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


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2 hours ago, KennethT said:

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.


I usually use 64 oC for 2.5-3h for chicken breast. Sometimes I go below that, temperaturewise.

Presalting the skin helps with the texture, as does removing the breast from the bag and plunging it directly into the ice water. 
 

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7 hours 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 ...

 

Ah, we prefer bone in. (Meat without bones is boring to me.) On the ice bath, thank you. yes, makes sense. And on the cooking wine adding flavor, that's what they say here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GADCrcagFh0

 

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On 8/14/2020 at 10:54 PM, liuzhou said:

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.

 

 

With COVID-19 and people staying at home more, more people have time to plan ahead and enjoy the process. Most of our friends and family enjoy planning ahead, whether it be dry aging meat for weeks, fermenting foods or drinks, growing the plants from seed, etc. 

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18 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

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

 

I disagree, people appreciate diversity in texture, especially when it's well executed. They don't need to know why or how, and it can be subtle, but they don't need to know, the cook/chef knows how they did it. As in this video, their crunchy skin is what sets them apart and raises them to the upper echelon of this dish. "The most authentic white sliced chicken in Guangzhou" Award winning: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CkJN9Hy9rsM

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21 hours ago, dcarch said:

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

 

Yes, of course a high quality chicken from your favorite local organic farm at the most appropriate maturity is ideal. Also the way the chicken is de-feathered can make a difference. My understanding based on other's experience is that done by hand, the skin can be more yellow. What a chicken eats can influence skin color. And certain varieties of chickens can have more yellow skin.

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7 hours 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.

 

 

There's no need to use an oven to make crispy, chip like chicken skin. A little peanut oil or rice bran oil (or your favorite frying oil) in the bottom of a wok will do the trick. Dry the chicken skin, lightly fry util crisp, sprinkle with salt and MSG. DELISH and oven free.

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7 hours 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.

 

 

There's no need to use an oven to make crispy, chip like chicken skin. A little peanut oil or rice bran oil (or your favorite frying oil) in the bottom of a wok will do the trick. Dry the chicken skin, lightly fry util crisp, sprinkle with salt and MSG. DELISH and oven free.

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I hope we are not confusing "crispy" skin with "crunchy" skin.

 

For crispy skin chicken, there is deep fried (whole chicken) you can order in Chinese restaurants. 

For white cut chicken, skin is never crispy, but crunchy. Not crunchy like cookies. Crunchy as opposite to leathery.

 

Chinese restaurants do have ovens, that's what they use for Peking ducks, and roasted pork.

 

dcarch

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23 minutes ago, dcarch said:

I hope we are not confusing "crispy" skin with "crunchy" skin.

 

For crispy skin chicken, there is deep fried (whole chicken) you can order in Chinese restaurants. 

For white cut chicken, skin is never crispy, but crunchy. Not crunchy like cookies. Crunchy as opposite to leathery.

 

Chinese restaurants do have ovens, that's what they use for Peking ducks, and roasted pork.

 

dcarch

 

I didn't say Chinese restaurants don't have ovens (although most don't). I said ovens are extremely rare in domestic kitchens.

The skin on white cut chicken is very soft.

...your dancing child with his Chinese suit.

 

The Kitchen Scale Manifesto

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Steaming is the better way to preserve the flavor of the chicken as it will not lose to the poaching water. 

On the other hand, poach the chicken will yield more tender meat since it is cooked at the sub-boiling point. 

 

Perhaps my question has been answered here however steaming is a more consistent gentle heat than poaching and doesn't dilute the flavor into the water so it seems an experiment is in order. https://tasteasianfood.com/chinese-steamed-chicken

 

Quote

'Steaming is an even gentler method of cooking than poaching, because the ingredients don’t come into direct contact with the cooking medium or heat source. Curiously, steaming actually cooks food at higher temperatures than poaching, which means it seals in the flavour and results in a wonderfully tender and moist texture. With ingredients like fish or poultry, the heat also renders out some of the natural fats, but recycle their natural flavour back into the food. Steaming has the added advantage of keeping more of the vitamins and minerals in the foods themselves, rather than leaching them out into the cooking water."

https://www.cooked.com/uk/Justin-North/Hardie-Grant-Books/French-Lessons/Steaming-poaching-and-sousvide

 

Thoughts: start with the highest quality organic chicken allowed to free range and process it yourself if possible for optimum inherent flavor, poach and use ice bath for to tighten skin so it's crunchy (not crispy since it's not fried). Preferred chicken: 16 week old "wong mo gai" (Cantonese), "huang mao ji" in Mandarin, more mature, more flavorful. Not bred for breast size.

 

Consider a side by side experiment with one poached and one steamed chicken to see what the differences are with the meat.

Edited by mudbug
added details on chicken (log)
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Also, let's be clear about steaming.

Water evaporates into steam when boiled at 212F+.  But that does not mean that the food being steamed is actually be cooked at 212F. It all depends on other factors.

What you see "steam" is not steam. Steam is not visible. You are in fact seeing water droplets in the air which are already below 212F.

 

dcarch

 

 

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2 hours ago, liuzhou said:

 

I didn't say Chinese restaurants don't have ovens (although most don't). I said ovens are extremely rare in domestic kitchens.

The skin on white cut chicken is very soft.

 

Come to think of it, you are not incorrect. Those are not ovens for roasted ducks and pork , they are fire pits.

 

dcarch

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8 hours ago, Duvel said:


I usually use 64 oC for 2.5-3h for chicken breast. Sometimes I go below that, temperaturewise.

Presalting the skin helps with the texture, as does removing the breast from the bag and plunging it directly into the ice water. 
 

 

Quote
At 165°F (74°C) all foodborne bacteria are destroyed instantly. ... Even if a slow, low-accuracy dial thermometer is off by as much as 10°F (6°C), a final cooked temperature of 155°F (68°C) in chicken will only need to stay at that temperature for just under 60 seconds in order for the meat to be safe. —https://blog.thermoworks.com/chicken/bloody_chicken/#:~:text=At 165°F (74,foodborne bacteria are destroyed instantly.&text=Even if a slow%2C low,the meat to be safe.

 

Since you do lower in temp and enjoy what you make, keep doing it!

 

Why boiled chicken is.bad:

https://www.chefdarin.com/2011/04/why-boiled-chicken-is-bad/

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1 hour ago, dcarch said:

Also, let's be clear about steaming.

Water evaporates into steam when boiled at 212F+.  But that does not mean that the food being steamed is actually be cooked at 212F. It all depends on other factors.

What you see "steam" is not steam. Steam is not visible. You are in fact seeing water droplets in the air which are already below 212F.

 

dcarch

 

 

 

Yes, there would be an initial dip upon adding the chicken to the pot, but it's not like lowering the temperature of a large pot of water and waiting for that water to heat back up to boiling. The time and energy required are far less with steaming. As well as maintenance. Steam for 15 minutes, turn off heat, do not remove lid, sit for 20 (give or take depending on size of bird).

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"I’m originally from Hong Kong, and my grandma and mom both steam their chickens for 白切雞. They salt the outside and inside, and steam. For a prettier chicken you can rub salt over the skin in a circular motion to exfoliate the skin first. Then we either use a ice bath or rub sesame oil over the chicken for aroma.

 

The poached chicken meat is more tender and soft. Steaming + ice bath makes the meat and skin more bouncy and chewy, which is my preference.

We have never served the chicken pink - with the ice bath the breasts are fully cooked and still juicy. I think part of it is using a chicken which isn’t too big - we normally buy a free range chicken for 白切雞."

 

Three generations of home cooking experience. I trust that.

Edited by mudbug (log)
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  • 6 months later...

Wow. Rough conversation.

 

Liuzhou has been cranking accurate and incisive food information for at least the past decade that I've read.

 

White cooked chicken is a brutally hard art to master. My 95+ year old shanghainese mom does it perfectly, and I strive and cheat to replicate anything close to what she makes. I've been to the best 'local" places in Taiwan and Singapore for chicken rice and mom blows them all away.

 

It's not about rice or sauce. Forget that noise. Perfect chicken is tender, the skin is crunchy crispy after a perfect poach without being browned, and rice is...whatever the heck you want it to be. The skin is still perfectly moist, limp and crunchy at the same time. A better description might be "snappy". Sauce is soy or oyster/soy sauce. Salt is optional because mom is a genius and she don't need a crutch.  Shaoxing wine might be part of the braising liquid, although that is my addition to the recipe and perhaps not part of mom's. She also makes perfect first generation chicken stock out of the poaching liquid. Second generation/reinforced stock comes about when additional chicken parts are boiled in the first generation stock.

 

So....perfect chinese white cut chicken:

 

Free range chinese chicken. I'm in the NYC vicinity, so the buddha brand is the standard. Bell and Evans kosher chicken is cottony. Yuck. Don't even waste your time with supermarket chicken. Double yuck. They're fine for other dishes, but they won't work for white cut chicken. I've found that anything frozen/mass market won't work. You MUST HAVE superior chicken. Try to find something your local chinese population will use, because anything else I've tried just fails.

 

Poaching liquid is 2-5 gallons of water. Additives are ginger, salt and shaoxing wine. Bring to a boil and place chicken in, take off heat, and wait until perfect. More liquid is better to maintain an even temperature, but skill and technique make smaller amounts of liquid better to achieve a tastier stock. Yup, that's the recipe that mom gave me. Hit or miss gets reasonable results sometimes, and just atrocious and perfect results part of the time. Timing and technique are everything.

 

Here's my cheat. I've had better results by placing the chicken in a bag and sous viding everything at 148F for 2 hours. The meat is good, the "broth" still needs to be cooked to coagulate the proteins out of the liquid. Yeah, mom is perfect and I'm not so I cheat. She can do everything in one pot and all at the same time. Mom just touches the chicken and says it's done. Use a thermometer or learn to determine the texture of the chicken when it's done to replace her expertise. It only took her 70+ years to figure it out. 

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Well, I have to interject being in the NYC “vicinity.”

 

What is the Buddha brand chicken and why do you think it’s good? If you’re thinking of Bobo chicken, they’re just okay in my opinion.

 

I don’t believe Bell and Evan’s markets a kosher chicken.

 

I’m sure your mother is lovely.

 

And yes, it’s important that the chicken be perfect. But what good is perfect chicken without rice and sauce?

 

P.S. Have you told your mother you’re sous viding?

Edited by weinoo (log)
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Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

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Weinoo, Buddha and Lucky appear to be the dominant whole chickens sold in Manhattan Chinatown. The only branding is a little metal tag on the wings, which I've bitten into more than I like. I've never heard of Bobo. I'll have to take a closer look at the tag the next time I buy a chicken to verify the names, it's gotten to the point where I just discard it without even looking at it. Hopefully before I bite into it.

 

I've tried Bell & Evans, Empire Kosher and some other premium chickens. They're not great for White Cut Chicken. Your mileage may vary, as I tried this many years ago and quickly gave up. Cooking expensive premium chickens unsuccessfully was making me cranky. I stopped experimenting when I moved back to the east coast and could access the chinatown meat markets. Taking a raw chicken back to California wasn't a great idea, but grabbing chicken and throwing it into the cooler for an hour in the back seat is fine.

 

Mom doesn't need sauce and rice. The chicken stands alone :)

 

And of course I'll never tell mom I'm sous viding. I am cheating thoroughly to get the results I want to eat, because I tried and failed for decades to use her methods. I nailed it on my second attempt with sous vide; the only adjustment was pushing the temp up a few degrees.

 

 

Edited by tomishungry (log)
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I don't believe Buddha and Lucky are actually brands sold in Manhattan Chinatown. Or if they are brands, they are simply branding poultry from someone else. Most Chinatown chickens are supplied by a company called BoBo; they are considered Buddhist chickens; i.e. slaughtered according to proper ritual, etc. etc.

 

I've been shopping in Manhattan's Chinatown for longer than I care to admit; believe me, I know what's being sold there and at other places. I've tried practically every freakin' chicken on the market, and even gone so far as to get live birds at LaPera Poultry. White-cut chicken is far from the only reason to use a quality chicken, don't you think?

 

Have you tried a Joyce Farms bird? A D'artagnan bird? Even Cook's Venture is a darn good bird; lots of chefs using it.

 

Now tell me - have you ever eaten white cut chicken, and nothing else is on the table? Or perhaps is there rice, and maybe even some sauce if you want it?

 

 

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

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