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Silky Smooth Chicken Breast


hainanchicken
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Whenever I go to Chinese restaurants to eat soy sauce chicken, the breast meat is always silky smooth and very, very soft. (In case you are unfamiliar, cantonese soy sauce chicken is basically gently poached by boiling soy sauce mixture, putting in chicken, shutting off heat, taking chicken out, boiling it again, shutting off meat, putting chicken back in, etc. So it is akin to using sous vide to cook it.)

 

When I sous vide at even temperatures as low as 140F, however, the texture is just not right. It's not silky smooth like the ones I have in restaurants. What am I missing? Is there some special prep step they are using?

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I'd wonder if they are velveting it

 

but I might add that if they BOIL the sauce and then put in the chicken in some reasonable time frame after boring, it's bound to be a lot hotter than 140f in there.

 

140F chicken has an almost rubbery texture that not everyone likes.

To get a more "traditional", falling apart, kind of texture you need to go 150-160.

 

http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/07/chinese-velveting-101-introduction-water-velveting.html

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1 hour ago, weedy said:

I'd wonder if they are velveting it

 

but I might add that if they BOIL the sauce and then put in the chicken in some reasonable time frame after boring, it's bound to be a lot hotter than 140f in there.

 

140F chicken has an almost rubbery texture that not everyone likes.

To get a more "traditional", falling apart, kind of texture you need to go 150-160.

 

http://www.seriouseats.com/2014/07/chinese-velveting-101-introduction-water-velveting.html

I would contest the "velveting". Soy sauce chicken (breast) is cooked as a whole, not in slices, so both marinate penetration and short velveting times do not apply. It is - by all standards - a regular poaching process.

 

I agree on the textural part. 140 F is "undercooked" count compared what the OP asks for. The classical process starts at higher temperatures, so at least the outside of the breast will have a firmer texture. 

 

 

@hainanchicken

I would run a series of SV temperatures to find the texture you like. I also think that rapid chilling is detrimental to the texture and it will pronounce any "stringyness", so a slower cooling would enhance the uniform structure you are looking for ... Please let us know your findings !

Edited by Duvel (log)
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On 16/01/2018 at 11:16 AM, hainanchicken said:

In case you are unfamiliar, cantonese soy sauce chicken is basically gently poached by boiling soy sauce mixture, putting in chicken, shutting off heat, taking chicken out, boiling it again, shutting off meat, putting chicken back in, etc. So it is akin to using sous vide to cook it.

 

On 16/01/2018 at 12:24 PM, Duvel said:

I would contest the "velveting". Soy sauce chicken (breast) is cooked as a whole, not in slices, so both marinate penetration and short velveting times do not apply. It is - by all standards - a regular poaching process.

 

I too am sure that velveting is not at all appropriate or even possible in this instance. Soy sauce chicken is made from the whole bird, intact. You can't velvet a whole bird. I've never heard of anyone making just a soy sauce breast, either.

 

Nor have I ever heard of this repetitive in-and-out, reboiling, and re-inserting method.

 

Can you link to any such recipe?

 

But whatever, such a method is unrelated to anything sous-vide.

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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They use a tenderizing powder like papain or bromelain or something similar that i am not aware of. Sure velveting will give it a silky texture but its not going to make the inside of the meat very very soft. My guess is there is a technique to using these tenderizing powders, because ive tried using them and they do work, but always left a noticeable taste.

 

I want to point out before someone suggests quickly cooking hot and fast producing very soft meat, sure. But, have you ever had leftovers and reheated them in the microware? I have, ive even nuked them to the moon and back and guess what? Still very very soft meat! Whats up with that?

Edited by FeChef (log)
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3 minutes ago, FeChef said:

They use a tenderizing powder like papain or bromelain or something similar that i am not aware of. Sure velveting will give it a silky texture but its not going to make the inside of the meat very very soft. My guess is there is a technique to using these tenderizing powders, because ive tried using them and they do work, but always left a noticeable taste.

I doubt that. As stated by @liuzhou and me above: the bird is cooked as a whole, with skin intact. Marinating or treating the surface with any tenderising agent does not apply - it is purely a matter of cooking and cooling that creates the texture ...

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2 minutes ago, Duvel said:

I doubt that. As stated by @liuzhou and me above: the bird is cooked as a whole, with skin intact. Marinating or treating the surface with any tenderising agent does not apply - it is purely a matter of cooking and cooling that creates the texture ...

I misread then. It could still apply if they are injecting with such a tenderizing marinade. But i have never had the dish in question so i cannot comment on it.

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@weedy

 

nice ref's    thank you

 

@hainanchicken

 

is the chicken , after cooking , sliced before service ?

 

Im wondering if they add , after its slices , some Ck stock that might be sligthly thickened or not

 

to add surface moisture .    that can alter the mouth feel by quite a bit I think.

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I've never had the soy sauce chicken, but I've had plenty of Hainanese chicken rice in Singapore, and similar versions in Vietnam and Thailand - and it seems that the best ones are cooked in simmering liquid, then plunged into an ice bath and until cooled - this stops the cooking and minimizes any carry over and helps gelatinize (is this a word?) the skin.  I also think that the breed of bird has a lot to do with the meat texture as well.  Back when I was doing more cooking, I'd done tests at home to recreate this, using the same method with 3 different breeds of chicken - and got vastly different results.

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Every recipe I see for "Soy Sauce Chicken" specifies actually boiling (often after a quick fry)... which is in inline with my original feeling that your temp is way low, but also brings up the point that SV might not be the right method if that's the result you want.

 

 

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Is it something like this? 

 

http://thewoksoflife.com/2015/02/soy-sauce-chicken/

 

The recipe says

 

Quote

Bring the liquid back up to a lazy simmer, which should take about 10 minutes. Keep it at this slow simmer (the liquid will be about 210 degrees F) for 25 minutes. Turn off the heat, cover the pot, and let the chicken sit in the pot for another 15 minutes. Transfer the soy sauce chicken to a cutting board. If you like, you can use a meat thermometer in the thickest part of the thigh to confirm it’s reached 165 degrees F.

 

so maybe that's something like what you're looking for?

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By what process, exactly, does corn starch 'velvet' meat?

If the corn starch is rinsed off after velveting, will the same softened result be achieved?

I'm a LCHF eater—most of the time.

~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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10 minutes ago, KennethT said:

LCHF?

 

Low-carbohydrate. High fat.

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~Martin :)

I just don't want to look back and think "I could have eaten that."

Unsupervised, rebellious, radical agrarian experimenter, minimalist penny-pincher, and adventurous cook. Crotchety, cantankerous, terse curmudgeon, non-conformist, and contrarian who questions everything!

The best thing about a vegetable garden is all the meat you can hunt and trap out of it!

 

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2 hours ago, DiggingDogFarm said:

By what process, exactly, does corn starch 'velvet' meat?

If the corn starch is rinsed off after velveting, will the same softened result be achieved?

I'm a LCHF eater—most of the time.

I think people confuse this cornstarch velveting technique as tenderizing, but in reality it just coats the outside if the meat with a soft coating, similar to dusting a pounded out chicken breast with flour for chicken marsala.

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Soy Sauce Chicken is one of my favourite chicken dishes!  :wub:

 

My mom makes it every now and then, but I haven't attempted it - because I know it won't be as delicious as Mom's.  Professional Hobbit's link looks about what she does. Slow simmer, then let sit in the cooling liquid.

 

I suspect the silky smooth breast meat is because it's juuuuust shy of being cooked all the way through. Similar to white poached chicken or Hainan chicken.

 

I can assure you there is no cornstarch or velveting technique used and no sous vide. It's possible the restaurants might tenderize the bird with baking soda, which should give it the soft texture, but sacrifices flavour.  Some places do that with stir-fry meat or chicken, which I find makes it bland and a bit mushy.

 

Mom doesn't do this.

 

Also, I have seen some Hainan chicken techniques where the whole bird is exfoliated with kosher salt so the skin is nice and smooth, and get all the crud off. I don't know if that makes any difference to the actual meat itself, but it might improve the appearance of the final dish.

 

Oh yeah. Now I desperately want Soy Sauce Chicken.

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it would be very interesting to know what there CkBr meat's thermapen'd meat was when the low simmer was turned off

 

and what the final temp might be when ready for Eating.

 

I also wondering if the SoySimmer liquid acts as a bind while the chicken is equilibrating  

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Interesting @Beebs.  I've done the salt scrub thing when making HCR - it makes the skin nice and smooth but didn't have any other effect that I could tell.   Also, your simmer/soak method is similar to what I used for lobsters based on Eric Ripert's method.  He would make a court bouillon, have it simmer for a while, then kill the lobster with a knife, tear off the claws/tail and put them in the simmering liquid for like 5 or 10 minutes, then take the pot off the heat and let it soak for like 20 or 30 minutes more.  Lobsters always came out perfect that way.

 

Oddly enough, this is also what I had always done when cooking crawfish - throw them into the boiling pot of boil liquid, bring back to a simmer, then shut the heat off and let 'em soak for 10 minutes.

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I should ask Mom how long she simmers for & to what done-ness before soaking. Her chicken is a bit more done than the way restaurants & BBQ joints do it, but definitely not overcooked. 

 

I might have a go at it this weekend, if I can get my act together.

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