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Velveting is a popular process in Chinese cooking. It takes an economical cut of meat and tenderizes just before cooking.

Stir-fried proteins (like beef, chicken, pork, and tofu) can be tender, especially if marinated beforehand or cooked expertly, but velveting beef is a simple, effective way of replicating the beautiful tender dishes you enjoy at your favorite Chinese restaurant.

Once you learn to effectively velvet your meat you won’t go back as the transformation in your stir fries is amazing!

What is velveting?

Velveted Filipino Beef
Image by Jonathan Valencia from Pixabay

Velveting involves coating and marinating desired-sized pieces of meat in a mixture of cornstarch, rice wine, egg whites, salt, sugar, and soy sauce for about 30-45 minutes.

For each pound of thinly sliced meat or protein, combine with 1 tablespoon cornstarch, 1 tablespoon light soy sauce, and 1 tablespoon vegetable or light sesame oil, mixed egg whites plus a pinch of sugar and salt.

I also like adding a tablespoon of Chinese rice wine to add more flavor, but you can get by without it.

A bit of experimentation with spices such as chili, garlic, or ginger can also be useful for fans of those flavors.

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes with fattier cuts, or longer for leaner cuts (such as bolar and blade if you’re making a beef stir fry).

The meat develops a texture that is tender, silky, and smooth, although when you’re transferring your mixture from velveting to the next step of blanching, it will feel kind of sticky and gross to the touch.

Make sure that you dry off any excess mixture before starting the cooking process.

Oil blanching or water velveting?

velveting sirloin
Image Source: Rusty Clark via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Oil-blanching is the traditional next step in the velveting method after coating/marinating and refrigerating.

After the meat is marinated, it is quickly blanched in a bath of hot oil and then drained, and is then ready to stir fry.

However, for home cooking, this step uses a lot of oil for just one part of the process. The amount of oil needed can be off-putting for cooks, especially if you’re inexperienced with velveting or looking to make your stir fry as healthy as possible.

A popular home kitchen alternative to oil blanching, which is just as effective but much healthier, is water velveting.

Instead of briefly cooking your velveted meat or protein source in hot oil, you blanch the meat in boiling water with a little bit of oil added to it.

It may take a few attempts to get the texture and flavor right, but water velveting can be a much healthier way of achieving the same tender meat without affecting the flavor dynamic.

Velveting the lazy way: baking soda

baking soda
Image by NatureFriend from Pixabay

Some people feel the velveting process outlined above is too much work to achieve beautifully tender meat. For those individuals, a viable alternative is a baking soda.

All you have to do is sprinkle your protein with enough baking soda to cover it, give it a stir to make sure it’s coated evenly, then place it in the refrigerator for 20 minutes. The soda will get to work on tenderizing your meat.

Once it’s done in the fridge, make sure you thoroughly wipe off any excess baking soda and then stir fry normally.

It is a simpler method of achieving tender meat, however, I feel the final product lacks pizzazz, as there are fewer tasty flavors involved during the process.

How to cook velveted meat

Velveted Beef and Broccoli
Image Source: Rusty Clark via Flickr CC BY 2.0

Tenderized meat can be stir fried the traditional way – hard and fast in a hot wok in just a few minutes.

You can also deep or shallow fry the meat in oil if you’re going for a crispy stir fry or rainbow style dish.

Whichever way you cook it, velveting your meat means your beef, chicken, or pork will be more tender and juicy than more expensive cuts.

Conclusion

Developing a sure fire velveting method that works for you is simply and easy, with plenty of opportunities to freelance and add flavor to the process.

Not only will it make your meat more tender for stir fries – and you’ll use more economical meat – it will improve how your dishes taste and how striking they are, visually.

It will ensure your stir fry favorites are placed into high rotation.