When I first heard the word, “velvet chicken” I immediately thought of a stuffed chicken doll with a soft velvet fur. You know, like the velveteen rabbit. However, once I actually looked up what velveting chicken meant, I was surprised that not only is this a cooking technique used in China, it’s also an amazing way to make your Asian-inspired dishes taste like the stir fry from the Chinese restaurant.
Using a marinade of cornstarch, rice wine, and an egg white, velveting chicken is a simple Chinese cooking technique to make tender chicken easier to coat with a sauce. Once you velvet your chicken breast once, you’ll never want to skip out on this step again.
While you can use this technique on any type of protein, we really love using it on large chicken breasts because they dry out easily in stir fry recipes. You can always marinade and velvet the chicken a day before and keep it in the refrigerator until ready to use. Or even better, make a big batch a freeze it in the freezer and use when needed. Be sure to defrost the chicken before using in a recipe if frozen.
How To Make Velvet Chicken
To begin, slice the chicken breasts into thin slices. You want the chicken to be small and thin enough to cook quickly when added to the skillet. I find slicing chicken to be easier if the breast is partially frozen. Use a sharp knife and go against the grain.
Add the chicken to a bowl and add in the cornstarch, egg white, salt and rice wine vinegar. Stir to combine and then let the mixture marinade for about 30 minutes at room temperature. This lets the marinade soak into the chicken.
There’s two ways you can cook the velveted chicken–either in oil or water. The oil technique uses a large amount of hot oil to quickly cook the outside of the chicken. On the other end, water blanching uses a pot of water to achieve the same results. We believe that blanching the chicken in water is easier for home cooks and a bit healthier.
Once the water is boiling, reduce to medium and add the chicken. You don’t want to overcrowd the pot, so you can do it in groups if needed. Stir the chicken and cook for about one minute. The chicken will be white. Use a slotted spoon and remove the chicken, placing into a colander to drain further. Repeat with the remaining chicken if necessary.
Once drained, the chicken is ready to use in any stir fry recipe. To finish cooking the chicken, add the chicken to a large skillet of sauce (we used an orange ginger sauce in our recipe) and cook until no longer pink. It only takes a few minutes to cook the chicken through since it is so thin.
Once cooked, serve the chicken either over a salad or a steaming bowl of rice.