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chicken question

post #1 of 20
Thread Starter 
I'm wondering what restaurants do to get their chicken pieces so tender. Whenever I order a chicken dish at an Indian or Chinese restaurant, it seems the chicken piees are always very soft and tneder. But whenever I try to cook a Chinese dish or an Indian curry at home in a pan, using boneless chicken breasts, I always end up with the same problem: the chicken is tough rather than soft and tender. Even if the sauce is good, the dish becomes less appetizing because of this problem. Can anyone fill me in on the secret to soft and tender chicken in dishes like this?
Thanks for your help!
post #2 of 20
Some undoubtedly use products "marinated" (soaked, really) in a sodium solution. It may contain a lot of chemicals. Check out the bags of boneless, skinless chicken breasts in the freezer case at the store, and you'll see what I mean. But that's probably not the only means of tenderizing chicken. More ideas anyone?
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post #3 of 20
I can't offer any advice but I suffer this same problem so I would be very eager to hear a solution :roll:
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I'm a MAN, man!
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post #4 of 20
Two thoughts: One is your cooking technique. Too much heat for too long?

Another, building on Mezzaluna's comments, is to recommend brining. You can make a brine with water, salt, sugar and flavoring to soak your chicken in prior to cooking. Between osmosis and salt's effect on cell membranes when heated, you'll end up with a higher water content in the cooked meat. No need for strange, long-named chemicals.

Formulae for brines are all over the i'net.
post #5 of 20
The Chinese and most oriental cuisines employ a technique called "velveting" where the meat is coated with a slurry of eggwhite and cornstarch. For reasons unknown to me, but undoubltly that work, it does produce a tender product. Of course the kwali range found in most Chinese kitchens (a wok is simply the pan,the kwali is the stove...) produces over 100,000 btu's and this might have an effect as well.

Try it next time with the tip, you can also add in flavouring ingredients with the slurry as well.
...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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...."This whole reality thing is really not what I expected it would be"......
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post #6 of 20
Dittos to what Mezz and some others say about overcooking. That is usually the key to dry chicken especially with breastes. They dont need much excuse to dry out and get tough. Brining is also a good mechanism for causing them to retain some moisture or an easier way is to buy them "pumped" which is more or less a factory brine job. Butterball springs immediately to mind for a good tasting pumped chicken..Pilgrims Pride got some also as does Tyson.

bigwheel
post #7 of 20

chefed

MOST CHINESE REST.TODAY USE BONELESS, SKINLESS, THIGHS WHICH CONTAIN MORE FAT THEN BREAST THEREFORE COOKING UP MORE TENDER. THEY ALSO DREDGE THE CHICKEN IN CORNSTARCH AND THEN COOK IN WOK (HIGH heat) til almost done taken out and held on side till balance of dish is prepared then put back in and served fast. SINCE TIME OF COOKING OF VEGE AND CHICKEN IS DIFFERENT SO THEY ARE ADDED AT DIFFERENT INTERVALS.
IT MAY ALSO BE NOTED THAT BREEDERS HAVE TRIED TO DEVELOP AN ALL WHITE MEAT BIRD,THEREFORE UNLIKE YEARS AGO THE COOKED DARK MEAT IS NOT VERY DARK AND IS USED FOR WHITE MEAT WITH VERY FEW PEOPLE NOTICING. CHEF ED
CHEFED
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post #8 of 20
Thread Starter 
Thanks everybody for all of this great advice! I feel like this is the end of my days of tough rubbery chicken!
I have one question regarding heat. What would be the ideal degree of heat and recommended amount of time for cooking for chicken pieces in a dish like chicken curry, to retain softness?
When cooking chicken in a pan is it usually advisable to cook for a very short amount of time at a higher heat, or a longer time at a low heat?
Usually in practice what I've done is cook on high heat till the pink is gone from the meat, then move down to a low heat.

I have tried brining the chicken a few times in the past, and while this did definitely result in a superior texture, it was still inferior to what I've had in restaurants. It sounds like "velveting" is the real secret, and that's what I'm going try next.

I'll look for boneless thigh meat as well, instead of breast meat. Funny, I've always gotten breast meat mainly beacuse it's what I always remember seeing in the chicken section. But maybe that's because no one had ever recommended I try the thigh meat and so I never thought to look for it!

Thanks again.
post #9 of 20
I always use thigh meat in any chicken casserole/stew/soup I make. It's easier to bone, a better flavour, and here at least, substantially cheaper. So I am with Ed. B on this one. Can't remember when I last bought breasts. Even with roast chicken I am inclined to a whole leg rather than a whole chook. A really excellent soup can be made with a dollars worth of chicken wings, picking off the small wing bone meat after cooking for the stock and other goodies. Small tender meat. And rather a lot of it.
post #10 of 20
a Chinese guy i've worked with over the years hit almost all meats with cornstarch plus baking soda to tenderize. he'd worked in mostly chinese kitchens for over 50 years and said that was the secret...
post #11 of 20
I usually use whole chicken...or bone in pieces. But when cooking boneless breast I've found that when I used to cook them fast over high heat I'd end up with a dry piece of chicken that was a bit tough. This was even when taking the chicken off when the center was slightly under cooked. I'm guessing the high heat overcooked the outside of the breast meat before the center had time to get done.

Now I preheat on high...place the chicken on and turn to low heat. Then cook (breast) until they're slightly under done and let set before slicing or serving.


One other thing that I've encountered...is that some of those super large chicken breast could be a little tough at times. I've had better luck buying smaller whole birds and cutting them up myself...or getting some smaller sized breast.



I'll have to give the cornstarch trick a try :)

take care,
dan
post #12 of 20
This discussion brings whole new meaning to the rubber chicken conference circuit doesn't it. If I am away from my home, I am a veggie.
post #13 of 20

Fresh Is The Trick At Home

I came across this thread looking for something wholly unrelated. But I have had this same question and I empathize with exactly what you are talking about as many of my favorite chinese restaurants have the most tender chicken around. But what did I find for the best at home results? FRESH breasts.

I don't know if your local grocery store has fresh chicken breasts, but they are generally more moist without any extra effort.

Specifically, when you freeze a chicken/breast, it loses a good amount of moisture. When you thaw the breast, it does not reabsorb that moisture.

Techniques like velveting does work, but it will NOT remoisturize (sounds like Mabeline Make-up) the breast. Velveting will merely protect the remaining moisture in the breast.

So again, at least for at-home cooking, I found the most moist and tender chicken comes from fresh breasts.
post #14 of 20
They cube and boil the chicken, then drain it, leaving it out for hours and hours.
Then they cornstarch it and reheat for the appropriate dish.

You do not want to see the kitchen of your favorite Chinese joint.
You'll never eat there again.
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Knowledge is knowing a tomato is a fruit. Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
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post #15 of 20
you can also blanch your chopped up meats in oil (at a relatively low temp, not deep fry). Also, it's dark meat (in addition to velveting) that's the secret. I personally don't like to use baking soda since it changes the flavour and turns it into the texture of meat mush... which is already bad enough in my books.
"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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"If it's chicken, chicken a la king. If it's fish, fish a la king. If it's turkey, fish a la king." -Bender
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post #16 of 20
Marinating the chx in a 3.25% fat buttermilk for a couple hours turns any chx into tender and juicy heaven

Cat Man
post #17 of 20
I believe over cooking is the problem. I nearly always poach chicken breast in stock, then depending on its use it can be pan-fried for colour or char-grilled etc. It is always juicy and moist and never loses its flavour. Also I find free range not only taste better they cook better too.
post #18 of 20
[quote=foodpump;135565]The Chinese and most oriental cuisines employ a technique called "velveting" where the meat is coated with a slurry of eggwhite and cornstarch. [quote]

Then you mix it. Then you keep mixing it for extra twenty minutes or so. Work the starch into the flesh. Then they refrigerate. (This probably helps in working the starch more.)
post #19 of 20
Simple cooking techniques will keep chicken juicy and tender, if executed right.

For boneless chicken breast, flatten the breast with a meat mallet so it cooks evenly and just saute. (wich is over high heat with little fat)

Or in the oven at a high temp till browned and then finished at a low temp so the finished chicken breast is still juicy.
post #20 of 20
sauteing and pan frying should only be used for chicken breast because it has little connective tissue, legs for example have more connective tissue and should be roasted or braised becuase it takes a longer cooking method to break the connective tissue.
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