Most meat tenderizers look like hammers. This one looks like...well, a torture tool. But given that tenderizing is a minor form of torture for uncooked meat whichever way you pursue it, I tested the Deni with an open mind.
To be fair, it's not a revolutionary design—many "knife" tenderizers are on the market for around the same price (I got mine for $12 but it's available for $10 at Kmart), and have even been endorsed by gadget guru Alton Brown.
The Deni model comes in two versions, the 15-blade and a more intense (and more expensive) 48-blade one; I tested the former.
Both claim to "improve taste and texture for all cuts of meat," reduce shrinkage and marinating time, and reduce cook time. I tested these claims with four pieces of chicken breast: all the same size, two were tenderized and two weren't. With these four breasts, I conducted two tastings: one in which I knew what I was eating, and a second one which conducted totally blind.
In the non-blind taste test both batches of chicken seemed very similar to me. Repeated blind tastings, on the other hand, produced more interesting results. There was one piece of chicken I kept coming back to which was juicier, plumper, more flavorful: the one which had been tenderized. And once I opened my mind to the product and re-tasted the first two batches of chicken, the results matched. Clearly, I had been rooting against the tenderizer, which clouded my judgment on the first non-blind tasting.
The product works, though its spikier sibling seems to be an even bigger hit with users
It's a purchase I can get behind—not too expensive, and fairly ubiquitous.
In comparison to the hammer-style models, this one certainly doesn't flatten meat into nice paillards or Milanese cuts, but it does improve (by shrinking) marinade time. And with a stamp-like mechanism at its core, it's fun to use—equally de-stressing as its mallet counterpart but without the requisite arm power (yes, it's a legit consideration).