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  • Writer's pictureScott Rotella

Velveting Proteins: A Chinese Cooking Technique for Tender, Flavorful Meat

Updated: Sep 29, 2023

Veleted beef stir fry with wide rice noodles

Have you ever made a beef dish where the meat was bland and chewy? Or a chicken dish where your chicken was a little tough and dried out? We all have…it is the nature of applying heat to proteins. Have you ever wondered why most proteins in Chinese food are very tender, flavorful and even sometimes have a silken texture? That is the result of a Chinese cooking technique called velveting. However, we have found that it has a place in a wide variety of dishes and adds just enough of a difference to the protein to make it a bit more special. If you are unfamiliar with velveting, this post is for you.

What is velveting?

Velveting is a Chinese cooking technique used to tenderize tough cuts of meat before stir-frying. It typically involves marinating the meat in a mixture that may include baking soda and / or cornstarch and is rested for about 30 minutes to 2 hours, depending on ingredients used.

I use two different velveting techniques: baking soda velveting and cornstarch velveting which are both described below.

Origin of velveting

The origin of velveting is unknown, but it is thought to have originated in China centuries ago. The technique was originally used to tenderize tough cuts of meat, such as beef tendon or pork belly. Over time, velveting became more popular and is now used with a variety of proteins, including chicken, shrimp, and tofu.

What does velveting do?

Velveting has several benefits, including:

  • Tenderizes meat: The baking soda and / or cornstarch and egg mixture helps to break down the proteins in the meat, making it more tender and easier to chew.

  • Prevents meat from drying out: The cornstarch helps to create a barrier around the meat, preventing it from drying out during cooking.

  • Improves flavor: The cornstarch and egg mixture also help to absorb the flavors of the marinade, resulting in more flavorful meat.

  • Improves texture: Velveting helps to improve the texture of meat, making it more smooth and velvety.

  • Easy to do: Velveting is a simple technique that can be done at home with a few simple ingredients.

How does velveting work?

The baking soda relaxes the proteins. The cornstarch in the velveting mixture helps to create a protective layer around the meat. This layer prevents the meat from overcooking and drying out.

Baking soda velveting

When to use:

  • When tenderizing meat without the use of a marinade.

  • When you need a quick way to tenderize.

How to use baking soda to velvet

To velvet protein with baking soda, you will need:

  • 1 pound of sliced meat, such as beef, chicken, or pork

  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda

  • 1/2 cup of water


  1. In a large bowl, combine the baking soda and water.

  2. Add the protein to the bowl and toss to coat. Sliced or cubed meats will work better as it will enable the baking soda slurry to penetrate the meat deeply.

  3. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

  4. After 30 minutes, rinse the meat under cold water and pat it dry.

Use as you normally would in the recipe.

Here are some tips for velveting meat with baking soda:

  • Use a good quality baking soda. Cheap baking soda may not be as effective at tenderizing meat.

  • Don't over-marinate the meat. 30 minutes is the perfect amount of time.

  • Rinse the meat thoroughly after marinating. This will remove any excess baking soda, which can give the meat a soapy and chalky taste.

  • Don't overcook the meat. Velveted meat should be cooked until it is browned and cooked through, but it should still be tender.

Velveting meat with baking soda is a quick and easy way to make tough cuts of meat tender and delicious. It is a great technique for stir-fries, but it can also be used for other dishes, such as grilled meats, fajitas and roasted meats or for any pizza where strips of beef or chicken are desired. Don't forget to use this techniquie with stews also!

Cornstarch velveting

When to use:

  • When tenderizing meat with the use of a marinade.

  • This is the typical approach used for stir frying as the cornstarch will also thicken your sauce

How to use cornstarch to velvet

So just like the baking soda method, the cornstarch breaks down the meat's proteins, making it more tender and easier to chew. The cornstarch also helps to coat the meat and prevent it from sticking to the pan and creates a barrier on the protein to help prevent it from drying out. You can also add egg white which also coats the protein to ensure juiciness.

To velvet proteins, you will need:

  • 1 pound of protein (chicken, beef, shrimp, tofu, etc.)

  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch

  • 1 egg white (optional)

  • 1 tablespoon soy sauce

  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  1. Cut the protein into thin strips.

  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together the cornstarch, egg white, soy sauce, and vegetable oil.

  3. Add the protein to the bowl and toss to coat.

  4. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes, or up to 2 hours.

Use the protein as called for in your recipe.

Final thoughts

As a side note, we have experimented with adding a pinch of baking soda to ground beef when browning for things such as taco salads or sauces. It really makes the meat much more tender. However, just use a pinch, otherwise you will impact the flavor.

I hope this post has given you a better understanding of velveting proteins. This versatile technique can be used to make a variety of dishes that are both tender and flavorful. So next time you're cooking with proteins, be sure to give velveting a try!

If you would be interested in a stir fry recipe, let me know in the comments section below.


17 views1 comment




Love your posts Scott — always learn something new — and would love a stir fry recipe.

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