sear are also great options for making your sirloin steaks so tender you can cut them with a butter knife. In this article, I will explain each of these methods in detail.

As a grill chef, I cook sirloin regularly. My favorite thing about sirloin steak is that it is very easy to tenderize. My customers love the final meal I serve, and you’ll leave your guests clamoring for more.

Note: When I talk about sirloin steak in this article, I’m referring to bottom sirloin. The bottom sirloin is a cut of beef from the back of the steer just above the flank steak and below the top sirloin.

How To Make Sirloin Steak Tender_

How Do I Make My Sirloin Steak More Tender?

You can grill mouth-watering steak if you take the time to tenderize it and cook it to the right temperature. I’ve got you covered. I’ll show you how I cook delicious sirloin steaks every time.

Use A Meat Mallet

This is a common method for tenderizing meat and is effective with sirloin steak since it is only moderately tough. For even better results with this method, try beating the meat with a mallet and then marinating the steaks.

Steaks that have been tenderized using a meat mallet absorb a marinade better and faster than non-tenderized steaks.

To use a meat mallet, place your sirloin steaks inside a gallon zipper bag or wrap it in plastic wrap. The plastic keeps meat juices from flying across your kitchen. Whack the sirloin gently – you’re not driving a nail. Several controlled hits will work better than a couple of vicious hits.

Make A Marinade

Marinading is by far the best and most effective method of tenderizing sirloin steak. Marinading not only tenderizes the steak but infuses it with a wealth of flavors depending on what you would like to put in the marinade.

The most important thing to remember is to use an acidic component in the marinade to break down the tough fibers of the steak. A basic marinade would include the following components:

  • Salt: Such as kosher salt, curing salt, etc.
  • Acid: Balsamic vinegar, apple cider vinegar, pineapple juice, lemon juice, etc.
  • Seasonings: Black pepper, garlic powder, fresh herbs, etc.
  • Fat: Olive oil, vegetable oil, etc.
  • Sugar (optional): Brown sugar, Honey, Demerara sugar, etc. Be careful when adding sugars, as they can burn, particularly over a live fire. If your marinade uses sugar, watch for flare-ups on the grill, and have a misting bottle filled with water ready to spray at the coals.

The ingredients above are an effective tenderizing solution for sirloin steaks. Of course, you are free to add a host of other ingredients, such as soy sauce, freshly minced garlic, parsley, oregano, and others, to create a sophisticated flavor profile.

Play around with ratios to find the perfect marinade for you. I usually aim for a 3:1 ratio of oil to acid.

A marinade will break down the fibers of the steak and as the liquid soaks into the meat it becomes meltingly tender.

raw sirloin steak on a table

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Marinade for At Least Four Hours

To allow the marinade to do its thing, you’ll want to soak the beef in the solution in the refrigerator for at least four hours. Overnight is even better.

Mix your marinade ingredients in a bowl, then pour the marinade into a one-gallon plastic baggie. Stick the meat in there, put the baggie in the fridge, and allow the marinade time to work its magic.

Use An Enzyme Based Tenderizer

An enzyme-based tenderizer is a powdered enzyme that is sprinkled on the surface of a steak to break down the tough tissues. A tenderizer is derived from natural enzymes such as papain from papayas and bromelain from pineapples that break down protein chains.

Sprinkle a light drizzle of the tenderizer on both sides of the sirloin steak. Let the steak sit at room temperature as the enzymes get to work. Enzyme-based tenderizers work fast, so use paper towels to wipe them off after 20 – 30 minutes.

In a cast iron pan, sear sirloin steaks on a thin layer of olive oil immediately after wiping it down. The enzymes that have penetrated the steak will continue to break down the meat if you let it sit.

Over-tenderizing meat could leave the steaks dry while the surface becomes mushy and unpalatable. Enzyme-based tenderizers work best for small steaks since they do not penetrate very deeply into the meat.

The McCormick Meat Tenderizer is a great choice here.

Using A Jaccard Meat Tenderizer

A Jaccard meat tenderizer is an improvement on the ‘fork’ method. This tenderizer works wonders on tough meat. 48 blades puncture holes all over the surface of the meat, and with a sirloin steak, you may only need to use two strokes.

The holes tear through the tough meat fibers, making the steak softer. This way, the fibers of the steak cook more easily and absorb moisture and fat faster, making the steak less chewy and more enjoyable overall.

Just like with a meat mallet, this method should be combined with marination for supremely tender steaks. The holes will allow the marinade to penetrate the steak faster and more thoroughly. The end result? Ultra-soft, delicious steaks.

Sear Your Steak

Another way to tenderize steak is to give it a good sear on a pan or a grill. Searing the steak also works well after tenderizing by another method, such as using a mallet.

Smoked sirloin steak closeup

Sear the meat on a grill or a cast iron skillet at a high heat of 400 – 500 degrees Fahrenheit for 6 minutes per side. This will produce steaks that are ultra-tender while locking in the flavors. I like my steaks medium rare, around 125° internal temperature. Cook yours to your desired doneness.

Source Your Beef

It’s important to note that some steaks are going to be tougher than others, even if they are the same cut. The difference in tenderness results from factors such as the age of the animal and the feeding practices it was subjected to.

The best way to ensure you’re getting delicious and consistent meat is to buy your meat from the same source. Shop around different grocery stores, and figure out which has the best, most consistent meat.

If your grocery store has a butcher counter, ask for a fresh cut of sirloin. I guarantee it will taste better than a cut that’s been sitting in a cooler wrapped in plastic for a few days.

Better yet, befriend a local butcher and buy your meat from them. Even the most venerable pit master will make bad bbq with sad, gray cuts of meat. I look for meat that is brilliantly red, firm to the touch, and richly marbled.

Cut Against The Grain

After the steaks have cooked and been allowed to rest, always cut across or against the grain. The grain refers to the muscle fibers of the meat and runs in one direction. Cut the steaks perpendicular to this direction.

Cutting against the grain is an old pit master trick for tougher cuts of meat like sirloin, flank, and skirt steak. Slicing against the grain makes meat taste more tender. You’ll cut through the muscle fibers, shortening them and making them easier to chew.

Use A Herb Butter Compound

A herb butter compound is a nifty way to add fat and richness to a tough sirloin steak. Sirloin steak contains very little fat, which means it can dry out when cooked. Dry steak is chewy and unpleasant.

A herb butter mixture will fix this problem. Mix the ingredients below for my go-to butter compound recipe:

  • Butter
  • Oregano
  • Minced garlic cloves
  • Basil
  • Black pepper

Ensure the ingredients are evenly mixed, then put the herb butter in the fridge for about twenty minutes to solidify it.

After cooking the steak, serve them with a scoop of herb butter compound on top of the steak. The butter will melt slowly into the steaks during carryover cooking.

Tender Sirloin steak with roasted vegetables

This will infuse the steak with a buttery, spicy layer of flavor to complement the rich beefy flavor of sirloin. Serve with mashed potatoes, lemon rice, or pasta. Chef’s kiss.

Monitor Your Cooking Temperatures

The temperature at which meat is cooked is very crucial. If you go above or below the desired temperature, even a tender steak can turn into a rubbery piece of meat, and your dinner is ruined.

Cook sirloin steak for at least an hour at 225° Fahrenheit if you opt for a slow cooking method. Reverse sear your steak. Once it nears your desired internal temperature, throw it on a screaming hot cast iron pan for a minute per side for beautifully browned steak (thank you, Maillard reaction).

If you choose to cook your steak hot and fast, tenderize it first, then sear the steak at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for approximately 6 minutes per side.

Always sear sirloin steaks in a fat, like olive oil, since they lacks the necessary fat to keep them moist when cooked over high heat.

Steak Doneness Temperatures

The following internal temperatures indicate doneness when cooking beef. The steaks will rise an additional 5° F after cooking.

  • Rare: 120°
  • Medium-rare: 130°
  • Medium: 140°
  • Medium-well: 150°
  • Well-done: 160°

Again, I like to pull my steaks from the cooker at around 125°. The further past 125° you cook your steaks, the tougher they’ll get.

Douse Or Sprinkle With Salt

Salt is an excellent meat tenderizer whether it is used shortly before cooking or in a marinade. Salt breaks down meat fibers, making the steak more tender. Salt your steaks liberally to cook them to perfection.

For smaller steak cuts, you can sprinkle salt on them and let them sit at room temperature for an hour. This process is known as dry brining, and I dry brine almost all of my meats. It’s also an effective technique for vegetables.

Ensure that you don’t let the salt stay on the meat any longer before you cook it. One hour is all it takes for salt to relax the proteins in meat, resulting in steaks that are so tender, you might not even need a steak knife.

While salt helps break down meat fibers, it also dehydrates meat, and if too much moisture is lost the steak could become even tougher.

Use kosher salt instead of regular salt. Kosher salt has a more subtle flavor and will not interfere with the eventual flavor of your sirloin steak recipe.

sirloin steak on a bbq grill

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How Do Restaurants Make Their Steaks So Tender?

They Buy Prime Beef

Most, if not all, restaurants use prime beef in their recipes.

Prime beef constitutes the best quality steak and the most tender cuts of meat available. But you are not likely to find it in supermarkets and most butcher shops, since it’s gobbled up by restaurants despite its hefty price tag.

They Age Their Meat

Restaurants buy a ton of beef and dry age it to make it very tender. Dry aging meat is a process of letting beef sit or rest under controlled conditions for prolonged periods of time.

If restaurants are dry aging their beef, they’re doing so for a minimum of thirty days. Some high-end steakhouses aging the meat for over 6 months.

Meat naturally becomes more tender over time as its natural enzymes break down the fibers of the meat. The longer the meat is aged, the stronger the flavor and the greater the tenderness.

They Marinade Meat

Restaurant owners have the incentive to make their meals as juicy and tender as possible to attract customers. To do this, they marinade tougher cuts like sirloin because (as you now know!) marinades are an excellent way to tenderize meat.

Why Are My Sirloin Steaks So Tough?

There are several reasons your steak is turning out so tough.

  • You may have bought meat from an older animal.
  • You are cooking the steaks while they are still frozen. Make sure your steak is fully thawed before cooking.
  • You need to tenderize steaks properly. If the process of tenderizing your sirloin steak does not successfully break down the fibers of the meat, then the steak will still be tough after cooking.
  • Make sure you buy the right steak. Consult your butcher on which cut of steak you are buying.
  • You are overcooking your steak. Invest in an instant read digital thermometer, and cook to your desired doneness level. The further past medium rare you cook your steaks, the tougher they will become.
By Kristy J. Norton
I'm Kristy – a chef and connoisseur of all things BBQ! You can find me either in my kitchen (or someone else's) or at a big outdoor barbecue surrounded by friends and family. In both my professional and personal life I’ve picked up more than a few tips and tricks for turning out delicious food. I consider it a privilege to share it with others!
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