Velveting Chicken - Part 1 of Keeping chicken breast juicy

"Velveting" is a Chinese technique used with lean dry chicken breast to make it more succulent and juicy. Although Chinese, you can adjust the flavours to whatever cuisine you're cooking. I like to use chicken treated this way in pastas and salads. You can double triple or quadruple the recipe easily. Just be sure to use a lot more boiling water.

2 tablespoons cornflour
1 tablespoon liquid - this could be soy sauce, Chinese rice wine, white wine, brandy
1 tablespoon oil - this could be a neutral oil, olive oil, sesame oil.
Pinch each of salt and (optional) sugar. No salt if you've used soy.
2 chicken breasts diced into small, even cubes. The size doesn't really matter, but having them all the same size does, so they're all cooked at the same time.

1.) Toss the first 4 ingredients together and mix well to combine. Add chicken pieces, mix well and place in fridge for at least 30 mins, and up to 24 hours.
2.) Bring at least 2 litres of water to the boil. When it's boiling give the chicken a big stir to break up the coating. Turn the heat off and move the pot to one side.  3.) Then add the chicken and stir gently to ensure water surrounds each piece.
Leave in the water until cooked. This will depend on the size of the pieces of chicken. Test one to see. Try not to overcook them because they can become dry and stringy, and that's exactly what you're trying to avoid. I think slightly undercooked chicken breast is better than overcooked.
If you're cooking them to add to a stir fry undercook slightly because the chicken will receive it's final cook in the wok.
4.) Drain the water away. This can be done immediately before you use it, or prepared hours ahead.


The salt and sugar act as a brine and migrate into the flesh of the chicken, changing the structure of the proteins so they retain more liquid. The cornflour mixture acts as a coat to protect the chicken from loosing moisture and the outside of the pieces from the harsh heat of the water. Magic!