This technique is best used for chicken breast, which is usually dry, coarse, and chewy. For the illustration here I use chicken breast, but this technique also works for beef and pork. If you already have a tender cut of beef, this technique is not necessary unless you want the texture to be silky smooth like the ones served at Chinese restaurants. If you like the natural meaty taste of beef, please also take note that this technique will result in losing that beefy flavor.
- 8 oz (250 g) chicken breast
- 1 teaspoon baking soda
- Cut or slice the chicken breast per the recipe instruction. Make sure it’s cut or sliced into uniform pieces.
- Mix the baking soda with the chicken. Make sure the chicken breast is evenly coated with the baking soda. Set aside for 15 minutes.
- Place the chicken in a colander and rinse thoroughly with cold running water. Rinse a few times if desired. Pat dry with paper towels. The chicken is now ready for the marinade or whatever preparation is called for in the recipe.
Texture is a highly prized component in Chinese cooking, especially when it comes to proteins. Meat—especially chicken, pork, or beef— is always cooked so that the result is a silky-smooth mouthfeel that is succulent and tender, with a glossy sheen. Traditionally, velveting is a technique used in professional and home kitchens for tenderizing meat. Meats are cut into uniform pieces, coated with an egg white and starch mixture, and then cooked to the desired satiny consistency. A few years ago, I learned a quick tip from a Chinese chef, who uses baking soda as the secret ingredient in his restaurant. He taught me the following technique, and I have been producing the most amazing, tender, and juicy stir-fried meats at home ever since. Baking soda, or sodium bicarbonate, is an alkaline agent at pH8.2. As such, it neutralizes the acids and breaks down the proteins in the meat and therefore makes a superb tenderizer. Another plus, it also acts as a deodorizer to rid the meat of any potential foul smell it might have. If you are skeptical about using baking soda in home cooking, please don’t be because it’s an essential ingredient in baking. My technique calls for baking soda as a “dry rub,” it’s rinsed off thoroughly before cooking. Of course, this meat tenderizing process is optional, so it’s up to you. However, if you want to impress your family or guests with perfectly tender, smooth, and succulent meat, here is how you can do it.
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