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The Trick to Ultra Tender Chicken is Simpler Than You Think

Ever wonder why the chicken in your favorite Chinese restaurant's stir fry is always so tender and juicy? The secret lies in a technique called "velveting," a method so simple yet incredibly effective that it will revolutionize your home-cooked meals. Let's dive into this closely guarded secret and discover how you can achieve restaurant-quality chicken right in your own kitchen.

Kung Pao Chicken

Velveting Chicken: The Key to Tenderness

Velveting chicken is a straightforward process that involves tenderizing the meat using baking soda. This method, commonly used in Chinese restaurants, ensures that the chicken remains succulent and tender, making it perfect for a variety of dishes. Whether you’re making a classic chicken stir fry, sweet and sour chicken, or a spicy Szechuan dish, velveting will elevate your culinary creations to a new level.

How to Velvet Chicken

Here’s how you can easily velvet chicken at home:

1. Prepare the Chicken: Take 250 grams (8 ounces) of chicken breast, cut into strips or pieces.

2. Marinate with Baking Soda: Toss the chicken with 3/4 teaspoon of baking soda (also known as bicarbonate of soda).

3. Marination Time: Let the chicken marinate for 20 minutes. This allows the baking soda to break down the proteins in the chicken, making it ultra-tender.

4. Rinse Thoroughly: Rinse the chicken well under running water to remove any residual baking soda.

5. Dry the Chicken: Pat the chicken dry with paper towels to remove excess water.

6. Cook as Desired: Use the velveted chicken in your chosen recipe. Whether you’re stir-frying, adding it to a broth, or deep-frying, you’ll be amazed at the tender texture.

Why Velvet Chicken?

Velveting does not change the flavor of the chicken; it’s all about the texture. The technique makes the chicken incredibly soft and silky, which is why it's called "velveting." The baking soda breaks down the muscle fibers, giving the chicken a unique, melt-in-your-mouth quality.

Alternative Methods

While baking soda is the simplest method, Chinese restaurants might use other techniques to tenderize chicken:

- Cornstarch/Cornflour Sludge: Marinating chicken in a mixture of cornstarch and water, then either deep-frying or blanching it before adding to stir fry.

- Egg Whites: Sometimes combined with the cornstarch method to add an extra layer of tenderness.

- Chemical Tenderizers: Special tenderizing powders that break down proteins.

Despite these alternatives, the baking soda method remains the easiest and most effective way to achieve that perfect, tender chicken at home.

Orange Chicken

Cooking Velveted Chicken

Once your chicken is velveted, it’s ready to be cooked. You can marinate it further with your favorite sauces or seasonings. Here are some ways to cook velveted chicken:

- Stir Fry: Cook it in a hot skillet or wok with vegetables and your choice of sauce.

- In Broth: Add the raw velveted chicken to a simmering broth, like Chinese Chicken and Corn Soup. It cooks in just two minutes!

- Deep Fry: Perfect for dishes like General Tso's Chicken or Sweet and Sour Chicken.

Final Tips

- Use Chicken Breast: This method is particularly effective for chicken breast, which can often be dry and tough. Chicken thighs are naturally tender, so they don’t require velveting.

- Enjoy the Texture: Remember, velveting is all about the texture. It doesn’t impart any additional flavors, so your chicken will taste just like normal—only much more tender.

With this simple velveting technique, you’ll be able to recreate the tender, juicy chicken found in your favorite Chinese dishes. Give it a try and transform your home-cooked meals into restaurant-quality masterpieces!


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