Ever notice how the chicken in stir fries at your favourite Chinese restaurant is incredibly tender? It’s because they tenderise chicken using a simple method called Velveting Chicken using baking soda.
It’s a quick and easy method that any home cook can do, and can also be used for beef. Use this for all your favourite Chinese chicken dishes, like Cashew Chicken, Chicken Stir Fry, Chow Mein and Kung Pao Chicken. This is a game changer!
It’s called “velveting chicken” and it’s the Chinese way to tenderise chicken breast so it’s unbelievably tender and juicy.
Velveting Chicken: Tenderise chicken the Chinese restaurant way!
Here’s how to velvet chicken:
For every 250g/8oz chicken breast strips or pieces, toss with 3/4 tsp baking soda (bi-carb)
Marinate for 20 minutes
Rinse well under running water, pat with paper towel to remove excess water
Cook per chosen recipe and marvel at the most tender chicken breast you’ve ever had, just like at Chinese restaurants!!!
I only tenderise chicken breast because it’s so lean. I find chicken thigh tender and juicy enough to use without tenderising.
What does Velveted Chicken taste like?
Velveting chicken does not add any flavour so it tastes just like normal chicken. It is the texture that is affected. The chicken fibres are broken down so the chicken becomes much softer on the inside and surface. “Velvet” like – hence the name!
How do Chinese Restaurants tenderise chicken?
There are actually a few different ways to tenderise chicken the Chinese restaurant way:
marinating in a cornstarch/cornflour sludge then deep frying or blanching in water before proceeding to cook in the stir fry
egg whites – sometimes the above method is also done using egg whites
simple baking soda / bi carbonate method
I use the baking soda method which is the technique I’m sharing today because it’s the most fuss free and just as effective as the cornstarch method which I’ve tried numerous times, using various combinations (egg whites, no egg whites, shoaxing wine, deep frying, water blanching).
How to cook velveted chicken
Once the chicken has been velveted, you can go ahead and marinate it in liquid or even dry flavourings. Then just cook it as the recipe directs.
Tenderised chicken can be:
cooked in a skillet or wok – in stir fries and stir fried noodles;
cooked in broth – it would be ideal to add into Chinese Chicken and Corn Soup, Just drop it in raw, it will cook in 2 minutes; or
I personally do not bake chicken pieces for Chinese recipes, but I see no reason why it wouldn’t work.
Recipes to make using tenderised chicken
I’m sharing this recipe today with Chinese stir fries and stir fried noodles in mind. But it can be used for any recipe – even non Asian ones – that is made with chicken strips or bite size pieces because the tenderising process doesn’t add any flavour to the chicken.
A few Chinese takeout favourites that are ideal for making with velveted chicken include:
Cashew Chicken (above)
Kung Pao Chicken (below)
Chop Suey Chicken Stir Fry (below)
Add into Fried Rice
It can also be used in soups instead of poaching and shredded a whole chicken breast. Just drop the tenderised chicken strips into the broth and it will cook in 2 minutes:
Laksa (I know this isn’t Chinese, but it’s terrific in Laksa)
I hope you find this useful! I’ve been jamming directions for how to tenderise chicken into every stir fry recipe I’ve shared since the beginning of time. And it’s way long overdue for me to write up a separate post for it! – Nagi x
How to Tenderise Chicken for Stir Fries (Chinese secret!)
- 250 g / 8 oz chicken breast slices OR bite size pieces (note whole pieces, Note 1)
- 3/4 tsp baking soda (bi-carb/bi-carbonate)
- Place chicken in a bowl and sprinkle baking soda all over the surface.
- Toss with fingers to coat as evenly as possible.
- Refrigerate 20 minutes for slices, 30 minutes for bite size pieces.
- Rinse well in colander to remove baking soda.
- Shake off then pat away excess water (doesn't need to be 100% dry).
1. Only use slices and bite size pieces - This method of tenderising chicken is suitable for sliced or small bite size pieces of chicken, not a whole breast or thigh fillet. The baking soda is too strong and will over tenderise the outside before the inside is tenderised. To tenderise a whole breast fillet, either use a marinade (like this one) or dry brine (use method in this Chicken Parmigiana recipe. General notes:
- I've left chicken marinating for almost 1 hour and it's been fine. A bit more soft that I'd like, but it wasn't too soft.
- I only tenderise breast and tenderloin. I don't think chicken thigh needs it, it's juicy enough as it is.
- Storage: While I can't prove this definitely, I feel like the shelf life of the raw chicken is shortened slightly. I like to use it within 24 hours - or freeze it.