Velveting Chicken Breasts

Velveting is a standard step in the preparation of numerous stir-fried chicken breast dishes. It involves coating the chicken pieces in a mixture of egg white and cornstarch and partially precooking them in warm oil or hot water. The coating and preliminary blanching give the chicken a velvety smooth texture; hence the name. Velveting does not brown the chicken; it only firms it up before a final stir-frying with other ingredients, and can be done in advance. Try making the recipe that follows for Spicy Chicken with Peanuts twice, once with velveted chicken and once with raw chicken cubes, and notice the subtle difference. Incidentally, this is not to be confused with Chicken Velvet, a totally different process used for soup.

Ingredients

  • 1 whole chicken breast, boned and cubed, about 1 lb.
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ½ egg white
  • 2 cups peanut oil

Method

  1. Toss the chicken cubes to coat with the cornstarch and egg white, mixed together. Let the chicken marinate at least 10 minutes.

  2. Heat the oil until it is warm. Check the temperature by adding a piece of chicken to it. If it floats, the oil is hot enough. Immediately turn off the heat so that the oil does not get too hot. The object is not to brown the chicken at all, but to cook it so that it comes out glistening white. Add the chicken.

  3. Stir the chicken pieces in the oil with chopsticks so that they don’t stick to each other. Let them cook for 15 seconds, just until they turn opaque on the surface.

  4. Set the chicken aside until you are ready to use it.