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Sep 30, 2005 02:31 PM

How Do The Chinese Restaurants Get Their Chicken So Tender???

  • s

I have tried thin slicing, pounding, marinating, you name it! I just can't seem to get even close the the moist tender chicken pieces that I have had at numerous Chinese Restaurants.

Does anybody have any insight into how they do it?



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    1. re: mark

      Yep. This is good advice. The Chinese 'velvet' technique is a form of ad-hoc brining.

    2. Have you tried massaging a little baking powder into a bowl of chicken and letting it sit ten minutes? That's how they get a lot of meat really soft and tender. Don't let it sit too long, it becomes slimy because the meat breaks down.

      Proportions are to taste, but I'd start with 1/4 tsp per cup of meat.

      3 Replies
      1. re: nooodles

        baking powder or corn starch?

        1. re: pitu

          Either, but cornstarch is better. Sorry, forgot about that.

        2. Corn starch. After marinating medium sized pieces in something lightly acidic (incorporating vinegar or lemon juice), drain, pat dry, then toss lightly in corn starch and pan fry.

          Teriyaki marinade (NOT glaze) of equal parts shoyu, rice vinegar and water w/sugar, garlic, onion and/or ginger, is good. Black bean sauce is good - fermented black beans and garlic with rice vinegar is good. Even plain lemon juice with a some s&p. If you're making a stir-fry, mix the corn starch into the remaining marinade, and stir some in at the end (after chicken and veg are done).

          And don't forget the MSG...

          10 Replies
          1. re: applehome

            I'm not sure corn starch contributes to the tenderness. I think it does to the outside texture, defininitely, and contributes to that silkiness of the texture.

            The tenderness of the meat, as one person mentioned, I imagine comes from a bit of baking powder that they sprinkle on and let it sit in a bit. Then they do the normal cornstarch thing.

            Just my opinion...

            1. re: adamclyde

              Actually the process is called velveting, and cornstarch does play a part.

              It really works.

              Just do a google on velveting and you'll get a lot of insight.


              1. re: DT

                I don't quite see how velveting has anything to do with tender chicken.

                1. re: Jim H.

                  I agree with Jim. Velveting is great and works... on the texture. but you can have wonderfully "velvetted" chicken that is still chewy and tough.

                  And thanks... I meant baking soda, not powder! though, if you wanted to leaven your chicken... :)

                2. re: DT

                  Dear DT,

                  new at Chow.Could not see the page .


                3. re: adamclyde

                  I think its baking SODA, not baking powder. Bicarb, so to speak.

                  1. re: Jim H.

                    Definitely baking soda. A sparse marinade of:
                    1 T corn starch,
                    1/2 tsp baking soda,
                    1 T soy sauce
                    1 tsp sugar
                    1 T olive or canola oil
                    1/2 tsp sesame oil
                    1 T red or white wine, or sherry if you have it.
                    pepper or herb seasonings at your preference

                    Toss meat with marinade about 4 hours before cooking, not too far ahead. You can substitute the soy sauce and sesame out of the recipe if you are using tough cuts of meat for other dishes, like beef stew. Just use strong broth or worcestershire instead.

                    Works like a charm.

                    1. re: applgrl

                      Baking soda is not required for chicken. Not over cooking the chicken is the main thing.

                  2. re: adamclyde

                    Since hearing about velveting I've been doing it for chicken stir fry dishes. This is how they do it. So follow the directions as indicated in the thread or If you freeze the chicken first to almost solid, it will be easy to slice into pieces.

                    1. re: Atochabsh

                      Personally, I think he over cooked the chicken - It was probably done when he took it out of the oven.

                      If you can ignore the tedious "powerpoint style" of the video, you (or others) might want to try this method:

                4. I'm not sure what you mean by "chicken pieces". Small pieces of chicken stir fried very lightly will be tender. Whole breasts are usually poached, and never overcooked. I would not even try to tenderize chicken, unless you've got an old rooster to deal with. There is no secret...just don't overcook chicken, keeping in mind that it keeps cooking off the stove.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Jim H.

                    When slicing the meat cut across the fibres of the meat & not along with the fibre.
                    there-for you get very short fibres, making the meat nice and tender. after this continue with the hint re cornstarch.
                    The shorter the fibres of meat the more tender the chicken.

                  2. The type of prep ultimately depends on the specific dish, but I'm assuming that you're just talking about sliced chicken breast for a basic stir-fry. I'm not sure what the restaurants do exactly, but I know what I do and my chicken turns out relatively tender and silky. Here are some general tips:

                    1. Slice chicken thinly against the grain. I don't like long, thin pieces but rather shorter, oblong pieces.
                    2. Place pieces in bowl and mix in a little cornstarch and shaoxing. Sometimes I add soy sauce. Let marinate (not too long) while you prep veggies.
                    3. Get wok blazing hot, add oil, quickly stir-fry chicken pieces til just opaque but slightly underdone. This goes fast. Don't overcook! Remove.
                    4. Now fry your veggies in the proper order w/ your seasonings and such. Add chicken when veggies are done just til it warms through and marries w/ sauce and veggies.

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: Carb Lover

                      here's what my mom does . . . I guess it's the velveting thing, but it's sooo good and tender. There are surely some chemical reactions at work here, with all that resting time

                      2 whole breasts in strips 1 1/2" - 2" x 1/2"
                      (I tend to ignore those dimension and just cut the thing up, and I use thighs or breasts, very incorrectly)

                      3/4 t salt
                      1/2 t pepper (I like a little extra pepper)
                      TOSS with chicken, let stand 20 minutes

                      4 t cornstarch, 4 t oil
                      TOSS with chicken, let stand 20 minutes

                      FOLD in 1 unbeaten egg white
                      let stand 30 minutes

                      stir fry in a little oil - maybe make a little sauce with soy sauce etc
                      good with snow peas and esp good with a bunch of basil

                      1. re: Carb Lover

                        What Carb Lover said here- I do exactly this- cornstartch and shaoxing, then partially cooking the chicken at high heat, then set aside while I cook the rest, and add at the end. Works every time.