How To Tenderize Beef With Cornstarch: A Complete Guide

Getting beef perfectly tender for stir fries can be tricky. While expensive cuts like tenderloin work great cheaper steaks often turn out chewy and disappointing in a quick-cooking wok. But there’s a simple solution – tenderize beef with cornstarch using a classic Chinese technique called velveting.

Velveting coats the beef in a cornstarch slurry, protecting it from high heat while keeping it succulent. This easy method allows you to use economical beef cuts in recipes requiring tender meat. Read on to learn all about velveting beef with cornstarch for restaurant-quality stir fries at home!

What is Velveting?

Velveting is a preparatory technique used extensively in Chinese cooking to tenderize meat before stir frying, steaming, or braising It involves coating small pieces of meat or seafood with a thin cornstarch slurry.

When cooked briefly at high heat the cornstarch gelatinizes, sealing in moisture and preventing overcooking. This keeps the meat exceptionally tender and juicy.

Velveting also thickens sauces and allows them to cling nicely to ingredients. So it improves both texture and flavor. While velveting does involve cornstarch, it is much more than just an ingredient – it transforms the entire dish.

Why Tenderize Beef with Cornstarch?

Velveting beef with cornstarch offers several advantages:

  • Prevents tough, rubbery meat – cornstarch protects beef from high heat
  • Seals in juices so meat stays succulent
  • Allows use of cheaper steak cuts without compromising tenderness
  • Thickens sauce so it coats ingredients nicely
  • Gives stir fries a glossy sheen and silky mouthfeel
  • Adds no flavor of its own, just enhances natural taste

Cornstarch is an ideal way to prep beef for stir fries, Asian noodle dishes, or any quick-cooking method. And it couldn’t be easier!

How to Velvet Beef with Cornstarch

Velveting beef requires just 2 basic components – cornstarch and liquid seasoning.

Step 1) Make a Cornstarch Slurry

For 1 lb of beef, combine:

  • 1 Tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 Tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 Tablespoon oil (vegetable, sesame, etc.)

Whisk together in a bowl to form a thin, smooth slurry. The soy sauce adds flavor while the oil helps the cornstarch mixture coat the beef.

Step 2) Toss Beef in the Slurry

Add sliced beef strips to the bowl and mix well until fully coated. Cover and let marinate 30 minutes – 1 hour.

That’s all it takes! The meat is now ready to cook in your stir fry or other dish. The coating sets during cooking to keep the beef incredibly tender.

Tips for Velveting Beef

  • Partially freeze beef for easier slicing across the grain into thin strips.

  • Use extra slurry to thicken stir fry sauces. Just add a teaspoon at a time.

  • For extra tender beef, increase cornstarch to 2 Tbsp per 1 lb meat.

  • You can skip the oil if you don’t eat it. The slurry will still work.

  • For a thicker coating, add an extra teaspoon of cornstarch after tossing the beef.

  • Other liquids like rice wine, broth, hoisin can replace some of the soy sauce.

  • briefly blanching velveted beef in hot oil further sets the cornstarch before stir frying.

Velveting vs. Marinating Beef

While marinating does add flavor to beef, it doesn’t necessarily make it more tender. Velveting improves texture while allowing any marinade to better penetrate the meat as an added bonus.

For super tender, flavorful beef, it’s ideal to velvet first, then marinate afterward. The initial cornstarch slurry coating gives the marinade something to cling to as well.

So marinating and velveting work hand in hand for the best results!

Best Beef Cuts for Velveting

Velveting lets you use inexpensive beef cuts like chuck, round, and flank in stir fries instead of pricey steaks. Some good options include:

  • Chuck roast
  • Bottom round
  • Top round
  • Tri-tip
  • Flank steak
  • Brisket
  • Skirt steak
  • Sirloin flap

Even pre-sliced stir fry strips benefit enormously from velveting before hitting the wok.

Velveting Other Proteins

While best known for beef, velveting works wonderfully with:

  • Chicken breast
  • Pork
  • Turkey
  • Shrimp
  • Lamb
  • Tofu

Adjust cornstarch and marinating time as needed for different proteins. Velveting gives any quick-cooking meat or seafood a tender, silky texture.

Recipe Ideas for Velveted Beef

Velveted beef is ideal for:

  • Stir fries – Beef & broccoli, Mongolian beef, beef lo mein
  • Curries – Red curry beef, massaman beef curry
  • Noodle bowls – Beef pho, pad see ew
  • Skewers & kabobs – Beef satay, teriyaki beef skewers

Any dish calling for quick-cooking tender beef will benefit from velveting. It takes stir fries to the next level!

The Takeaway on Velveting Beef

For stir fries with restaurant-quality tender meat, velveting is a must-try technique. The simple cornstarch slurry seals in moisture and prevents overcooking.

While velveting requires a bit of planning, it rewards you with succulent, juicy beef and silky sauces, even with inexpensive cuts. Give it a shot – your taste buds will thank you!

Velveting Beef How to tenderise any meat in 30 minutes Chinese way of tenderising meat for stir fry


Which is better to tenderize meat, cornstarch or baking soda?

both cornstarch and baking soda tenderizes the meat. it does have a slightly different texture since baking soda is causing a chemical reaction. it changes the taste of the chicken so cornstarch is better if you are sensative to taste.

How long can you marinate meat in cornstarch?

Mix everything well, cover, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or up to one hour to allow time for the cornstarch to transform into a thin gelatinous layer. To give your velveted meat an even thicker coating of sauce, add an egg white to the slurry.

Do you have to rinse meat after velveting?

Tips For Velveting Rinse well before cooking: After velveting the meat, you have the option to rinse off the baking soda or slurry to prevent clumps in your stir-fry.

How do you make beef so soft and tender?

There are a few methods, but this is the easiest way: Sprinkle 3/4 tsp baking soda (bi-carbonate soda) on 250g / 8oz sliced economical beef cuts. Toss with fingers, leave for 30 minutes. Rinse, pat off excess water.

How to tenderise beef with a Chinese restaurant method?

This is how to tenderise beef with a Chinese restaurant method called “velveting beef”. Also used for chicken, 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.

What does tenderised beef taste like?

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.

Can you use baking soda to tenderize beef?

Baking soda: Also known as bicarb of soda, bicarbonate of soda, and sodium bicarbonate, this is sprinkled over the beef to tenderize it. But don’t get it muddled with baking powder; that doesn’t work here! Onion: Just a standard brown onion, but you can use a red, yellow, or white onion.

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