Q: I recently purchased a mallet. After ten minutes of trying to figure out why there were so many kinds, I still don't know why. I opted for a $3.99 wooden mallet with a toothed surface, but I'm not sure if I made the right choice. How do I clean the surface after I've used it? Should I have bought the steel one instead?
--Susanna Chuang, White Plains, NY
To flatten meat or chicken breasts, it's best to use a tool called a meat pounder, which is made of stainless steel and weighs about two pounds. It is composed of a smooth round disk that resembles a hockey puck attached to a perpendicular handle. To keep the meat from sticking to the countertop or to the pounder, flatten it between sheets of wax paper or parchment paper. Pound evenly, and not too hard. You can wash a stainless-steel meat pounder in the dishwasher.
The toothed mallet you've purchased sounds like a meat tenderizer, which is really only necessary for tenderizing tough cuts of meat, such as flank steak. It accomplishes this by cutting the muscle fibers. Don't clean a wooden mallet in the dishwasher, as it is prone to cracking; scrub it by hand with a brush instead.