In this post I will be sharing a simple recipe for velveting chicken with baking soda as a tenderizer. While this is not the traditional method, it helps in tenderizing faster since the skin is removed, while it also help in reducing cooking time.
Velveting chicken is very easy to do, and in most cases, it’s better than deep frying. The result is chicken with a very mild flavor and silky smooth texture. This is a great way to cook chicken breasts that you want to use in other recipes (for example, turning them into chicken salad).
Velveting Chicken: Why It’s Important & How To Do It
Velveting Chicken: Why It’s Important & How To Do It
Texture is everything when it comes to meat. It makes the difference between a delicious meal and a mediocre one.
If your meat is juicy and tender, the flavors seem to explode and fill your entire mouth, and if it’s dry and tough, the meat is difficult to chew and delivers a lackluster experience.
But if you’ve ever cooked a stir fry or cooked other dishes with small, thin pieces of meat, you may have noticed it’s kind of tough to get that tender, juicy meat that stir-fry in restaurants tends to have.
Well, their secret is in a technique called velveting.
Doing this to your chicken will help keep it tender, juicy, and bursting with flavor. Let’s take a few minutes to learn everything you need to know about velveting so you can work it into your kitchen skills.
What Does Velveting Mean?
Velveting is a Chinese cooking technique that takes your thin pieces of raw meat and coats them in a cornstarch marinade. The meat is then lightly cooked on the outside before cooking it all the way through.
In order to do this, simply cut your meat into small pieces or strips. To make the cornstarch marinade, combine 1 tbsp of cornstarch and 1 tbsp of cold water. Stir into a smooth paste and coat the meat in the marinade. Let it sit in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
After it’s done marinating, you can lightly blanch the meat or pass it through boiling water for about 30 to 40 seconds. Then, your meat will be ready to add to the stir fry.
Velveting is a relatively simple method, but it makes a big difference!
What Happens When You Velvet Chicken?
When you velvet your chicken, or any other meat for that matter, there are a few important things that happen. First, the meat gets a nice, velvety coating. Letting the meat sit in the cornstarch marinade gives it that thick coating.
That coating is crucial for the next thing – cooking. When the chicken is briefly boiled, that coating turns solid, sealing in all of the juices of the meat, so none of it escapes.
Why Should I Velvet Chicken?
Velveting chicken can bring your stir fry, soups, and other dishes to the next level. We’ve all attempted to cook stir-fry and may have had great flavor, but with dry, tough meat that ends up making the dish sub-par. That’s why velveting can enhance the texture of your meat!
If you start velveting, you can have restaurant-quality stir-fry in your own home. The tender juiciness of stir fry meat doesn’t have to be elusive!
Is Velveting Chicken Healthy?
Velveting chicken is a perfectly healthy meat preparation method since the core ingredients are cornstarch and oil, each of which is perfectly fine for you to eat. So, velveting can deliver delicious, tender meat without sacrificing quality when it comes to taste or health.
However, there are adaptations to the velveting techniques that utilize frying instead of blanching, which would add more oil to your dishes.
What Does Velveted Chicken Taste Like?
Velveting chicken doesn’t have to include any flavor changes. It’s just a method of preparation. You’re welcome to add seasonings like soy sauce, hoisin, ginger, garlic, or mirin to the marinade to enhance the flavor. This technique is adaptable to whatever your flavor needs are.
Velveting cooking method also works on other meats. Try basic velveting with beef to make that beef and broccoli dish nice and tender. It’s a flexible cooking method that is open-ended regarding how you use it and what the finished product can look like.
What Are Common Methods of Velveting Chicken?
Up to this point, we’ve described the basic velveting foundation, but there are other variations of this method, depending on your preference or what ingredients you have lying around. Here are some of those methods.
Water velveting is the standard method that we’ve talked about already. It includes the traditional marinade and cooks the meat in water instead of oil.
This comes with some advantages. It will lower the fat content of your meal, so it’s a healthier way to cook. It’s also a technique used in some Cantonese cooking, so water velveting is the way to go if you’re going for that light feel.
One disadvantage to this method is that the water tends to wash off some of the marinade seasonings. So if you put rice vinegar or oyster sauce in along with your corn starch, some of that flavor might not make it in the finished product.
Thus when using water velveting, you may need to adjust a little more seasoning to your marinades to keep the flavor.
Oil velveting still involves that same technique of marinating your meat in a cornstarch-based mixture, but the method to seal all the juices in is just slightly different.
Instead of poaching the marinated meat in water, you will briefly fry it in oil. This has some advantages compared to the other method, depending on what you’re cooking.
Frying the meat will make it crispier on the outside than the traditional method, which can be a great option for stir-fry. Both methods are effective at sealing in those meaty juices that make the meat delicious and tender.
Many people may love the combination of a crispy outside and a tender inside which cannot be achieved with blanching.
Egg White Velveting
This method doesn’t alter the cooking process, but it does slightly change the marinade process. Egg white velveting is when egg whites are added to the cornstarch mix to make a thicker marinade.
If you’ve included some soy sauce, sesame oil, or mirin to your marinade, you might want to add an egg white to make that sauce thick and delicious.
After marinating the meat in the egg white and cornstarch mixture, you can proceed with either water or oil velveting.
Baking Soda Velveting
The final method is baking soda velveting, which is the addition of baking soda in the marinade. Again, this only alters the marinade, not the actual cooking method.
The baking soda can help tenderize the meat a little more than usual. The baking soda breaks down some proteins in the meat, enhancing the texture even further. By adding baking soda to your cornstarch mixture, you can get some exciting results from your meat.
This isn’t really necessary for chicken because most poultry meat is already tender. But if you’re ever velveting beef, this could be a good step to add.
Some people make this a separate step altogether. First, you will let the beef sit in a baking soda and water mixture for 30 minutes, then you take it out and proceed with your velveting method with cornstarch and water. This adds extra tenderness to your meats, which is great for beef stir frys.
If you go this route, just make sure you wash off the baking soda before velveting.
How Long Should You Velvet Chicken?
Most people say that you should let your chicken marinate in the velveting mixture for at least thirty minutes. This will ensure that a nice coating gets formed over your chicken so that all of those juices can get sealed in.
You can go for longer if you want to, but thirty minutes should do the trick if you’re in a pinch. Just start the marinade and then begin prepping your other ingredients. Most of the time, that should give the chicken enough time to get properly velveted.
Can I Velvet Chicken Overnight?
If you want to, you can also velvet your chicken overnight. There’s no rule against that! But velveting overnight is not essential, and 30 minutes will definitely be enough time.
What Parts of a Chicken Can I Velvet?
You can velvet pretty much any part of a chicken. Just make sure you slice it into thin pieces first. Breasts and thighs are always welcome, as those cuts have great slices of meat for stir frys.
Just make sure that you don’t leave any skin on the meat, as skin can impede the velveting process.
So now that we’ve talked about the different techniques, let’s get to the specific velveting recipe to use for extra tender, succulent chicken.
Mix Your Marinade Ingredients
First things first, make your marinade. For this recipe, let’s make a basic velveting mixture that can be used for different applications. If you want to add other sauces for flavor, you absolutely can!
Get about a pound of thinly sliced meat. Make sure that you’ve cut your meat against the grain. The shortened fibers make for better tenderness.
To make your mixture, add one tablespoon of vegetable oil, one tablespoon of cornstarch, and one tablespoon of water. If you’re looking to change the flavor, you can replace the water with soy sauce, rice vinegar, oyster sauce, or whatever suits your taste.
You’re also welcome to switch the vegetable oil with sesame oil to add a nice toasty flavor.
Place Chicken in Marinade and Let Sit
After that, simply mix your chicken slices into the marinade. Make sure that each piece gets coated. Cover it and put it in the fridge for about 30 minutes.
Again, while your meat is marinating and the cornstarch is turning into a nice, gelatinous coating, prep the other ingredients for your meal. For a stir fry, chop some fresh veggies and prepare your sauce. That should give the marinade enough time to set.
Boil in Water or Oil
After the marinating process is complete, it’s time to seal the meat. Boil some water, or fill a wok with some oil, depending on which method you prefer. Carefully place the meat in the cooking liquid and get ready to act quickly!
You should only cook the meat here for about 30 or 40 seconds. You just want the outside to get cooked to seal in the flavors of the meat for that enhanced texture.
Store Until Use
If prepping chicken ahead of time, cover it up and place it in the refrigerator until it is time to cook. If you like to prepare as much as possible ahead of time, go for it! But if you’re going to refrigerate the chicken after the first cook, it’s best not to wait more than 24 hours for the best taste.
Heat Chicken Until Cooked Through
The final step is to cook the chicken all the way through. Since it’s already been partially cooked, you shouldn’t need to cook the chicken too much. If you’re making a stir-fry, you can cook the vegetables most of the way and then add the chicken towards the end.
What Can I Use Velvet Chicken For?
Velveting chicken is a fantastic technique for dishes with smaller pieces of meat. It unlocks restaurant-level meat tenderness in your own home! This technique can be used for all sorts of different dishes, such as:
- Stir fry
- Beef and broccoli
- Kung pao chicken
- Cashew chicken
- Bourbon chicken
Remember, you don’t have to limit this technique to chicken. Velveting works wonders on beef, pork, and even shrimp!
Velveting is an incredible technique to learn, especially if you’re looking to unlock rich, juicy, tender meat with your own personal touch. And if you’re ready to try velveting for your next stir fry and need some ingredients, don’t forget to check out Umamicart!
You can get meats, veggies, and seasonings all delivered to your door for a fantastic home cooking experience.
HOW TO VELVET CHICKEN FOR STIR-FRY
Velveting is a critical Chinese cooking technique. Meat or seafood is marinated and pre-cooked in oil (or sometimes poached in boiling water). Then, the cook adds it to a stir-fry with other ingredients. In this post, we will teach you how to velvet chicken to yield the most tender and flavorful results for your favorite stir fries.
WHY VELVET CHICKEN?
Velveting is an essential step when preparing chicken breast (or even dark meat) for stir-frying.
Have you ever tried stir-frying chicken, only to have it appear (and taste) dry in the finished dish? Have you ever wondered how Chinese restaurants get their chicken to be so tender and moist-looking?
Velveting is the secret! It gives the chicken that silky texture, with retained moisture and flavor from the marinade. It also protects the chicken from the hot wok, yielding juicy chicken.
HOW TO SLICE CHICKEN FOR STIR-FRIES
Do you sometimes feel challenged when slicing chicken thinly to make a stir-fry? Trying to slice chicken uniformly when it is soft and slippery can be difficult even with a sharp knife!
I learned the answer the first time I worked in a Chinese restaurant kitchen as a prep guy. I cleaned and sliced vegetables, peeled shrimp, made egg rolls and yes, I sliced up many chicken breasts!
Before slicing them, I put them into the walk-in freezer until they were partially frozen––firm but not solid.
Once they are firm, they are very easy to slice into uniform, perfect slices. How’s that for a chef’s trick?
All restaurants (and most home cooks) velvet their chicken before making stir-fries, fried rice, etc. but they don’t all use the same method.
Some restaurants use baking soda as part of their marinade (you can tell by the crunchy or snappy texture of their chicken). In most cases, good quality chicken is already tender, which is why we don’t recommend adding any baking soda.
On rare occasions, you may get a tough chicken breast––a condition called “woody breast,” caused by hardened muscle fibers. Nobody really knows what causes it, but if you’ve ever had a stringy or tough chicken breast, you may have experienced it. That said, if your chicken is a bit more fibrous than usual, take care to cut across the grain, similar to slicing beef.
We’ve seen other sources on the Internet suggest adding egg white to velveting marinades. This is unnecessary. Your return on that investment just isn’t worth the trouble. In my experience, most Chinese cooks do not do this.
SO WHAT DO WE RECOMMEND?
To marinate chicken for stir fries, we use a simple mixture of water, oil, cornstarch, and a flavor agent like soy sauce or oyster sauce. Other ingredients, like Shaoxing wine or sesame oil, may also be layered in.
SO WHAT IS OIL VELVETING?
Oil velveting is a common practice Chinese restaurants use as a first cooking step. The equivalent Chinese phrase, zǒu yóu (走油) in Mandarin or jau yau in Cantonese, means “passing through oil.” It essentially refers to deep-frying.
We recommend searing the chicken in a hot wok, as opposed to deep-frying. Not only is it easier, searing really brings out the chicken flavor and creates an ever-so-light crust. This crust eventually melts when your chicken is added back into your sauce, creating extra flavor. The result is a silky mouthfeel and a flavor bomb in each bite!
CAN I BLANCH THE CHICKEN INSTEAD?
For those of you who want to reduce fat in your diet or simply want that delicate taste of Cantonese cooking, you can blanch your chicken in boiling water.
When blanching chicken, you may want to add a pinch of salt or more soy sauce or oyster sauce to the marinade, since some of that seasoning will be washed away while cooking.
HOW TO VELVET CHICKEN: INSTRUCTIONS
First, slice your chicken into 1 ½ to 2 inch pieces, about ¼ inch thick. Remember to slice across the grain, especially if using chicken breast. The chicken breast in this photo was partially frozen for easy slicing.
Add the water and soy sauce (or oyster sauce) to the chicken in a medium bowl, and mix until the chicken is well-coated.
We recommend adding 2-3 tablespoons of water to 12-16 ounces of chicken, but if your chicken is already moist because you rinsed it in water or maybe it was frozen with liquid, you can reduce the amount of added water.
After the water is massaged into the chicken, it should be absorbed within 10 minutes with no visible standing liquid.
The small amount of water moisturizes the chicken. Adding water also helps the soy sauce or oyster sauce to further tenderize, penetrate and add an extra layer of flavor to the chicken.
Set aside for 5-10 minutes. In that time, most of the liquid will be absorbed into the chicken.
Add the cornstarch and vegetable oil and mix again until everything’s incorporated and the chicken is uniformly coated. For the best results, let the chicken sit for 15 to 20 minutes to marinate.
To sear, place your wok over high heat. When it starts to smoke lightly, add a couple tablespoons of vegetable oil to coat the surface of the wok. Add the chicken in one layer, and allow to sear for 20 seconds.
Stir-fry until the chicken has turned opaque, and remove from the wok.
If you would rather blanch your chicken, add the chicken to a wok filled with boiling water. When it turns opaque, cook for an additional 10 seconds (the chicken will be cooked 80% through). Then, remove from the wok.
Remember, in both scenarios, you will be cooking the chicken again in your stir-fry, so avoid overcooking it during the pre-cook process!
Velveting Chicken for Chinese Stir fry Recipe & How To
What is velveting chicken? It’s a process where you pre-cook marinated chicken so that when you use it in your stir fry recipes, it is tender, juicy and not over cooked or dried out.
I have spent many a night cooking Chinese food and so many times I wondered “how in the world does the Chinese restaurants get their chicken so tender?”. Well, come to find out, they use this process called “Velveting” to process the meat so that it comes out consistent and perfect ever time.
There are several ways to velvet chicken. The most popular is listed below. The other way is to do something similar, but instead of boiling water, you cook the chicken in oil. Another way uses baking soda and is a quicker marinade.
** Update 1/3/2015: I tried the baking soda method tonight and it was so easy and simple. I added about 1/4 cup of baking soda with 3/4 cup of water and added the sliced chicken. Then I let it sit while I prepared the vegetables/etc. It sat for no more than 20 minutes. Then I rinsed it and added the wine/vinegar/sugar/salt marinade with cornstarch and stir fried it. Wow! Super soft and delicious. I’ll create a separate post later for this method, but I suggest you try it.
I will be presenting several recipes in the future that use this technique. So, look for recipes labeled ‘Snow White Chicken and…’.
You can also use this method for beef, however, I haven’t tried it. I think beef may need a different wine as well as a longer marinade. Once I try it, and it is successful, I will post it and hopefully inspire you to try out your hand at some home cooked Chinese recipes.