Velveting is a technique used in Chinese cuisine to give meats a soft, tender, velvety texture. You can use cornstarch, like in Grace Young's recipe for Hoisin Explosion Chicken, which calls for marinating chicken in a mixture of cornstarch, egg white, and Shaoxing wine. Or instead of marinating the meat, it also works to pound cornstarch into chicken, pork, or beef prior to cooking it, Chowhound Steve says.
Instead of cornstarch, baking soda is often used to tenderize meat, ePressureCooker says. You don't even need to add water as long as the raw meat is sufficiently moist for the baking soda to dissolve, Chemicalkinetics says. (The baking soda technique is more useful for beef or pork than for chicken, Chemicalkinetics says.) Sometimes the two powders are used in combination, EM23 says, having seen flank steak tenderized with the back of a cleaver, then with dissolved baking soda, then with a marinade including dissolved cornstarch.
There is one reason why cornstarch may be preferable to baking soda: Baking soda might leave a metallic taste, Atomic76 says, so try it out on something small before using your baking soda to marinate a huge cut of meat.
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