There have been quite of few questions as of late regarding the use of Papaya for tenderizing meat. Well, quite frankly, it's the best!!!
On Guam, as well as anywhere else in the tropics, the papaya fruit is quite abundant. There are many varieties of papaya and quite a few grow in the wild. Here is a link to photos of different varieties of papaya.
Well how does papaya work? What makes it such a good tenderizer? Well I could give you the long or the short version answer to that question, but here is the short version.
Papaya has enzymes that break down the collagen and other connective tissues in meats. It's that simple. However the actual process is just a little bit more complicated. Go here for a more complete explanation.
How do we use papaya to tenderize. Here is one of the on-line versions. The following is how I do it....
First I go and pick a papaya off the tree.
It doesn't matter whether the fruit is ripe or green. Just as long as it is firm enough to grate.
Cut the papaya in half or even smaller, depending on the fruit size.
Close up of the fruit and seeds. Save the seeds, dry them out and plant them so that you can have you own papaya trees.
Seed the fruit.
Grate the papaya.
Now you have what you need for tenderizing.
Mix the papaya into your brine. My brine mix is a 2 to 1 ratio of brown sugar (1 cup) to Kosher salt (1/2 cup) into one gallon of water. Reduce mix accordingly depending on how much water you use.
Everything is in the pitcher. Pitchers fit better in the refer.
Of course I do not immediately place the marinated meat in the refrigerator. If you just store the meat with the papaya in the refrigerator, it will do nothing to tenderize meat.
The enzyme, papain, starts to become active at 140 °F, slows down at 170 °F, and dies at 185 °F. That's according to my research on the matter. But I am no expert on that. I just know what works for me.
I leave the marinated meat out if I am going to cook within 4 hours. If not, I will refrigerate everything as normal and then remove the marinated meat long enough before I cook so that the papaya has an opportunity to tenderize the meat. That's usually about 3-4 hours. The temperature never gets close to 140 degrees F but at the outside temperature here on Guam, about 85-90 degrees F, it will really tenderize the heck out of the meat in just 3-4 hours. So you need to experiment with whatever meat you are tenderizing and see what works for you in your area. It all depends on the type and size of your meat and the outside temperature where you live.
I don't heat the brine up on the stove to speed up the heating process. That all just gets a little too complicated and starts to get into too many moving parts for me to have fun. Keeping it sinimple (my word for simpler than simple) seems to work for me and that's what counts.
Once you are ready to cook, take the meat out of the brine, rinse it off, rub it down and slap it on the grill. That's all there is to it. So again, marinate your meat with the papaya, rinse it off, rub it down and cook it. If your meat comes out like shoe leather, don't come crying to me. Just pay the extra for a better quality and more tender cut of meat.
Hey all kidding aside, have fun with this and I am sure you will love the results. As we say on Guam....sinimple!!!
Until next time....