This is how to tenderise beef with a Chinese restaurant method called “velveting beef”. It’s a simple, highly effective technique using baking soda that transforms economical beef so it’s incredibly tender in stir fries and stir fried noodles.
It’s a quick and easy method that any home cook can do, any night of the week. No deep frying, no special equipment. This is a game changer!
Velveting beef – Chinese restaurant secret!
Ever notice how the meat in Chinese dishes is so incredibly tender, and how your stir fries at home are just never the same?
The secret is tenderising the meat. It’s called velveting beef.
Your cheerful local Chinese restaurant is using economical stewing beef to make stir fries with ultra tender strips of beef by tenderising it!
Word of caution: The beef will turn freakishly bright red. See?
Don’t be alarmed – that’s just what happens. In fact, if you put your ear very close to the beef, you’ll hear faint fizzing – that’s the baking soda at work!
Marinating Tenderised Beef
After it’s been tenderised, go ahead and marinate it in whatever you want – wet sauce or dry seasonings. Because we’re using thin slices of beef here and it’s been tenderised, we don’t need to marinate for long. Even 10 minutes will suffice.
Also, stir fries have the benefit of glossy sauces coating the beef so that’s another reason why we do not need to marinate it for long.
Pictured below is the stir fry sauce / marinade for Chinese Beef and Broccoli.
How to cook tenderised beef
Whichever way you cook it, the beef comes out much more tender and juicy than even expensive cuts of beef like beef tenderloin!
What does tenderised beef taste like?
The flavour of the beef is not affected by the tenderising. So the beef flavour will only be as good as the cut you use.
Tenderising affects the texture not the flavour of the beef. It has a “velvety” texture. The fibres are softened so you get less “meaty” texture, which is why I only use this technique to tenderise strips of meat and not cubes or steaks which would be a bit too eerie!
Why tenderise beef?
Tenderising beef enables you to make fast-cook beef recipes using economical cuts of beef that usually require slow cooking to break down the tough fibres, like in Stews. And it stays tender even if you overcook the beef!
What to make with tenderised beef
Because this is a Chinese restaurant method, I’m sharing this with beef stir fries like Beef and Broccoli (below) and stir fried noodles in mind. Not just beef recipes – use tenderised beef in place of chicken or pork in any of the stir fries!
But don’t limit yourself to just Chinese recipes! The plain tenderised beef isn’t flavoured, so it can be used for any recipe calling for strips of beef that are cooked quickly, such as Beef Stroganoff.
If you try this tenderising technique, I’d love to know what you think! – Nagi x
How to tenderise beef (velveting beef)
Chinese restaurants tenderise economical cuts of beef so they are tender and juicy in stir fries. There are a methods, and this baking soda method is the easiest for home cooks. It’s highly effective and fast. Though I’m sharing this with beef stir fries in mind, don’t just limit yourself to Asian food. This beef can be used for any recipe calling for strips of beef to be cooked quickly, like Beef Stroganoff.
- 250 g / 8 oz stewing beef or other economical beef cuts ((Note 1))
- 3/4 tsp baking soda / bi-carbonate soda ((Note 2))
- Slice beef thinly against the grain. (Note 3)
- Place in a bowl. Sprinkle over baking soda, toss with fingers to coat evenly.
- Refrigerate for 30 to 40 minutes.
- Rinse beef well with tap water. Shake off excess water, then use paper towels to blot away excess water (doesn’t need to be 10000% dry).
Proceed with recipe of choice. Beef can be marinated or seasoned before cooking, stir fried or deep fried, and it will be soft and tender, “velvet” like. Use for Stir Fries, Stir Fried Noodles, Beef Stroganoff and any other recipe calling for quick-cooked beef strips.
What tenderised beef tastes like – Tenderised beef has a “velvety” texture. The fibres are softened so you get less “meaty” texture, which is why I only use this technique to tenderise strips of meat and not cubes or steaks.
The flavour of the tenderised beef will only be as good as the cut you use. But the beauty of stir fries is that there’s always a flavourful glossy sauce!
1. Beef cuts – Use this for stewing cuts and to improve the tenderness of economical steaks. It will work with any cut of beef but is obviously wasted on expensive beef like tenderloin or high quality, well marbled fillets and rib eyes.
Marinating time differs for different cuts of beef. Here’s the general rule of thumb I’ve come up with based on all the beef I’ve tried:
- Chuck beef, gravy beef, oyster beef and other traditional stewing beef – 30 minutes
- Economical steak cuts (eg. cheap rump, hanger) – 20 minutes
- Blade, polar blade – 40 minutes
- Brisket – the only cut I don’t recommend, haven’t been 100% happy with outcome
If you’re unsure for your cut of beef, go for 35 minutes. Even when I under or over tenderised, it was still tender and juicy. You’ll quickly figure out the best marinating times for your preferred cuts of beef – just adjust up and down by 10 minutes at a time.
2. Baking soda, also known as bi-carb or bi-carbonate soda. Do not use baking soda, not strong enough.
3. Cutting against the grain – The best way to cut beef to make every bite tender. Look for the direction of the fibres of the beef. Then cut 90 degrees across them as best you can. See here for illustrative image.
4. Nutrition assumes beef chuck is used. Calories will be lower if a leaner beef is used.
Life of Dozer
This is the only beef he’s getting today…