If you’ve ever eaten at a Chinese restaurant, there’s a good chance you’ll be aware of the silky texture of the meat in many dishes. As well as the pleasant mouthfeel, it has a smooth and tender vibe going on that’s downright delicious. So what’s the secret? Meat velveting. It’s a must-try technique that’s a quick and simple way to make your stir-fry meat extra tender – and it’s really easy to do yourself at home.
If you haven’t heard about this traditional Chinese technique before, worry not. Our guide on how to velvet meat will get you enjoying ultra-tender awesomeness in no time. But it wouldn’t be right if there wasn’t a Marion Grasby edge to proceedings. With one small tweak to the process, it’s been made even simpler. Get ready to elevate your stir fries…
Meat velveting is a traditional Chinese technique that makes tenderising meat super easy. It’s aptly named for the ultra lush, silky and, well, velvety feel this technique gives to the meat. The process typically involves marinating strips of chicken, pork, beef or fish in an egg white, bicarb and cornflour (also known as cornstarch) mixture, then deep-frying in hot oil to seal in juiciness. After that, the stir-frying method carries on as normal, with one big difference: the protein is silky, smooth and mega tender.
Because tender meat = yum. In all seriousness though, the velveting technique is a great way to improve the texture and get the most out of cheaper, generally tougher cuts.
Cheaper cuts of meat such as chuck steak typically require more cooking time to break down the fibres – they’re often used in slow cooking recipes for this reason. However, the addition of bicarbonate of soda (also known as baking soda) helps to break down the fibres in the meat quickly and more effectively, leaving you with a more tender texture.
If you’ve got cornflour, bicarb and a touch of oil – pantry essentials, in other words – you’re ready to get velveting. However, we’re skipping the deep fry with a Marion twist on things. Here, she tried out the technique when making her Red Curry Pork Stir-fry, aka Pad Prik Gaeng Moo, which uses pork fillet as the protein of choice. While this cut is highly popular among home cooks, it can often get tough from overcooking. Not any more!
Velvetting starts with some simple prep. Slice your meat of choice into super thin slices. It helps if your knife is nice and sharp – when you hold up the slice you should almost be able to see through it.
Add your thinly sliced meat to a bowl and add in 1 tablespoon of vegetable and 1 tablespoon of water. For some extra flavour, Marion also added 1 tablespoon of Thai Red Curry Paste, 1 teaspoon fish sauce and a good pinch of ground white pepper.
Now here’s the secret ingredients: ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda (baking soda) and 2 teaspoons of cornflour (cornstarch). Give everything a good mix and leave to velvet. (Is ‘velvet’ a verb? It is now!)
This is the final step, and the step that separates the traditional method from this far simpler one. Instead of deep-frying the coated meat, get your wok super hot and add in a small amount of oil – about 1 tablespoon. Carefully lower in the pork.
Top tip: Make sure to spread out the pork in an even layer across the base of the pan. This ensures the most amount of surface area is coming into contact with the hot wok and stops any ‘sweating’ effects from going on.
As far as the velveting technique goes, that’s about it – you want to stir-fry the meat fast and furiously so it doesn’t overcook. If you’re keen to keep going with this Red Curry Pork Stir Fry recipe, check out the rest of the method of this spicy Thai classic.
Get ready for the glossiest, tastiest, most melt-in-your-mouth meat you’ve ever had the pleasure of eating.
If you can stir-fry it, chances are good you can velvet it. You can use pork (of course!), chicken, fish and beef (we’ve also written a piece on the best beef to use for stir fries).
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