There’s nothing like ordering Chinese takeout after a long week at work. Pop open a bottle of wine, order some moo goo gai pan or Kung Pao Chicken (and a couple orders of crab ragoon, if you’re anything like me), and you have the perfect night at home.
But if you hate waiting for the delivery guy or are loath to shell out big bucks for what amounts to chicken and rice, here’s an incredible cooking trick that will help you to create your own delicious Chinese chicken dishes at home.
It’s called “velveting” and it’s the secret behind the tender, melt-in-your-mouth chicken dishes that make Chinese takeout so delicious. And here’s the best part: This super easy cooking method can be used for all manner of chicken dishes, no matter the style.
How To Make Your Chicken Velvety Soft
First, prepare the chicken. (You can use your favorite cut of chicken, but breasts or tenders will work best for this cooking method.) If you’re making stir fry or another Asian-inspired dish like Schezwan Chicken, then make the pieces bite-sized. (This recipe for Easy Velveted Chicken from The Chunky Chef is perfect.) But if you want to serve a whole chicken breast (like this recipe for Velvet Chicken Breast With Mustard Sauce), you don’t need to cut it up.
Second, you need to coat the chicken with a light batter of egg whites and cornstarch. Beat the egg white vigorously until it looks frothy, then add in the cornstarch. Stir the mixture until no lumps remain and you have a smooth marinade. Now, place the chicken into the mixture and soak it in the fridge for 30 minutes. (You can soak for longer if you desire, such as overnight.)
The basic marinade can be tweaked to your personal preference. For example, if you’re making an Asian stir-fry, you can add a tablespoon or two of peanut oil into the marinade, or a splash of soy sauce. You can also add in a tablespoon of rice wine vinegar. (Or use another acid, such as apple cider vinegar.) Add salt, pepper and other seasonings to your liking (i.e. cumin for an Indian curry or dried basil and oregano for an Italian chicken dish). This recipe from Kawaling Pinoy calls for Chinese rice wine.
Now it’s time to cook the chicken. Bring a pot of water to boil and add salt and a tablespoon of oil. Transfer the chicken into the pot and turn the heat down to simmer. Let the chicken cook for just a few minutes, then take it out of the pot.
Now you can finish cooking the chicken in any manner you choose, such as in a wok for a stir fry, in a skillet for a succulent chicken breast recipe or even in the oven for a baked chicken dish. It also works excellently alongside healthy grains and veggies, which makes it a simple way to get your kiddos to eat their greens. Try this recipe for healthy chicken and veggies stir-fry from The Seasoned Mom.
The genius of “velveting” chicken is that it ensures the chicken will not dry out, which is excellent for chicken breasts that are not as naturally juicy as other cuts of meat. Even novice cooks can use this simple trick to their advantage. Best of all, it requires no fancy kitchen equipment or costly ingredients that you will only use one time.
Love this hack! Have you ever velveted chicken? What were the results?
[h/t: The Kitchn]