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Chinese cooking, meat and cornstarch

  • h

Hi, I love Chines food. When cooking at home I often arrive at the following problem: The recipe starts with cutting chicken into cubes and then mixing them with cornstarch, water, some wine and salt. When I put this mixture to pan to stir-fry it, the extra cornstarch sticks all over over the bottom of the pan and is resists removing during the cooking. Over the time it tends to brown etc. Since the pan is reused for cooking the other ingredients after removing the meat (and the final mixing all ingredients together), this is a problem for me. Can anybody point out what am I doing wrong?

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  1. Do you add the corn starch to the liquid first to dissolve it?

    1. You might be turning the chicken before it's ready to be turned. The chicken will not stick to the wok when it's ready to be stirred. I'm not sure what the water does for your marinade, it seems to me that it is not necessary, and actually detrimental to "searing" the meat, in that it will cause steam, and not allow for correct caramelization to lock in the juices.

      I would suggest simply using cornstarch, and sesame oil for a marinade. When you add the chicken to your wok, give it a little nudge when you think it's ready to be stirred. If it resists, leave it alone. Even if you do get bits stuck, doesn't your final pan sauce deglaze everything? Or are you stir frying meat and veggies, and not making an actual sauce as well?

      1. Traditional velveting will often have the cornstarch (etc)-coated chicken poached in low-temperature oil or water to form a protective coating around the meat that won't fall off in the pan. Though I agree with gourdeaux, the velveting mix sounds a little different that what I'm used to. Velveting mixture is usually just egg white, cornstarch plus a touch of shaoxing wine, soy sauce and sesame oil for me.This previous link has a good method at the end:

        http://www.chowhound.com/topics/522411

        Personally, I do what you do and simply toss the chicken coated in the velveting mixture into the wok to sear. If the cornstarch coating gets too burnt, I'd just remove the meat, toss in some water to loosen the residue, wipe it out, get your pan hot again and proceed with the rest of the ingredients.

        1. You have two alternatives: a) very lightly flour the meat (previously dried with paper towels) with cornstarch prior to stir-frying or b) marinading the meat for sometime in a bit of (usually) soysauce and cornstarch previously mixed with water. There should never be so much cornstarch that there is "extra" that sticks.

          1. Here is my recipe for marinating beef (any protein) with good results.
            For 1lb of beef or chicken
            1/2tsp baking soda
            1 tsp sugar
            1 T cornstarch
            1 T soy sauce
            1 T water
            2 T cooking oil
            you can also add sherry if you want ( 1 T) for additional flavor

            Whatis important is that your pieces of meat are uniform-and that you marinade for at least 1/2 hour- longer is better.
            Heat the wok - high heat is necessary. - 4 T oil cook the veggies first with your seasonings, and then remove and set aside.
            Heat 1/4 C oil on high, add your beef/chicken and stir fry until it just changes color, don''t cook it all the way through. Remove, and drain the oil off.
            Then proceed with your recipe. Hope this helps. Of course this is just part of the recipe and technique, so it's necessary to follow through completely. High heat though is what is important.
            It is high heat, and not coating the meat in a powder - its is cornstarch mixed with the liquids, that's what gives that wonderful texture. And before you start to stir fry, let it get a good bottom first, then it will lift off without a problem.

            4 Replies
            1. re: chef chicklet

              sounds like what my familt has been doing for yrs

              1. re: chef chicklet

                I just wanted to say thanks chef chicklet! I used your marinade for a beef stir-fry tonight, and it is honestly the first time my stir fry has tasted like stir fry should.

                1. re: chef chicklet

                  Can I use this marinade for beef in fried rice?

                  1. re: CarbonSteel

                    this is late late late, but you could, just cook the meat alone in your wok, and then add it to your rice and stir in.