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Cantonese White Cut Chicken 白切鸡: Poach, Steam or Sauté?


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I know there are multiple ways to achieve the goal of delicious, succulent chicken that is brought to 155˚F for food safety to kill bacteria. And that meat temp will rise after pulling from heat.
 
I love eating White Cut Chicken that is made for special occasions in certain parts of China.
 
Learning about poaching chicken can be life changing for people who don't know about it. Sooo much better than boiling which results in gristly meat.
For flavor, salt the skin overnight. Add ginger, scallions, shauxing wine, salt to the cavity before cooking. For poaching all kinds of aromatics can be added to the poaching liquid. I'm not afraid of pink meat since I know food safety is based on temperature, not color, as so many westerners are conditioned to think. I want my meat to melt in my mouth.
 
My main question is: Does anyone have feedback, based on personal experience about the differences between poaching, steaming, or sautéing in terms of skin texture results?
 
I know that you can cool the skin by plunging in ice water bath (restaurant method) or by basing in shauxing wine (alcohol evaporates and cools the skin while imparting flavor) which can also heavily influence skin texture (more crunchy with ice water finish). Seems putting it in a freezer right away to cool the skin would be most effective for crunchy skin, how would this be different than ice water? Ice water would be easier if one does not have freezer space. And there are people who don't have freezers to make ice, hence the shauxing wine method.
 
Before commenting, please note that all three methods are legitimate in their own right. Sautéing would take the most maintenance, but seems it would be the most flavorful. I haven't tried steaming, but it seems to be the most efficient in terms of energy, water, and least amount of maintenance in terms of attention.
 
I don't speak Chinese, so anyone who does, your feedback is appreciated with regard to videos, see the following examples for reference:
 
Poached:
Chinese Cooking Demystified: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GADCrcagFh0
Master's Dishes·White Sliced Chicken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LwTUIJlTX7k
 
Steamed:
Sautéd:
letscookchinesefood [Hong Kong] :https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5hn8ZXLuEHM
 
Not over-boiled? Doesn't seem poached:
"The most authentic white sliced chicken in Guangzhou" Award winning (don't know recipe, pink bone, succulent, looks delish): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkJN9Hy9rsM
How to make Hong Kong-Style Poached Chicken: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=otFJqZXsu_M
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白切鸡 (Simplified Chinese as used on the mainland) or 白切雞 (Traditional Chinese as used in Hong Kong);  Mandarin: bái qiē jī or white cut chicken is always poached. It does not have crunchy skin, nor is it intended to have. Also, it is not usually made with Shaoxing wine, but with 白酒 (bái jiǔ) - Chinese white spirit.

 

I've eaten it a million times; it is served at every banquet, wedding celebration feast, or at family dinners during festivals. However, despite @heidih's comment, I have never cooked it myself.

 

I have just gone through my collection of Chinese language cookbooks. Not one has a recipe; it is not often cooked in domestic kitchens. Even at those family dinners, it is bought in pre-cooked.

There are, of course, recipes in Chinese on the interwebs.

 

 

 

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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1 hour ago, liuzhou said:

I've eaten it a million times; it is served at every banquet, wedding celebration feast, or at family dinners during festivals. However, despite @heidih's comment, I have never cooked it myself.

 

 

As usual my foot is in my mouth. I was thinking of the 3 numeral method you have referred to. I will stop talking. 

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"I have just gone through my collection of Chinese language cookbooks. Not one has a recipe; it is not often cooked in domestic kitchens. Even at those family dinners, it is bought in pre-cooked."

 

That's interesting, since it is really so easy for home cooks to make.

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12 minutes ago, mudbug said:

That's interesting, since it is really so easy for home cooks to make.

 

Is it?

 

Not in many Chinese kitchens. Most people don't have the equipment. You can't cook a whole, submerged chicken in a domestic wok, which is all many homes have. A wok and a rice cooker is all most people have.

 

I don't have a pan large enough and I'm not going to buy one just for something I might cook once a year. Especially when I can buy the dish so easily, if I choose. But if I did buy a suitable pan, where would I keep it? Chinese home kitchens tend to be smaller than what you may be used to.

 

Also. it uses a lot of water. Once to cover the chicken to poach, then for the ice bath which also has to cover the bird. Where do I get that much ice?

 

I'm not saying no one makes it, but few do. I don't think any of my friends do.

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I'd also add that, although the actual cooking time may only be ten minutes or so, it takes around a couple of days to make the dish correctly. Can't see many home cooks doing that.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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Posted (edited)
13 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

Is it?

 

Not in many Chinese kitchens. Most people don't have the equipment. You can't cook a whole, submerged chicken in a domestic wok, which is all many homes have. A wok and a rice cooker is all most people have.

 

I don't have a pan large enough and I'm not going to buy one just for something I might cook once a year. Especially when I can buy the dish so easily, if I choose. But if I did buy a suitable pan, where would I keep it? Chinese home kitchens tend to be smaller than what you may be used to.

 

Also. it uses a lot of water. Once to cover the chicken to poach, then for the ice bath which also has to cover the bird. Where do I get that much ice?

 

I'm not saying no one makes it, but few do. I don't think any of my friends do.

 

Did you look at any of the videos I linked to? You can totally do this by steaming (very little water). And I refer to the shauxing wine method to replace the ice water bath which imparts more flavor but does not have as crunchy a skin.

Edited by mudbug (log)
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There is an important consideration, you must use a free range (true free range, not a legal "cage free" ) chicken.

 

Supermarket chickens have too much fat under the skin to give you the proper skin texture end result. Supermarket chicken do not have the flavor as free range chickens.

 

dcarch

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7 hours ago, mudbug said:

 

Did you look at any of the videos I linked to? You can totally do this by steaming (very little water). And I refer to the shauxing wine method to replace the ice water bath which imparts more flavor but does not have as crunchy a skin.

 

 

As I've said already, White Cut Chicken is not steamed. That would negate the whole point. And no one uses Shaoxing wine. That would not be White Cut Chicken as it is known. And I've already said that it isn't meant to have crunchy skin - that is not what's wanted.

 

(It's not called shauxing wine. It comes from the city of Shaoxing, hence the name.)

 

You asked for information, but seem determined to ignore it.

Edited by liuzhou (log)

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3 hours ago, weinoo said:

Take the skin off in as big pieces as possible, and crisp them up separately in the oven?!

 

That would work, but very few people in China have ovens and anyway aren't looking for crisp skin.

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14 hours ago, weinoo said:

Take the skin off in as big pieces as possible, and crisp them up separately in the oven?!

I'm not looking for baked crunchy skin. If you watch the last video in my original post, you'll learn that they have perfected a cold bath to tighten up the skin to make it cruncy (while not cooking again).

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10 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

As I've said already, White Cut Chicken is not steamed. That would negate the whole point. And no one uses Shaoxing wine. That would not be White Cut Chicken as it is known. And I've already said that it isn't meant to have crunchy skin - that is not what's wanted.

 

(It's not called shauxing wine. It comes from the city of Shaoxing, hence the name.)

 

You asked for information, but seem determined to ignore it.

 

I'm not ignoring it, I simply disagree based on the information I presented in my original post. With all due respect, you seem to have not watched any of the videos I provided (many of which from China) which directly contradict your statement "And no one uses Shaoxing wine". The source is a very well respected authority on Chinese Cooking for the content they offer.

 

As for , it may not be called Shaoxing wine where you are. But for the westerners, the term is ubiquitous for the product which is a type of Chinese rice wine that hails from Shaoxing, a city in China’s Zhejiang Province (I do agree with you on this point).

 

Your context may be different in terms of historical authenticity of technique, however you provided no online references or documentation (in English) to support your context. And cooking is an ever evolving phenomena with humans who can absolutely find better techniques to achieve the same (or better) goals—as time, tools, technique and knowledge grow and evolve over time. There can absolutely be ways to improve on classic dishes while maintaining the integrity of the end goal.

 

Steaming is a legitimate heat source, as well as a more uniform heat rather than plunging into boiling water where the temp of the water will go down, then having to bring it to a boiling temperature again before turning the heat off in order to poach. See first two video links provided in original post. 

 

If you feel that steaming is not legitimate, then please explain why in terms of meat texture, skin texture, etc. Because when I say steaming, I do not mean overcooking. I mean pick meat that is juicy, succulent, tender.

 

As another example, the best way to boil an egg is to not boil the egg. Bring water to a boil, then turn the heat off to use the residual heat to cook the eggs. Science has found that steaming is by far the most stable, and efficient in terms of time and energy (a little water takes less time to boil).

 

How to Boil the Perfect Egg - The New York Times by Kenji López-Alt (who has decades of experience as a food scientist)

https://www.nytimes.com/2019/09/23/dining/how-to-hard-boil-eggs.html

 

I'd appreciate open-minded and nurturing responses rather than being shut down at every turn without context other than I said so. When it is obvious you didn't take the time to watch the videos in my original post before responding.

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Not traditional, but for Hanainese chicken (a more downstream version of white cut chicken) I sous vide the meat (usually skin-on breast meat) with the poaching aromatics in the bag, followed by cooling in ice water. Gives very consistent and satisfying results without any guess work. And can be applied to boneless chicken parts, which for family meals I prefer.
 

Regarding the „crunchy“ texture of the skin: best results are obtained if you are able to cool very quickly, to „fixate“ the gelatinous skin fast. So, ice water will produce the best results. Using a freezer will take significantly longer (as air is a poor heat transmission medium). Even more so basting with cooking wine, which - at merely 15% alcohol - doesn’t really speed up the evaporation significantly. It might contribute on the flavor side, but unlikely give you a nicely crunchy skin. Ice water, blotting dry and applying some sesame oil is how I prefer this preparation ...

 

 

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2 hours ago, mudbug said:

you seem to have not watched any of the videos I provided (many of which from China)

 

 

Actually, I did watch them. Most amusing. Clearly, after watching half a dozen YouTube videos, most of which are in languages which you can't understand or even identify, you have learned much more than me despite me speaking Chinese and living and eating in the country for a quarter of a century. So, I'll exit the conversation and leave it to the expert. But by the way, unless I got bored and missed it, not one mentioned Shaoxing wine. It IS called Shaoxing wine where I am. It isn't called shauxing wine, as you said repeatedly.

 

2 hours ago, mudbug said:

you provided no online references or documentation (in English)

 

On 8/15/2020 at 7:47 AM, mudbug said:

I don't speak Chinese, so anyone who does, your feedback is appreciated

 

Make up your mind! If you want me to translate my Chinese sources, you will find my rates very reasonable.

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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39 minutes ago, Duvel said:

Not traditional, but for Hanainese chicken (a more downstream version of white cut chicken) I sous vide the meat (usually skin-on breast meat) with the poaching aromatics in the bag, followed by cooling in ice water. Gives very consistent and satisfying results without any guess work. And can be applied to boneless chicken parts, which for family meals I prefer.
 

Regarding the „crunchy“ texture of the skin: best results are obtained if you are able to cool very quickly, to „fixate“ the gelatinous skin fast. So, ice water will produce the best results. Using a freezer will take significantly longer (as air is a poor heat transmission medium). Even more so basting with cooking wine, which - at merely 15% alcohol - doesn’t really speed up the evaporation significantly. It might contribute on the flavor side, but unlikely give you a nicely crunchy skin. Ice water, blotting dry and applying some sesame oil is how I prefer this preparation ...

 

 

What time/temp do you use for the various chicken parts?  I never found a time/temp that worked to give really juicy meat but fully cooked skin at the same time.

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2 minutes ago, weinoo said:

It's all about the sauce, anyway.

Personally, I agree, but I've talked with many Singaporeans who would disagree - everyone seems to have their own opinion on what the most important facet of chicken rice is.  Some think it's the chicken (even more so the skin), others the rice...

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4 minutes ago, weinoo said:

It's all about the sauce, anyway.

 

and "Hainanese chicken" isn't really Chinese, is it.

 

I love crisp skin, but, for the last time, it isn't part of white cut chicken.

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The white-cut chicken that I've partaken in (from some of the well-known Cantonese restaurants in my neighborhood) - let's just say it's not about the skin (nor is it the skin on the Hainanese chicken I've enjoyed). And unless it's a super great product to start with, it's definitely all about the sauce.
 

My reference to removing the skin to make it wonderful was more of a little light-heartedness. And it's so much better crisped up in the oven.

 

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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9 minutes ago, weinoo said:

My reference to removing the skin to make it wonderful was more of a little light-heartedness. And it's so much better crisped up in the oven.

 

 

 I agree but millions of my neighbours don't!

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There is a local family I am close to. They often invite me to festival dinners. I've known the daughter since she was about 7 years old. She speaks great English and is now an absolutely beautiful young woman in her mid twenties about to marry her man. Love her.

I'm always sat beside her at family events because no one else speaks English, not that it really matters. We use a mixture of languages when we talk. From I first met her, we have played this sort of game. We use both my and her chopsticks to remove the very uncrisp skin from our portions of the white cut chicken and either surreptiously drop it on the floor for the cat or wait till grandma isn't looking and drop it into her bowl, then get on with eating the delicious meat. We dislike the skin; grandma thinks it the best part. I'm not sure if the cat or grandma are more delighted!

Edited by liuzhou (log)
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