Sliced steak on a wooden cutting board.
Turn Out More Tender Steak With The 'Velvet' Effect Of Baking Soda
By Haldan Kirsch
Conventional wisdom might suggest that marinating meat for hours is the best way to tenderize it, but there is a better way for cooking tough meat in a hurry, or just to get the juiciest result. Instead of relying on acids, you can try a technique called velveting that depends on more alkaline substances like cornstarch and baking soda.
Common in Chinese cooking, velveting uses baking soda or cornstarch to marinate the meat for a short time, with baking soda raising the meat's ph value and preventing the proteins from bonding together tightly when they cook — resulting in a tender texture. Once the meat has been properly velveted, it can be cooked normally.
To velvet meat, coat its exterior with baking soda, then work up a marinade with whatever flavors you'd like to add (e.g. soy sauce, garlic, ginger), and add 1 ½ teaspoons of baking soda per pound of meat. Cover it and let it rest in the refrigerator for 30 to 60 minutes before giving it a quick rinse to remove any excess baking soda, and pat dry before cooking.
Although it isn't a necessary step, many Chinese kitchens will take the process a step further by giving the velveted meat a quick oil blanch, though this can take a lot of oil to do properly. Instead, try a water blanch with a little bit of oil added to it, which can help give your meat that soft velvety tenderness of Chinese takeout.