Let me introduce you to a chicken technique that has revolutionized how I stir-fry at home: velveting. This Chinese technique is most often used in restaurants, but considering how easy it is, more home cooks should master it. Velveting chicken before you stir-fry gives the chicken the texture the name implies — tender, juicy chicken pieces that never dry out in the pan.
What Is Velveting?
According to stir-fry expert Grace Young, velveting literally means to "pass through" oil or water. While the technique starts with coating the chicken pieces in a mixture of egg white, cornstarch, and rice vinegar, the chicken pieces are actually cooked briefly in boiling water or hot oil before stir-frying.
3 Key Steps to Velvet Chicken
- Cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Small pieces are easier to coat, cook, and stir-fry and retain their moisture better.
- Coat the chicken with a mixture of egg white, cornstarch, and rice vinegar. It's really important to loosen up the egg white with a whisk before adding the cornstarch and vinegar. Make sure to store the coated chicken in the refrigerator while you bring the water to a boil.
- Boil the chicken briefly and drain well. Remember that the chicken should "pass through" the water and be just cooked through after boiling.
Using Velvet Chicken
Velveted chicken was designed for stir-fry, yes, but consider using it in other places where tender, juicy chicken pieces are welcome: chicken noodle soup, pot pie, or even just tossed in a weeknight pasta.
How To Velvet Chicken for Stir-Fry
Makes 1 pound
What You Need
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
1 large egg white
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided
1 pound boneless, skinless chicken meat, cut into bite sized-pieces
Knife and cutting board
- Whisk together everything but the chicken in a medium bowl. Place the vinegar, egg white, cornstarch, salt, and 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium bowl and whisk to combine — you want to really make sure the egg white is loosened up before adding the chicken.
- Add the chicken and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Add the chicken and toss to coat. Refrigerate the chicken uncovered for 30 minutes.
- Bring a saucepan of water to a boil. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil over medium-high heat. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil.
- Boil the chicken for 3 minutes. Reduce the water's temperature to a simmer. Add the chicken carefully, stir to separate, and cook for 3 minutes — the chicken will turn opaque and should be just cooked through.
- Drain the chicken. Remove the chicken with a slotted spoon to a colander to drain very well before stir-frying.