Photo: Shutterstock / artcomedy
Whether it’s mastering fluffy rice or the perfectly balanced sweet-and-sour sauce, it’s tricky to recreate favorite Chinese restaurant dishes in your own kitchen. (Though, these takeout copycat recipes definitely come close!) In particular, the soft, melt-in-your-mouth texture of a chicken stir-fry just doesn’t taste the same at home. So what’s the secret?
Velveting chicken. In the cooking world, the term velveting means to pass through hot oil or hot water for a brief period of cooking time. It’s a popular Chinese technique that is used to lock in the meat’s juices and keep it moist and tender. And good news, this technique can be used on any type of meat. (Velvet pork chops, anyone?) Velveting may be a restaurant trade secret, but this cooking technique is so easy any home cook can master it with ease.
How to Make Perfect Velvet Chicken
- 1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cut into one-inch pieces
- 1 egg white, beaten
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1 teaspoon cornstarch
- 1/8 teaspoon white pepper (black is OK too)
Resealable plastic bag
Step 1: Get mixing
In a small bowl, beat the egg white. Then combine the egg white, soy sauce and cornstarch into a large resealable plastic bag. Give it a gentle shake to combine.
Pro tip: Alternatively, you can use red wine vinegar to replace the soy sauce in the mixture.
Step 2: Coat the chicken and let it sit
Add the chicken to the bag, seal it up and turn to coat. Eye it to make sure every inch of the chicken is thoroughly covered. Then, pop the chicken into the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
Step 3: Poach it
When the chicken is done marinating, it’s time to get cooking. Bring a pot of salted water to a boil. Carefully drop in the chicken and cook for about three minutes until the chicken is just cooked through. (The meat should turn from pink to a milky white.) Carefully strain the chicken using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate lined with paper towels to dry.
Step 4: Fry, fry, fry.
Get stir-fryin’! Once your chicken is completely dry, add it into your favorite stir-fry recipe. Despite the extra steps, you’ll find that velveting chicken is completely worth it. It means juicier, more flavorful chicken in every bite.
But don’t stop there. That juicy velvet chicken is perfect for incorporating into other dishes, too. Try it in quesadillas, casseroles, chilis—and our 100 other recipes put leftover chicken to work!