How To Tenderize Beef Strips For Stir Fry: A Complete Guide

Stir fries are a quick and easy dinner staple in many households. But to get that restaurant-quality tender beef, it takes a few extra steps. In this comprehensive guide, I’ll explain how to tenderize beef strips to make them perfect for stir fries using a simple technique called velveting.

Why Tenderize Beef for Stir Fry?

Stir frying is a fast, high-heat cooking method. To avoid tough, chewy beef, the meat must be very tender before it hits the wok. But most raw beef strips, even pricey steaks, turn out disappointingly tough when stir-fried.

The secret of Chinese restaurants is that they don’t start with expensive cuts They rely on velveting to transform cheaper cuts of beef into succulent stir fry perfection.

Tenderizing enables the use of affordable beef cuts like chuck, round, or flank in recipes normally calling for pricier steaks. With a few easy steps, you can replicate that tender stir fry beef at home.

What is Velveting?

Velveting is a simple Chinese technique where meat strips are soaked in a solution, usually containing baking soda to break down the muscle fibers. This allows high-heat searing while keeping the beef tender and juicy.

Though traditional velveting also uses oil and cornstarch for extra tenderness I find this baking soda-only method works extremely well. It doesn’t require deep-frying the meat either.

Let’s look at how to velvet beef in 3 simple steps:

Step 1: Slice Beef Against the Grain

Use flank, skirt, chuck, round, or other stewing beef cuts. Cut into thin 2-inch strips across the grain. This severs the tough muscle fibers so bites are tender.

Step 2: Toss with Baking Soda

Place strips in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tsp baking soda per 1 lb beef. Toss to evenly coat.

Step 3: Let Sit 30 Minutes

Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes. This allows the alkaline baking soda to work its tenderizing magic.

That’s all it takes! For detailed instructions, see my full velveting beef recipe.

Does Velveting Change the Flavor?

Velveting only affects texture, not flavor. The meat retains its natural beefiness. Just avoid over-tenderizing – stick to 30 minutes for ideal results.

The velveted beef will be an alarmingly bright red initially. But once cooked, the color normalizes.

Best Beef Cuts to Velvet for Stir Fry

These affordable cuts benefit most from velveting:

  • Chuck roast
  • Bottom round
  • Top round
  • Flank
  • Skirt steak
  • Brisket
  • Blade steak
  • Sirloin flap

Velveting improves tenderness without compromising the beefy flavor. While it works with any cut, it would be overkill for naturally tender cuts like tenderloin.

Tips for Velveting Beef

  • Chill meat before velveting for easier slicing against the grain. Partially frozen beef slices beautifully.

  • Cut strips about 1/4 inch thick, 2 inches long to velvet and stir-fry quickly.

  • Use fresh baking soda – old soda may be less effective at tenderizing.

  • 30 minutes is ideal velveting time for most cuts. Adjust between 20-40 minutes as needed.

  • Pat meat very dry after rinsing before stir-frying. Excess moisture can inhibit sear.

  • Velvet just what you will use within a few days. Freeze the rest of the meat raw.

Can You Marinate Velveted Beef?

Absolutely! Once tenderized, the beef can be marinated as little or as long as you like.

The velveting makes the meat so tender, you can skip long marinating. Even 15-30 minutes adds plenty of flavor for stir fries.

How to Cook Velveted Beef

The tenderized beef can be stir-fried, pan-seared, or even deep-fried. Always sauté over high heat to sear and cook it quickly before it overcooks.

Stir fry in batches without crowding for the best sear. Cook in 1-2 minutes till browned but still juicy inside.

Best Stir Fry Recipes for Velveted Beef

Here are some tasty stir fry recipes to use your tenderized beef strips:

  • Beef and Broccoli – The American Chinese takeout classic. Velveted beef pairs perfectly with crisp-tender broccoli.

  • Beef Chow Fun – Soft tender noodles wok-tossed with velvety beef and veggies. So addictive!

  • Mongolian Beef – Crispy seared beef with sweet-savory garlic sauce over rice or noodles.

  • Beef Lo Mein – Velveted beef and veggies tossed with lo mein noodles in a savory brown sauce.

  • Teriyaki Beef Stir Fry – Beef strips glazed in a flavorful homemade teriyaki sauce. So easy.

Once you try velveting, you’ll never make an ordinary stir fry with regular beef again. The difference in tenderness is remarkable.

With this simple trick, inexpensive cuts become wok-worthy beef for restaurant-caliber stir fries any home cook can master.

Common Questions about Velveting Beef

Does velveting work with other meats?

Absolutely! The velveting technique tenderizes chicken and pork beautifully too. Simply adjust marinating time as needed.

Can I skip the baking soda?

Baking soda is the key to velveting. It chemically alters the meat structure to make it tender. Other marinades don’t achieve the same effect.

Does velveted meat get mushy?

Properly velveted beef has a smooth, tender texture but should not be mushy. Avoid over-tenderizing by sticking to recommended times of 20-40 minutes max.

Is velveted beef safe to eat raw?

No, velveted meat is still raw after tenderizing. Always cook thoroughly to minimum safe temperatures – 160°F for ground beef, 145°F for whole cuts.

Can I freeze and re-freeze velveted beef?

It’s best to freeze tenderized beef raw, before cooking. Thaw before stir-frying. Avoid repeated freeze-thaw cycles.

The Takeaway

While velveting requires a bit of planning, it’s a total game-changer for making restaurant-worthy beef stir fries at home. For less than a dollar’s worth of baking soda, you can transform economical beef cuts into succulent stir fry perfection.

The process takes just 30 minutes for seriously tender results with no special tools required. Give it a try – your family will think you’re a gourmet genius! Velveted beef is perfect for any dish calling for quick-cooking, melt-in-your-mouth tender strips.

How to tenderise & marinate beef for prefect stir fry like in Chinese restaurant

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