Enzyme In Pineapple That Breaks Down Protein Do Pineapple and Papaya Eat Your Skin?

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You may have heard that you can’t make jam from pineapple and papaya because they contain various enzymes that won’t allow the flesh to gel. First and foremost, yes, these fruits don’t jam well because of certain enzymes. Second, you definitely can make jam from both if you use a few tricks.

What are these enzymes and what exactly are they doing?

The Enzyme Bromelain 

To begin, let’s talk about the enzyme called bromelain. Pineapples are packed with the stuff, though particularly in the stem and skin.

Bromelain is known for its ability to break down protein chains. This gives it a culinary use as a tenderizer to soften up tough cuts of meat. In fact, it’s such a great tenderizer that when using pineapple juice as a marinade, you only have to actually marinate for a short time. Marinate too long and the meat will literally fall apart. 

This enzyme is also why pineapple won’t form into jam and jelly when gelatin is used, as the enzyme breaks down the gelatin. However, you can add agar-agar to neutralize this reaction.

In fact, this enzyme is so strong that pineapple processors have to wear gloves and masks since the juice will eventually eat away at the hands and face. When cutting up lots of pineapples, it isn’t uncommon to come away with dry, flaky skin or even small sores.

There is some research to see if this enzyme can be used to treat osteoarthritis, but results so far are still pending or inconclusive. 

The Enzyme Papain

So that leaves papaya. Papayas contain an enzyme called papain. This enzyme is rich in the fruit and the latex of the tree. However, the amount in the fruit lowers as it ripens; whereas young, green papayas are packed with papain.

Papain, like bromelain, is often used as a tenderizer. South American natives used to use the fruit and juice to work on tough cuts of meat. Even today, papain is a key ingredient in powdered meat tenderizers.

Papain is also used in toothpaste as a teeth whitener. It has also shown to interfere with urine-based drug tests for cannabinoids.

So what is the best way to use these fruits in cooking? First off, feel free to continue eating them in juices, salads, or straight. However, when marinating meat, mix the juice or pulp with garlic, cumin seeds, oil, diced chilies, lime, and cilantro, and use it for chicken or pork. Be sure not to marinate for more than 30 minutes. This mixture can be used on fish, but only marinate for 10 minutes.

Personally, we’re a fan of this marinade for goat and sheep. Use it on the toughest cuts or use it directly in a braising liquid for a phenomenal meal.


Article Sources

The Spruce Eats uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Tadikonda A, Pentapati KC, Urala AS, Acharya S. Anti-plaque and anti-gingivitis effect of Papain, Bromelain, Miswak and Neem containing dentifrice: A randomized controlled trial. J Clin Exp Dent. 2017;9(5):e649-e653.  doi:10.4317/jced.53593

Video about Enzyme In Pineapple That Breaks Down Protein

Pineapple Enzymes and Gelatin – The Sci Guys: Science at Home

Welcome to science at home in this experiment we are exploring what happens when steel wool comes in contact with vinegar. Steel wool is made of an iron alloy and has a protective coating to prevent rusting. The vinegar removes the protective coating and exposes the iron to oxygen that quickly oxidizes the steel wool. At the end of this episode you will be able to demonstrate what happens when steel wool come in contact with vinegar, explain why the steel wool rusts and explain what an oxidation reaction is.

Help support us to do more experiments by becoming a patron on patreon: http://www.patreon.com/thesciguys

Equipment and Ingredients:
Fresh Pineapple (Alternatives are: Kiwi, Papaya and Figs)
Boiling Water
Gelatin Packages
Glass or Beaker
Spoon or Spatula
Pot
Stove
Goggles
Gloves
Apron or Lab Coat

Previous Episode: Copper Electroplating: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7t7v8w7EqTM&list=PL7VnnL-CJ-z5fZDvjxy7TATkITyw32erX&index=6
Next Episode: Coming Soon

Check out our website for more experiments, written explanations of the steps and the material list. http://www.thesciguys.ca

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