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How to Make Bland Meat Palatable: Simple Guide

Wish your meat had more flavor? We’ve all been there. Our guide to fixing bland meat will help you turn things around.

Salt is a staple in every cook’s pantry for a reason—it brings out the flavors of our food and ameliorates the overall taste of our dishes.

When it comes to meat, salting before or during the cooking process is crucial. The salt melts away into the juices and becomes part of the crust of the meat, resulting in a dish tasty enough to make the mouth water.

If you find yourself faced with bland meat, don’t despair: there are ways to fix it. Whether you cooked it yourself or someone else did the cooking for you, we’ve written this guide to help.

Why We Salt Meat Before or During Cooking

When we say that meat is bland, we usually mean it lacks salt; that it isn’t as savory as we expect it to be.

Meat tastes best when it’s salted before or during cooking, not after. Salt brings out the meat’s flavor, and when it’s added at the right time, it dissolves into the meat’s juices and becomes part of the crust.

If you’re dealing with bland meat, the hard truth is that there’s only so much you can do. However, you probably want to do as much as can be done to improve the dish and make it palatable.

So let’s go over your options for salting your meat after it’s been cooked.

How to Salt Meat After It’s Been Cooked

Okay, we’ve established that it’s best to salt meat before or during cooking.

But you’re here reading this, which means that wasn’t the case with your meat. So, how can you season it after the fact?

Perhaps it’s best to start with what you shouldn’t do. Simply sprinkling the meat with salt won’t help much. The meat will stay bland, and the salt will taste too harsh because the salt crystals won’t have melted onto the meat’s surface and melded with its flavors.

The remedy?

Slice the meat thinly, like you would for a steak taco or steak sandwich. Heat it in a pan until it starts hissing and sizzling, then toss it with some butter and a generous sprinkle of salt until it has formed a crispy, golden brown crust.

This technique does several things to the meat that simply salting it cold doesn’t.

First, butter contains water, which dissolves the salt, forming a buttery brine. Second, fat (and butter is full of it) carries flavor, allowing the salt to penetrate the nooks and crannies of the meat. Third, heat causes browning, and browning creates flavor through a process known as the Maillard reaction.

That last point—the Maillard reaction—also plays a crucial role in enhancing the flavor of the meat.

Brown the Meat to Ameliorate Its Flavor

Have you ever wondered why YouTube chefs and cookbook authors always advise you to sear a steak or brown the meat in your skillet?

It’s because high, dry heat triggers the Maillard reaction—a series of chemical changes in the meat that create rich, meaty, and savory aromas and flavors that concentrate into a crispy and golden brown crust so delectable, it makes the mouth water.

The Maillard reaction, and the surface browning that comes from it, is what sets apart a juicy steakhouse steak from a bland, gray steak made by a novice cook.

So whether it’s bland steak, pork chops, braised beef, or pan-fried chicken that turned out tasteless, the solution is almost always to baste it in butter with plenty of salt and cook it until it’s crispy and golden brown around the edges.

Smear the Meat With a Savory Sauce

Remember when I said that seasoning meat after it’s cooked can only improve its aroma and flavor so much?

The good news is that there are other things you can do.

Try making a savory sauce. If you’ve just finished cooking (or recooking) the meat, deglaze the brown bits stuck to the bottom of your pan with some wine, soy sauce, and thyme and create a pan sauce.

You could also make garlic butter, or even aioli. It’s not so much about which sauce you choose to make, but rather about making a sauce that’s full of flavor. You’re trying, after all, to make up for the lack of flavor in the meat.

If It’s a Soup or Stew, Season And Cook It Down

Suppose you find yourself in a situation like this forum user, whose housemate’s mother came over and made a beef stew so bland, it resembled the cheap canned stuff collecting dust at the grocery store.

In that situation, I would remove the cubed beef from the stew and brown it in a pan with butter and salt to bring out its flavor—just like we discussed.

Meanwhile, I’d add a bouillon cube to the stew and continue cooking it until the vegetables have almost dissolved into the liquid. Then, I’d reincorporate the browned beef and aromatize the stew with some thyme a minute or two before it’s done cooking.

I could even go a step further and reduce the stew so much that everything falls apart and the flavors become highly concentrated. Then, I could serve it over boiled rice (cooked in salted water) or mashed potatoes.

Or Make Tacos or Sandwiches With It

When the meat was supposed to be the star of the show but turned out bland and dull, relegate it to a supporting role and use it to make tacos or sandwiches.

Whether it’s the condiments and cheese in a sandwich or the toppings on a taco, the other ingredients can easily add depth of flavor, and hopefully make up for the meat’s blandness.

Use sharp cheeses, like aged cheddar or pecorino for your sandwiches, and savory sauces like fresh tomato salsa for your tacos.

Bringing It All Together

Anyone can make food, but not everyone can cook.

If you’re still learning, or find yourself stuck with a meat dish prepared by someone who is (or who stubbornly isn’t), don’t worry—there are ways to fix it.

Brown the meat with fat and salt in a skillet. Meanwhile, consider whether to coat it with a sauce, mix it back into a cooking liquid, or use it in tacos or sandwiches.

The great thing about cooking is that a little bit of ingenuity goes a long way. So thanks for reading and I hope this article has given you some inspiration.

Know your author

Written by

Dim is a food writer, cookbook author, and the editor of Home Cook World. His first book, Cooking Methods & Techniques, was published in 2022. He is a certified food handler with Level 1 and Level 2 Certificates in Food Hygiene and Safety for Catering, and a trained cook with a Level 3 Professional Chef Diploma.