What is Velveting Chicken

5 from 1 vote

Velveting is an Chinese cooking technique used to tenderize chicken, pork, shrimp and beef before stir frying. A few ingredients is all you’ll need to have the tenderest meat or seafood in your next stir fry.

velveting chicken

I’m a huge fan of chicken! I’ve made countless different chicken recipes over the years. Some favorites include my Chinese Steamed Chicken that has the most incredible lemony cilantro flavored sauce, crunchy and sticky sweet Honey Chicken, Hunan Chicken, Chinese Roast Chicken, Marinated Tahini Chicken or this Greek Chicken Souvlaki. It’s one of those ingredients that is so adaptable — there are so many ways to prepare and enjoy it!

Learn How to Tenderize Chicken for Stir Fries

Since cooking is my passion, I’m always on the hunt for techniques and methods that make simple ingredients shine. That’s how I discovered velveting. It’s a Chinese cooking technique that involves marinating and pre-cooking chicken before adding it to another dish, like stir fry, for THE most tender chicken. You can velvet seafood, pork, and even beef. But today, I want to focus on one specific question: what is velveting chicken?

In this helpful guide, you’ll also learn:

  • Why you should velvet chicken breast
  • The water vs. oil test explained
  • How to velvet chicken

Plus, answers so some of the most frequently asked questions that may come up when you velvet chicken yourself!

What is Velveting Chicken?

As I mentioned above, velveting chicken breast is a special cooking method that will tenderize your chicken and make your poultry shine. You’ll get perfectly juicy, tender, and flavorful results every time! 

Velveting chicken requires 2 steps:

Step 1: Marinate the chicken in your marinade of choice.

Step 2: Pre-cook it in either water or oil.

I’ll get more into the specifics below. In the meantime, let’s explore why you should consider velveting chicken breast.

Why Velvet Chicken?

While chicken is very versatile, it can be a bit tricky to get just right. If you don’t use the correct cooking methods, you could end up with dry or — worse — rubbery chicken. This is especially important if you want to stir-fry your poultry. 

When you velvet your chicken breast meat (dark meat I feel doesn’t need it) first, you’ll get the tender and juicy results that I know you all love. Many professional chefs use this technique. You could say that it’s their little secret! Well, I’m here to spill the beans so that you can make restaurant-quality food at home.

closeup of velveting chicken

How To Velvet Chicken

Now that you know why it’s important to velvet chicken, it’s time to learn how to do it! The following sections share everything you’ve ever wondered about velveting chicken and the steps you need to follow to do it yourself.

Remember, there are only 2 steps! It’s a quick way to guarantee tender and juicy chicken for all of your favorite stir fry recipes.

Prep the Chicken: Marinade First

The first step in velveting chicken breast is to slice it into strips or small pieces. It can be slippery, so I like to partially freeze the chicken prior so it’s firm and cutting in uniform pieces is a breeze. Secondly, choose your marinade. I tend to lean toward the cornstarch method. A simple combination of water, oil, cornstarch, and aromatics like soy sauce, oyster sauce, sesame oil, or Shaoxing wine. If I want to velvet chicken breast for something other than a stir fry, I typically use water, oil, cornstarch, and whatever extra flavor enhancer works well with whatever I’m making.

Some recipes will mention velveting chicken with baking soda. The baking soda will tenderize the chicken. While some chefs do swear by it, I prefer the above method. You can always try it if you’re interested.

Here’s how to velvet chicken with baking soda: For every 8 ounces of chicken breast (strips or pieces), toss with 1 teaspoon baking soda. Marinate for 20 minutes and then rinse well under running water using a sieve. Pat dry with a paper towel to remove excess water and cook per your favorite chicken recipe.

Other variations will also include egg whites. Again, I like to keep my marinade as simple as possible, so I don’t personally use it. To each their own — feel free to play around in the kitchen to determine the perfect marinade for your needs.

chicken on paper towels

Pick Your Pre-Cooking Method: Water vs. Oil Test

There are 2 different ways to velvet your chicken: with water or oil.

Oil velveting is very popular in China. In fact, most Chinese restaurants use this technique before they add chicken breast to a stir fry. It’s very easy, and involves searing the outside of the marinated chicken in a wok or frying pan for about 30 seconds, or until the outside is no longer raw and becomes slightly golden. 

Not only is it easier with less cleanup, searing brings out the chicken flavor and creates a light crust on the outside of each piece. This crust eventually melts with the sauce when your chicken is added back into the wok, creating a thicker sauce and a silky feel to the chicken pieces. This is my preferred way to velvet chicken.

Water velveting can be described as blanching. If you don’t want to quick fry your chicken, it’s a great option. Simply place the marinated chicken in a wok with boiling water. When the chicken becomes opaque, allow it to cook for 10 more seconds, then remove it from the water.

No matter which technique you choose, you’ll be cooking the chicken for a second time with the rest of the stir fry ingredients, so don’t leave it in the wok for too long!

5 Great Velveting Chicken Technique Recipes

With this knowledge, you’re now ready to try velveting chicken on your own! Below you’ll find some of my own recipes, plus a few from some of my favorite food bloggers:

closeup of chicken

FAQs

What Are Velveting Ingredients?

As I mentioned above, you have a bit of wiggle room in terms of the ingredients you’ll need for your velveting marinade. As a general rule, make sure that you have water, oil, cornstarch, and some sort of flavor enhancer. For stir-fries, I like to use soy sauce, oyster sauce, and sesame oil. 

What Does it Mean to Velvet Meat?

Velveting is a cooking technique used to tenderize meat. You can use it on pork or beef, as well as poultry like chicken. It also works well on seafood! The added cornstarch in the marinade breaks down any toughness and will give you a perfectly tender texture.

How Do Chinese Restaurants Make Chicken So Tender?

The secret is in velveting the chicken breast first! It’s often used in Chinese cuisine and in Chinese restaurants. You can recreate those kinds of restaurant-quality meals at home when you incorporate this technique into your cooking tool kit!

velveted chicken in a bowl

Velveting Chicken

5 from 1 vote
What is velveting chicken? This guide has the answer! Velveting is a cooking technique often used on chicken or seafood before stir-frying.
Servings: 4
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 2 minutes
Total: 22 minutes

Ingredients 

Instructions 

  • Slice chicken breast across the grain into 1 1/2 to 2-inch pieces, about ¼-inch thick.
  • In a medium bowl add the water and soy sauce to the chicken, mixing until the chicken is well-coated. Set aside for 5 minutes for most of the liquid to absorb into the chicken.
  • Add the oil and cornstarch, mixing again until everything is thoroughly coated. Let the chicken marinate for 10-15 minutes.

Oil Method

  • Heat your wok over high heat. When it starts to smoke lightly, add 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil to coat the surface of the wok, swirl around to coat. Add the chicken pieces in one layer, and sear for 20 seconds. Stir-fry quickly until the chicken turns opaque, and remove from the wok. Set aside on paper towel lined plate.
  • Avoid overcooking it during the velveting process, you will be cooking the chicken again in your stir-fry.

Water (Blanch) Method

  • To blanch, add the chicken to a wok filled with boiling water, gently stir so it doesn’t clump together. When chicken turns opaque, cook for an additional 10 seconds and remove from wok.
  • Avoid overcooking it during the velveting process, you will be cooking the chicken again in your stir-fry.

Nutrition

Calories: 136kcal | Carbohydrates: 1g | Protein: 24g | Fat: 3g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 0.5g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 0.01g | Cholesterol: 73mg | Sodium: 300mg | Potassium: 426mg | Fiber: 0.04g | Sugar: 0.1g | Vitamin A: 34IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 7mg | Iron: 0.5mg

The information shown is an estimate provided by an online nutrition calculator. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

Course: main dishes
Cuisine: Chinese
Author: Kevin
Have You Made This Recipe? Let Me Know on InstagramTag @keviniscooking or tag me #keviniscooking!
velveting chicken in a bowl

Kevin

I was bitten by the cooking bug as a kid cooking and baking along side my mom. After an ROP restaurant course in high school, I went to work in restaurants and catering. My love of travel and food has led me across the world and I love to share those foods with family and friends.

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7 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Love this! What a life saver! This time I accidentally mixed everything together at once, wish me luck!