Velvetting Chicken or Pork for Stirfry

For those of you, like me and my family, who adore Asian foods, I’ve come across the secret of the century…velvetting.

Velvetting is, in this case, a verb. If you’ve ever wondered how the chicken or pork in a Chinese stir-fry dish is so incredibly tender, it is because of velvetting. Velvetting helps the meat keep the moisture by coating with the cornstarch, and then, by searing it quickly.

There are a couple of techniques, but the one I used is a great way to keep the meat moist and tender, and low calorie. It is the first step to great homemade stir-fry.

INGREDIENTS for 1# of thinly sliced boneless skinless chicken or pork tenders

  • 2 tbsp. dry sherry
  • 1 tbsp. cornstarch

Whisk the two ingredients together, add the thinly sliced meat, and using a fork, or even better, your clean hands, mix the meat with the sherry/cornstarch mixture in a bowl or plastic container, making sure every piece is covered. Trust me, you don’t need any more than this. I actually used 1 1/2#s of chicken today and it was still enough. Cover the dish with either plastic wrap or the lid, and refrigerate at least 30 to 45 minutes.

NOTE: You can also add 1 egg white to the mixture, but truthfully, I prefer using just the dry sherry and cornstarch, plus you don’t wind up with an egg yolk hanging around or being thrown out.

Now, the traditional method for velvetting is using a wok with a couple of inches of very hot oil. There are a couple of flaws in this for the home cook. 1. It is dangerous to cook with really hot oil and moist foods. 2. Most of us don’t keep enough oil around to heat a couple of inches in a pan for a single use. 3. It makes the meal really calorie unfriendly.

So…. The method I used, is an alternative, health friendly and easy technique. Using a wok or a deep skillet, bring 2″ of water to a boil and add 1 tbsp. olive oil. That’s all you need. Also, have a slotted strainer or spoon handy.

Add the velvetted meat to the boiling water and remove it immediately. Set it aside in a bowl. You literally are putting the meat in and taking it out–you’re not cooking it. You’re sealing in the moisture.

Now prepare whatever stir-fry you are using, and, at the last minute add the velvetted meat, stir it through for just a minute or two to finish cooking it and bringing back to a hot temperature and serve.

The meat will be tender and delicious.




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