The Secret To Ultra Tender, Chinese Restaurant-Style Beef

The thin slices of beef in a batch of beef and broccoli are amazingly tender at Chinese restaurants, no matter if they are served in a bowl as an entrée for one or in a large serving pan as part of a buffet. How is it that these restaurants can get the meat to be so soft and moist no matter how much they are cooking and for different recipes?

It all starts with tenderizing the meat with baking soda and water that is massaged into the thinly sliced meat. It is then left to marinate for about an hour or two before cooking. Cornstarch instead of baking soda will also do the trick. Typically, the cornstarch is blended with soy sauce and sesame oil. Some rice wine vinegar or oyster sauce might be added for flavor.

Another option that is commonly used at restaurants that work really well to make that cut of meat velvety soft is to marinate it for a long period of time (even overnight) in soy sauce. The soy sauce helps to break down the proteins in the meat. The cut of meat, as well as the way it is sliced, will also impact its tenderness so before you decide what kind of method to use to tenderize the meat, spend some time selecting the appropriate meat. 

What meat to use and how to slice it

The most popular cut of meat that Chinese restaurants use for their recipes to achieve soft beef that doesn't break the bank is flank steak, which has plenty of flavor and is moderately priced. Boneless beef chuck steak is another option that has a smaller price tag and works well in stir-fries because of its amount of fat. Due to the size of beef chuck that is typically sold, it can be divided and used for multiple stir-fry meals. 

Other popular options for Chinese stir-fries include sirloin, skirt, flat iron, and tri-tip. Once the cut of beef is purchased, it should be cut thinly at about one-eighth of an inch. The knife should also be used to thinly slice the beef against the grain. To identify which way the grain of the beef goes, look for the long lines of muscle and then cut perpendicular to it. The thinner slices of beef will come in more contact with the tenderizing marinade for soft and tender beef that will have your mouth doing a happy dance.