Creative Ways to Utilize a Meat Mallet Beyond Tenderizing Meat

Your meat mallet is likely one of those kitchen tools that gets dragged out from the back of a drawer to serve its one and only purpose of tenderizing meat. The good news is that your meat mallet has far more potential than this and can be put to good use in your kitchen regularly.

From helping you peel garlic in an instant without it sticking under your fingernails, to cracking open shellfish to make a delicious bisque, your meat mallet can handle it all and make your kitchen life easier. This handy culinary hammer can also help to extract more flavor from fibrous ingredients such as ginger and lemongrass, allowing them to release more of their delicious oils into your favorite dishes.

Join us as we explore ways to use your meat mallet for tasks other than tenderizing meat and turn your single-use tool into a multi-functional culinary gadget. Next time you need to crush peppercorns or pit olives, you will know how to do it quickly and with little mess.

Crushing ice

Glass of crushed ice

Crushed ice is an essential component of so many drinks, particularly in the summer months when you need to cool down. Full-size ice cubes just don’t work in certain situations, but crushing ice can be a difficult task that sometimes puts us off making our favorite drinks. Reaching for your meat mallet can make this task a breeze — and quite an entertaining one at that.

The first step to perfectly crushed ice is to put several large ice cubes into a plastic food bag — ideally one with a zip or that you can seal so that the ice doesn’t come flying out as you hit it. If you are planning to crush ice with a meat mallet regularly and don’t fancy the plastic waste, you can buy a reusable canvas bag called a Lewis bag specifically for this purpose. Cover the bag in a dishcloth and fetch your meat mallet.

Smash the ice by hitting it firmly and repeatedly with the meat mallet. The more consistent you can be with your strikes, the better the end result will be. Check the ice regularly to see how small the pieces are — if any shards form you may wish to save them for presentation on the top of your drinks. Keep pounding the ice with your mallet until you have the desired consistency. Transfer your newly crushed ice to a large bag to store in the freezer, or straight into cocktail glasses to enjoy a refreshing mojito.

Chopping nuts

Chopped nuts in wooden bowl

Nuts are a fantastic ingredient to add to many culinary endeavors, from breakfast oatmeal to curries or pecan pie. They are full of healthy fats and protein and can add a delicious textural contrast to your dishes. Whole nuts, however, are not practical for adding to most meals, and can even be a choking hazard, particularly for children. The solution is to crush them into much smaller pieces, and a meat mallet can make easy work of this.

Gather your selection of nuts and place them in a suitable bag. If you are adding a mix of nuts to your dish, they can all be crushed at once. Tap the nuts firmly with your meat mallet — you don’t want to smash them too hard unless you want to reduce them to dust. This method of roughly chopping nuts is safer than attempting to do it with a knife. The hard texture of the nuts means that knives can easily slip onto waiting fingers, making chopping nuts a dangerous task. The ease of the mallet method means that older children can take part too and will have fun bashing the nuts into small pieces, under parental supervision of course.

Once your nuts have been chopped, you can add the smaller pieces into batter and dough and bigger chunks as toppings for a crunchy texture. If you have crushed too many nuts, make sure to store them in an airtight container to keep them as fresh as possible.

Preparing garlic

Crushed garlic and whole cloves

For most home cooks, garlic is an essential pantry staple, adding its flavor to so many dishes across a wide range of cuisines, including Italian and Chinese. Peeling and preparing garlic, though, can be a tedious task. Attempting to prise the delicate skin away from the clove can often result in chunks of garlic under the fingernails and a smell that hangs about for days.

Using a meat mallet to prepare your garlic is a great solution to your garlic woes, and can allow you to prepare multiple cloves at once. Start with your unpeeled garlic cloves on the cutting board and your meat mallet at hand. To peel the garlic, bash the clove firmly with the mallet, which will cause the end of the skin to break off from the clove. You can then easily peel the skin without having to dig your nails into the flesh. A similar technique can be used to break the entire bulb of garlic up into individual cloves.

Once your garlic clove is peeled, you can press down firmly with the meat mallet to break it up into small, crushed pieces. If you need minced garlic for your recipe, press and crush the garlic repeatedly until it forms a paste. Though buying pre-prepared garlic in a jar may be tempting, using a meat mallet makes easy work of preparing fresh garlic, meaning your dishes can benefit from the delicious flavor and health benefits of fresh garlic every time.

Pitting olives

Olives in wooden bowl

Creativeye99/Getty Images

Olives are a tasty delicacy that are enjoyed worldwide, but particularly across the Mediterranean. Technically a fruit, they are a fantastic addition to salads, pizzas, and pasta sauces or simply enjoyed as a salty appetizer. One slight issue with olives though, is the presence of a very hard stone in the middle of the fruit.

The small nature of olives makes it much harder to remove the pit than it would be in a bigger fruit, and attempting to do this with a sharp knife can be tricky. While olive pitting tools do exist, why spend money on a tool that only has one function if you have a perfectly good meat mallet in your kitchen that can do the job, too?

You may want to lay your olives on a piece of kitchen paper before you start, to help prevent them from flying off the chopping board as you work. Gently tap each olive with your meat mallet – the goal here is to crack them open, not mash them to a pulp (unless you are making tapenade, of course!) Once the olive has split, you can easily remove the pit and then prepare your olive however you wish. For a tangy treat, try stuffing them with blue cheese before adding them to your next martini.

Crushing peppercorns

Wooden spoon with peppercorns

As an enthusiastic home cook, you will know the difference a sprinkle of black pepper can make to your dish. Lifting savory flavors such as cheese with a little kick of heat, or even adding a peppery twist to fruit such as strawberries, it is an indispensable seasoning to have at hand. While you can add whole peppercorns to your dish if you wish, cracking or crushing your peppercorns releases the flavor, meaning your food will benefit from the enhanced taste. Using a meat mallet to crush peppercorns gives you control over how finely you want to crush them, from simply cracking them open to reducing them to a fine powder.

Start by choosing which type of peppercorn you need for this particular recipe. There are many different types of peppercorns, each with a slightly different flavor. Green peppercorns have a milder flavor than black peppercorns, and pink peppercorns have fruity notes that would go well with lighter dishes or desserts.

Wrap your peppercorns in a plastic bag or kitchen paper to prevent a slippery incident on the floor, and tap them firmly with the meat mallet. You will notice the scent as each peppercorn cracks to reveal the fragrant oil inside. Keep pressing harder with the mallet if you want them finely ground, or add the cracked peppercorn to your dishes for a delightful pop of heat with each mouthful.

Crack open crab and lobster

Cooked crab claws

For many of us, the experience of enjoying a crab or lobster dish is reserved for having a special meal while dining out. The prospect of cracking open large shellfish can be a daunting prospect, and the worry of ruining such a special and expensive ingredient puts off many of us. Using a meat mallet to prepare a crab or lobster can make the job easier, allowing you to enjoy these delicious fish in the comfort of your own home.

The idea when using the mallet is to crack the shell just enough that you can pull out the delicate meat from inside. You don’t need to use a huge amount of force to do this; a firm tap should suffice. Aim your strike at the thickest part of the shell, which should crack open without leaving shards of shell in the meat. Once you have pulled out the meat, move on to the next part of the crab or lobster and repeat until you have all of the meat removed. Don’t forget to use the shells to make a luxurious bisque or stock.

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Bruise lemongrass

Lemongrass, limes, and chilis

Lemongrass is an essential ingredient in Asian cuisine, lending its citrusy flavor to Thai and Vietnamese dishes in particular.  When added to curries and soups, it adds a vibrant flavor and helps create complex flavor profiles in these dishes.

If you’re planning to cook a lemongrass dish at home, you should have no trouble sourcing the ingredient, as it is readily available in most grocery stores. The biggest issue comes from extracting as much flavor from lemongrass as possible, as its fibrous nature can make it difficult to handle. Enter the meat mallet, which can be used to bruise the lemongrass and coax all the lovely flavor particles to escape into your dish.

The first step is to discard the tough exterior of the lemongrass and use only the inner section. Then use your meat mallet to tap firmly along the length of the stalk, bruising the flesh and releasing the fragrant aroma in the process. You will know it has worked if the lemony scent intensifies. You can slice the stalk into thin rings and add it to your dish, knowing that you have extracted more of its delicious flavor thanks to your trusty meat mallet.

Making breadcrumbs

Selection of savory crackers

Whether you are out of breadcrumbs, have an abundance of crackers in danger of going stale, or are simply looking to switch up the texture of your chicken coating, making substitute breadcrumbs from crackers is an innovative idea. Using crackers also allows you to tailor the crumb to your own needs based on the cracker you use. Whether it is gluten-free or seasoned with cheese or garlic and herbs, using a meat mallet can make short work of creating a substitute breadcrumb from crackers.

Start by choosing your flavor of cracker and placing them in a sturdy plastic bag — this will significantly reduce the mess involved. Then use the meat mallet to firmly tap the crackers until they start to break up. The beauty of a meat mallet over a food processor is that you have control over what size of crumbs you want — plus the benefit of not having to wash the food processor afterward.

The chunkier crumb will add a fun texture to your dishes compared to traditional breadcrumbs. You may even find that you prefer a cracker crumb over bread, which means your meat mallet will be getting a lot more use.

Smashing potatoes

Roasting tray of smashed potatoes

Potatoes are such a versatile ingredient and can transform depending on how you cook them. From fluffy baked potatoes to crispy tater tots, the ways to enjoy the humble spud are virtually endless. One underused way to prepare baby potatoes is to boil or steam them and then serve them crushed (sometimes called smashed). This is where your meat mallet can be put to use.

Smashed potatoes have a texture that is different from regular boiled potatoes and allows them to soak up all sorts of flavors from butter and dressings. After boiling and smashing them, you can then crisp them up in the oven to give them a super-crispy texture.

The best potatoes to use are waxy ones such as Yukon golds, as they will hold their shape better. Make sure not to overcook them or they may turn to mush. Use the meat mallet to lightly crush each potato once it has cooked, creating an uneven surface on the top. This irregular surface will crisp up perfectly in the oven, creating a brilliantly crispy texture. You can serve your crushed potatoes as a fun side dish or even as a delicious crispy snack.

Preparing ginger

Person chopping ginger root

Ginger is a fabulously fragrant ingredient that is used in many savory and sweet dishes across a variety of cuisines. From carrot and ginger soup to vegetable stir fry or a sticky ginger pudding, this versatile root lends a fiery kick to many dishes. It is also a lifesaver for pregnant women suffering from morning sickness due to its anti-emetic properties. Preparing ginger from scratch can be a pain, but your meat mallet can help make it a bit easier.

Start by peeling your ginger — if your piece has smooth skin, you can do this with a teaspoon. Then, cut it into smallish chunks before employing the meat mallet. Tap each piece of ginger firmly to help to break down the fibers inside. This will make it easier to cut and encourage the aromatic oils inside to flow when you slice it. You can then grate or slice your ginger and add it to your dish. If you are making ginger tea, you can smash the rings further with the mallet before adding it to hot water and letting it infuse.

Cracking bones open for marrow

Raw bones with marrow inside

If you have never tasted bone marrow before, you should definitely give it a try. This delicacy is loved for its butter texture and rich taste and is often added to soups and stews to enhance the flavor. Bone marrow has a multitude of health benefits and as it contains lots of collagen, it is excellent for skin and, naturally, bones.

The issue with using bone marrow in your own cooking is the difficulty in removing it from the bones. Beef bones are generally used as they contain the most marrow, but these strong bones can be hard to crack into. If you have a small hacksaw then with the help of your meat mallet, you should be able to access this prized marrow and the delicious flavors it brings.

On a solid surface, saw gently into the top of the bone, near the middle. Insert a strong knife into the bone where you have cut, and tap firmly on the end of the knife with the mallet. This should be enough to cut through the bone and allow you to remove the marrow from each section. If you are concerned about the safety of carrying this out in your kitchen, you can ask your butcher to do it for you.

Break up candy or chocolate

Woman breaking up chocolate

Baking with chocolate is a lot of fun and tasting as you go is, of course, mandatory. But breaking up chocolate into tiny shards and slivers is not as easy as you may think, and a meat mallet can make things a little easier. Whether you need chocolate toppings for homemade ice cream or to create chocolate chunks for a cake, breaking up candy will be a breeze with your trusty meat mallet.

Start by selecting the type of candy you want to use. Honeycomb, nougat, and peanut butter are all great options for creating additional flavor, or you may want to opt for a simple block of cooking chocolate. Once you have your candy, wrap it in parchment paper or a plastic bag to contain the fragments. The force you use with the mallet will depend on the size of the chunks you need for the final dish. If you’re not sure, start gently and you can always make them smaller as you go.

This method of breaking up chocolate injects a bit of fun into the process and stops you from stabbing yourself in the hands with chocolate shards as you try to break the candy up. If the kids are helping you bake, they can have a go with the mallet too, making it an entertaining activity for you all.

Open a coconut

Coconuts whole and halved

Eating a fresh coconut is one of life’s pleasures and the delicious meat inside offers many nutritional benefits. It is the richest food source of lauric acid, a type of fat that is showing promising results in lowering the risk of heart disease. The biggest problem with coconuts is how to access the sweet flesh inside without injuring yourself. With the help of your meat mallet, it shouldn’t be too difficult.

Grab a screwdriver and meat mallet and examine your coconut to find the three holes, called eyes. One of the eyes is softer than the other two, so that will be your point of entry. Place the screwdriver in the soft hole and tap firmly with your meat mallet, creating a hole to drain the coconut water out into a bowl.

To open the coconut fully, place it on a hard surface and tap the center firmly with the mallet, turning it as you strike it. The coconut should crack open, allowing you to carefully remove the meat using a screwdriver or a sharp knife. 

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