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1.  As a professional chef, do you use a thermometer every time you velvet food in order to gauge the optimum temperature of 300º F. precisely, or do you have a short-hand method of doing this? 

I'm not familiar with the term "velveting", but it sounds like the way my wife makes "Shanghai Shrimp". Is this what is called "slippery frying", or maybe "liu" (—­) in Chinese? I don't look over her shoulder, but I can assure you that she never uses a thermometer.

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Eddie:

1. Do you use a thermometer every time you velvet food?

2.  After velveting, the protein retains a great deal of oil.  Do you recommend blotting the food on paper towels?  Is there a better way to drain the residual oil from the protein or do you just proceed with the recipe as is?

. :biggrin:

Today I rarely use a thermometer to check oil temperature, though when I first started 'velveting' I did. Over time one can learn how to discern the temperature of the oil by looking at it: heat waves appear in the oil when it approaches cooking temperature.

Keep in mind that you want to COOK the food at 280-300 degrees F. When you put cold food in hot oil, the oil loses heat. The temperature of the food and the volume of oil and the strength of the heat source (this promotes rapid temperature recovery) all effect the process. Very often I start my velveting when the oil is at a slightly higher temperature, say 325 F, knowing that the oil will decrease in temperature as soon as I put my protein in. If the oil is too hot, all the egg white marinated pieces will stick together in a lump and the process won't work well. By the way if your oil is too hot have some room temperature oil at your side and quickly mix some in. This lowers the temperature immediately.

With regard to oil in your finished product, it's my experience that the protein absorbs much less oil than you might think. Oil does cling to the food. After removing the protein from the oil bath let it drain well for about 30 seconds making sure to shake the colander a few times to facilitate removal. Your wok should be coated with a film of oil, but much less than you would have in it if you were stir-frying the protein. Your wok should then be ready to sauce the blanched food.

I consistently have very little oil in my finished dishes when I velvet. In fact I sometimes have to add some oil to the finished dish to give it a little extra sheen and smoothness. For example this week I was in California and came across some unusually delicious fresh Hawaiian shrimp which I made with with fresh chanterelles and broccoli: at the end of the saute I tossed in a 1/2t of sesame oil and 2t of chicken fat. BIG YUM.

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  • 3 weeks later...

Thanks for the great tips on velveting! I have several Chinese cookbooks and I don't think anybody ever really described it. I have a couple of questions though:

1) Is velveting also normally done to beef? Is that why the beef is always so tender in restaurants? (Also, what cut of beef do they normally use for stir-fried dishes?)

2) Is there a safe way to pour the hot oil out of the wok and into the oil container? This sounds rather dangerous!

Thanks!!

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Is velveting also normally done to beef?  Is that why the beef is always so tender in restaurants? 

Good question.

Yes velveting is done to beef and yes that is one of the reasons it can be so tender. However, in the case of beef, when it is extremely tender it is often that way because before marinating it in egg white and wine, it has first been treated with baking soda. This is a trick professional Cantonese chefs use. They dissolve a small amount of baking soda in water and soak the beef in it for some hours. This really breaks down the texture so that cuts like flank steak become quite soft. After soaking, the soda is rinsed away with water, the beef is dried, marinated in egg white, and eventually cooked. The negative side of this process is that all the juices are leached out of the meat and the meat's natural beefiness is minimized in favor of its texture. They count on a flavorful stir-fry sauce to counteract the lack of natural beef taste.

There are also other significant factors which affect the beef's tenderness. They include:

1) the temperature of the velveting oil - too hot and the beef will toughen

2) the amount of time you toss the velveted beef in its sitr-fry sauce - the shorter the time the better, just long enough to coat the food with the sauce is the goal - if you boil the meat in the sauce it will toughen

3) and very significantly the quality/tenderness of the meat you start with

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What cut of beef do they normally use for stir-fried dishes?)

Flank steak is the most common cut. Its shape, texture and leaness work well. However any naturally tender cut of beef will work well. If it makes a tender steak it will make a tender stir-fry.

Since I prefer to bring out the natural beef taste and juices in my cooking I shy away from baking soda marination. Also egg white marination, since it includes salt, will also remove some of the beef's juices. I therefore tend to use naturally tender cuts and marinate them with egg white but not for so long. I count on good stir-fry technique and naturally tender beef to achieve the results I want.

Cuts of meat that work well include:

1) Tenderloin (filet mignon)

2) NY Strip - good quality

3) Short loin - Porterhouse or t-bone

4) However, when I can find an extremely marbelized one (not easy), my favorite cut is taken from the thin end of the chuck blade. Variously sold under the names of chicken steak, butter steak, beef blade steak, and more recently marketed by some cutting edge restaurateurs as flat-iron steak (a piece about flat-irons recently appeared in the NY Times), this cut can be both extremely tender and delicious. It has a very beefy taste and buttery texture, but only when it quite fat, and only the slices from the thinner end of the cut work well. The thicker end of the piece has too much gristle to be sliced into the correct shape. Before slicing it needs to be trimmed of its large center gristle and exterior membranes.

Chicken steak is found in supermarkets and kosher butchers among other places. When it is sliced into steaks you can see how marbeled it is. I often travel to 3 or 4 different supermarkets looking for a sufficiently marbled piece. Even then my seach is sometimes not fruitful and I end up using an alternative. Chicken steak is quite economical, usually costing less than $4/lb. It makes a mean stew/pot roast by the way.

Avoid cuts (which might seem logical to use) such as:

Hangar - too coarse and toughens very easily during a stir-fry

Boneless sirloin - not tender enough unless very prime and very aged

Skirt - Too thin to cut into correctly shaped slices

Round - not suitable/tender enough

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Is there a safe way to pour the hot oil out of the wok and into the oil container? 

Place an oil pot, topped with a strainer or colander, next to your wok. Using a pot holder grasp the pan's handle where it is attached to the wok and pour the oil into your oil pot. I often use a long handled wok spoon which typically has a 1 cup capacity bowl at its end. When I pour the oil out of the wok I have my spoon in the colander, its bowl facing up. I pour my oil into the spoon and let it overflow and then fall down into the oil pot below. This prevents/minimizes splashing. Just do it carefully and not too quickly.

If you're scared to do this, just ladle the hot oil out of the wok into the oil pot. This is slower, but it works just fine. After doing this a few times it's no big deal.

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  • 3 weeks later...

when it comes to cut of beef: my mom uses anything that's on sale and she can make it tender and flavorful with cutting/cooking technique. i've never seen her use baking soda or egg white. she does marinate with cornstarch. usually a little cooking wine (which if using chinese wines has salt added to it so they can sell it at a grocery store without liquor license) and soy sauce.

she almost always "velvets" in oil. i've never heard this term and when she comes back from china, i'll ask what the chinese term for this is.

this was an interesting thread. i didn't think anyone but my mom did this. i can't eat chinese food in restaurants (mostly) because the food is never as good as hers! very disappointing. i don't have a hot enough stove to cook really authentic chinese food. my mom cooks outside over a wok ring with a propane tank.

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  • 3 weeks later...
stellarWOK,

If you check the post again, you'll notice the first was a response for margaret.

;)

As for experimentation, I don't see that it would be difficult as velveting is the prep for the rest of the dish.

Just prepare everything you need, divide the meat in half, velvet with each method and continue with the rest of the recipe for each. It's the only way you're going to know for sure for yourself.

Sorry to let this thread lapse for so long...and missing the focus of the response. But, I found a good recipe for the velveting and I consider it essential step in some of the dishes that call for stir frying meat, esp. chicken for a Chinese dish.

As noted before...1 1/2 -2 cups of oil heat in a wok to about 275º

1 large egg white

1 tablespoon corn starch

1 tablespoon Cooking Sherry - or Shaoxing Rice wine

1/2 Tsp. salt

1 tablespoon peanut oil (I use oil previosly seasoned from frying chicken and refrigerated for freshness)

Coat the chicken pieces and in small batches, pass through the heated oil for about 30 - 40 secs. just until the chicken turns white. If it turns yellow, it will be tough later on. Remove form the oil, and drain and set aside for use in the stir frying.

The result: Tender, soft chicken after stir frying in Kung Poa chicken. Definitely, the step I was looking for to gain the texture I found so desirable.

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:laugh: Eureka! Now that I am educated, cannot wait to apply this technique to my stirfries. I had no idea that this was the step to create professional results. My thanks to stellarWOK for resurrecting this thread or I would have remained lost in my ignorance. Eatingwitheddie is truly a saviour.
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May I add one small little tip to the excellent ones on this topic?

If you have allowed the meat to sit in its marinade for awhile, the slices/shreds/dices will tend to clump together. Before they go in the oil, give the meat a stir to separate the pieces.

I scoop, or rather -- shove them gently over the surface of the oil, rather than push them all in, all at once. They are easier to separate that way, and allow the surfaces of each piece to come into contact with the oil.

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May I add one small little tip to the excellent ones on this topic?

If you have allowed the meat to sit in its marinade for awhile, the slices/shreds/dices will tend to clump together.  Before they go in the oil, give the meat a stir to separate the pieces.

I scoop, or rather -- shove them gently over the surface of the oil, rather  than push them all  in, all at once. They are easier to separate that way, and allow the surfaces of each piece to come into contact with the oil.

Also it's a good idea to add a spoonful of vegetable oil to the marinade to help promote separation after the food is in the oil.

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  • 4 months later...

Did anyone notice the Cook's Illustrated take on velveting in the new May/June 2004 issue?

First they have this incredible breakthrough idea - soak the chicken in a soy sauce marinade instead of brining it. Imagine! Then they introduce us to velveting.

They define velveting as coating the chicken "in a thin cornstarch and egg white or oil mixture, then parcooking in moderately heated oil [no mention of amount]" They choose cornstarch/oil over cornstarch/egg white. They then state that the result was supple but pale, and "far too involved for a quick weeknight dinner." So. They then explore coating the chicken in the same way but skipping the parcooking. This resulted in equally "juicy and tender" chicken that had an "attractive golden brown coating" (which is presumably better than a pale one.) Further tweaks to the coating resulted in a recipe including equal parts a.p. flour and corn starch with some sesame oil. They then proceeded to cook chicken over high heat in 1 tablespoon of peanut oil.

So in other words, nothing at all like velveting except for the presence of a coating. It's a stir fry in which the chicken has been lightly battered. Peculiar.

But interesting. Do you think it's true that marinated chicken coated in a cornstarch mixture and sauteed in minimal oil can be as tasty as traditional velvet chicken? It's certainly more convenient.

-michael

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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Did anyone notice the Cook's Illustrated take on velveting in the new May/June 2004 issue?

.

.

.

But interesting. Do you think it's true that marinated chicken coated in a cornstarch mixture and sauteed in minimal oil can be as tasty as traditional velvet chicken? It's certainly more convenient.

I personally like Cook's Illustrated with the way they test their recipes, but I tend to think their "ethnic" foods are very disappointing (maybe it's their test subjects?). So....I'll look to Cook's Illustrated for coffee cakes, but not Chinese food.

I used to just stir-fry my cornstarch-coated chicken in a little oil, but since I've discovered velveting, there's no turning back! There's a HUGE difference in texture between velveted meats and non-velveted meats. Ever since I started doing that, people have started asking me if I ever thought about becoming a chef at (insert a great Chinese restaurant here)!

I find that it really doesn't take much longer, and it's definitely worth it.

Thanks, eGullet. :cool:

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In May of 1974, Woman's Day magazine had an article entitled "A terrific Technique For Chicken" in which a technique, from Trader Vic's then Vice-President Chan Wong, was offered -- along with recipes.

The technique was to marinate raw chicken in salt & pepper for 20 minutes, then in oil and cornstarch for 20 minutes, then egg white for 30 minutes. You then procede with the recipe. The recipes provided were not just for Asian dishes. They covered chicken strips and fillets and went from the marinade into the frying pan and cooked, in small amounts of butter or margerine (this was 1974) and 'were as tender as butter'. In one dish for, Chicken and Dumplings, the chicken was poached in the stew broth.

I have used this method for years, (with some revisions) mostly for non-Chinese dishes, but sometimes for Chinese style/flavored dishes, where the chicken was not cooked over a high almost smoking heat. I use it for thin sliced pork also.

In Ken Hom's Fragrant Harbor, he uses only 1/2 cup of oil to velvet his meat. That's no big deal to deal with.

Edited by jo-mel (log)
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I personally like Cook's Illustrated with the way they test their recipes, but I tend to think their "ethnic" foods are very disappointing (maybe it's their test subjects?).  So....I'll look to Cook's Illustrated for coffee cakes, but not Chinese food.

I used to just stir-fry my cornstarch-coated chicken in a little oil, but since I've discovered velveting, there's no turning back!  There's a HUGE difference in texture between velveted meats and non-velveted meats.  Ever since I started doing that, people have started asking me if I ever thought about becoming a chef at (insert a great Chinese restaurant here)!

I find that it really doesn't take much longer, and it's definitely worth it.

Thanks, eGullet.  :cool:

I might be a slightly bigger fan of CI "ethnic" offerings. I think the recipes serve as reliable introductions to a cuisine. They aim at a hypothetical Everyman with an interest in cooking but not a consuming one, a person with no desire or time to shop outside of a mainstream supermarket. Not the type of person who'd delve deeply into Hot Sour Salty Sweet, for example, but one who just wants five or six reasonably authentic recipes for Vietnamese night every couple of months. Lemongrass and fish sauce are embraced but the line is drawn at galanga and lime leaf. Like I'd bet most people on these boards, I wish they'd raise the bar, but I can't say I've ever found a recipe other than delicious.

I'm with you on the velveting though. I guess I'm going to have to do a direct comparison and make up my mind.

-michael

"Tis no man. Tis a remorseless eating machine."

-Captain McAllister of The Frying Dutchmen, on Homer Simpson

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  • 5 years later...

I've never tried this and it really appeals to me, but I'm conerned about the old rule about half-cooking things. Do you need to use velveted meat immediately in a stir fry to prevent this?

"Last week Uncle Vinnie came over from Sicily and we took him to the Olive Garden. The next day the family car exploded."

--Nick DePaolo

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From what I've seen, you velvet the meat, cook the aromatics and build the sauce, then add the meat back in to cook just done. This is done in minutes, and the meat is fully cooked anyway. I'm not sure about restaurants holding half-cooked meat, but I doubt it because it wouldn't really save much time (especially with vats of oil used to quickly velvet meat readily available).

I've been doing this for a while and have never gotten sick.

nunc est bibendum...

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This method does require half-cooking the meat, not cooking it all the way before removing the meat from the pan. All other ingredients are added, in sequence. Just minutes later, near the end, the meat is returned to the pan and the heat of the pan and of the surrounding ingredients finishes the cooking of the meat. Half-cooking prevents keep the meat from toughening from overcooking. Holding half-cooked meat for such a short time is not dangerous.

Edited by browniebaker (log)
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  • 8 months later...

I'd like to try this.. Is it an OK idea to marinade chicken breast strips 10mm thick in the wine/salt/oil (+herbs - fresh thyme and maybe sweet paprika) portion of the velveting mix for say 12 hours prior to velveting as a traditional marinade for the purpose of breaking down the proteins, and then adding the cornstarch and egg whites to it to create the complete velveting marinade just prior to frying?

Is it OK to use Rice Bran Oil as I need a really delicate flavour. Thanks.

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Anybody know if you do this with vegetables? I just had a fantastic garlic eggplant dish at Tacoma Szechuan and I think they used this technique on the eggplant. It was, well, velvety and smooth and I thought it had the slightest bit of fried coating on it. Any tips on velveting eggplant or other veggies?

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  • 1 year later...

I'm familiar with the procedure of velveting shrimp and chicken, although I don't do it very often. But I recently made a recipe from one of Barbara Tropp's cookbooks for a shrimp dish where she velvets the shrimp in simmering water instead of oil. I'd never heard of that, so I gave it a try. It worked okay, but I'm not sure it really made that much difference.

So, I have a few questions. First, is this common - velveting in water? Second, I'm confused about whether the velveting process is only supposed to partially cook the protein, which is what Tropp's recipe called for. It seems to me I've read other recipes where the protein is completely cooked when velveted, and then added to the dish at the last minute. Third, I guess my main question is whether veleveting makes that much of a difference.

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I've never heard of velveting by sliding the protein in oil or water, to partially cook or complete cook before I read about it on egullet.

From what my parents taught me, velveting meant first marinating the protein in seasonings, cornstarch and oil. Let the protein rest while you cook the vegetables. Clean the wok out, heat it up, just enough oil to coat the surface completely, with a small pool of a couple tbsp at the bottom. (depending on how much protein to be cooked). Add the meat, stir after one side starts to brown a bit, continue until 3/4 done, add the veg and liquid accumulated, mix well, and the meat is like velvet - from the cornstarch / oil marinade.

"Sliding" thru' oil or water bath just seems like an extra step?

The only time I've ever done it was when we had the restaurant. On crazy busy days like Mother's Day, New Years, etc, we'd do the "velveting bath" only to have a large amount of beef, pork, or chicken pre-cooked to quickly add to the veg as per order. Have never done the shrimp that way.

Here's the shrimp I made for CNY - velveting the way I described above. It stays juicy, velvety, and crispy...

shrimpfood4401.jpg

Dejah

www.hillmanweb.com

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Dejah, I should have mentioned that the recipe did call for marinating in cornstarch, rice wine, egg white and salt before cooking, and I did understand that this was part of the velveting process. At least in this Tropp recipe, though, the marinade didn't call for oil -- is that typical? I'd also only seen veleveting done for shrimp and chicken -- I had no idea it was done for beef and pork too. Is it done all the time, or just for particular dishes?

In any case, it's good to know I don't have to use a separate pan -- thanks for the information!

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the marinade didn't call for oil -- is that typical? I'd also only seen veleveting done for shrimp and chicken -- I had no idea it was done for beef and pork too. Is it done all the time, or just for particular dishes?

Marinate with a little oil... that's typical. Especially with meat like beef and pork. It's a common technique/process.

Velveting in oil or water... In water, the shrimp will be a bit rough from the boiling water. Cooking in a high temperature oil bath (in less time) would preserve the "bouncy" texture better. Especially with meat like beef and pork. Chicken too.

You may use the same pan. But best to rinse out the pan completely before stir-frying with vegetable or seasoning or else the bitsy meat residual will become bits of burnt charcoal.

W.K. Leung ("Ah Leung") aka "hzrt8w"
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