What Makes Restaurant Chicken Soft? Uncovering the Secret of Soft Tender Chicken.

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Written By Gabriela
Gabriela is a science journalist and writer. She has a PhD in biochemistry and a master's degree in science communication. Gabriela has published articles in magazines and newspapers in Mexico and USA, and has also given talks on science subjects.






Have you ever tried to make restaurant-quality chicken at home but it wasn’t as soft, tender and juicy as you’d hoped? Why is restaurant chicken so soft and tender? In this article, we’ll uncover the secrets of how restaurants make soft and tender chicken, including techniques like marinating, brining and battering, and even what ingredients they might use.

And we’ll also give you some tips on how to make your own restaurant-style chicken at home. So read on to discover everything you need to know about making soft and tender chicken!

Why is restaurant chicken so soft?

Ever wonder why the chicken you get at Chinese restaurants is so tender and flavourful? It turns out, the secret to that great texture is a cooking technique called Velveting Chicken.

Velveting chicken, which utilizes baking soda as a key ingredient, is an easy and simple method that anyone can do in their own kitchen. Not only is it perfect for chicken dishes like Cashew Chicken, Chow Mein, and Kung Pao Chicken, but it’s great for beef as well.

How does velveting work?

The combination of baking soda and egg whites helps to create an alkaline environment in which proteins are softened – leading to meat that’s not only tender, but with a slight rich sweetness:

  • To start velveting your own chicken, first mix one teaspoon of baking soda in with one cup of water until it has dissolved completely.
  • After this, add 1 lb of chicken to the mixture and let this sit for 20 minutes.

Once the 20 minutes are up, rinse the chicken in cold water (it’s important to do this to remove baking soda residue). Then it’s time to start the marinating!

Marinating your Velveted Chicken requires some basic ingredients: soy sauce, rice vinegar (white wine vinegar works too), sesame oil, and corn starch are all you need. Mix all together in a bowl, adding the velveted chicken, before covering it and refrigerating for 30 minutes.

  • After 30 minutes have passed, now you’re ready to cook! Simply drain off the marinade, heat up a pan or wok same with oil before stir-frying or frying your velveted chicken until it’s cooked through.

Now you see – making restaurant-style dishes at home doesn’t have to be intimidating. By using a little bit of baking soda and some other basic ingredients and techniques you can create that same irresistibly tender texture at home.

Discovering the Chick-fil-A Secret to Soft Chicken

Chick-fil-A has achieved near-mythical status when it comes to their delicious fried chicken. The secret? Pickle brine!

Before it’s fried to perfection, the chicken is soaked in pickle brine, a combination of water and vinegar usually with salt, sugar, and plenty of spices added. This helps to make the chicken extra juicy and tender, creating that perfect consistency.

The pickles contain lactic acid, which helps to break down protein in the meat. That way, the brine can penetrate deeply into the tissues without having to be left in the marinade for an extended period.

The result is breas that are moist and flavorful. Plus, since frying locks in moisture, you get an incredible combination of deliciousness and juiciness that keeps people coming back for more!

  • Moisture content: Brining with pickle juice helps keep moisture content high.
  • Tenderness: Lactic acid helps proteins break down quickly so that the brine doesn’t have to sit on the chicken breasts for a long time.
  • Flavor: The pickle brine enhances flavor by introducing spices that are not commonly found in traditional fried chicken recipes.

So next time you tuck into your Chick-fil-A meal, you’ll know all about their secret ingredient: pickle brine! With it’s winning combination of moisture and flavor packed into each bite, it’s easy to see why it’s a fan favorite!

Crafting Soft, Rubbery Chicken At Home

Soaking chicken in a brine is an effective way to make rubbery chicken soft. The brine solution breaks down the fibers of the chicken, resulting in a more tender texture. It also prevents the chicken from drying out.

To prepare the chicken for its soak, start by seasoning it with a combat dry rub. This will give it some extra flavor that will come through after being softened by the brine. Make sure to cover all sides of the chicken, massaging the rub into the meat.

Once the chicken is seasoned, you can put it into your brine solution. The quantity of brine will depend on how much chicken you’re soaking, so make sure you have enough to fully submerge all pieces. Be sure to use cold water and keep it at a consistent temperature while the chicken is in the brine.

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Let your chicken soak for approximately 30 minutes. You may need to add more salt or seasoning depending on how much flavor has been imparted during this time. When you’re finished soaking, remove the chicken from the brine and pat dry with a paper towel.

The next step is to cook your soft and slushy chicken. The best method is to place it on a pre-heated oiled grill or skillet and cook it until both sides are crispy and golden brown. You can also bake or broil it for about 20 minutes if you’re looking for an easier cooking process.


  • Be careful not to overcook your chicken or it may end up too hard and dry.
  • If you would like your chicken to have extra flavor, consider adding some herbs and spices while soaking or grilling.
  • Brine-soaked homemade chicken tastes best when eaten right away. If keeping leftovers, store them in an airtight container in the refrigerator.

how to make chicken soft like restaurants

What Magic Ingredient Makes Chicken So Soft?

When it comes to creating the most flavorful and tender chicken dishes, one key ingredient is essential: brining. Brining is the process of soaking your chicken in a mixture of salts, sugars and other acids. The combination helps to add great flavor and keep the meat moist and tender.

Combined with slow cooking, brining ensures the tenderest meat.

The perfect brine mixture can be created with just a few simple ingredients: water, salt, sugar or honey, and an acidic element. The water helps to keep the chicken moist, the salt seasons it, the sugar or honey adds a subtle sweetness throughout the dish, and the acid helps to break down proteins in the meat for improved tenderness.

The most popular acidic elements for brining are vinegar, lemon juice or citrus zest, but you can also use other ingredients such as pineapple juice.

Creating a delicious brine is a simple process that adds so much flavor and moisture to chicken.

  • Take 1 quart of cold water for each pound of raw chicken.
  • Add 2 tablespoons salt per quart of cold water.
  • Mix in 1 tablespoon sugar or honey per quart of cold water.
  • Add 1/4 cup additional acidic element per quart of cold water.

Once your brine is prepared, place the chicken in a deep sealable container with enough brine to cover it. Allow it to sit in refrigeration overnight before cooking. Your end result will be incredibly soft and flavorful!

Tenderizing Chicken for Maximum Flavor

Soaking chicken in yogurt or buttermilk overnight can be a highly effective way to make tough, dry chicken soft and juicy. This cooking process requires enzymes and acids that are found in yogurt and buttermilk to break down the proteins found in chicken, further tenderizing its texture.

This method of pre-soaking becomes even more convenient when you take into account the fact that it can be done the night before. Prepare your marinade of choice, place chicken inside and place it in the fridge for at least eight hours. The overnight soak means that in the morning, your protein of choice is ready for immediate cooking.

The enzymes and acids act as a sort of meat tenderizer, breaking down those rigid proteins so that they become more pliable and easier to cook. This allows for an evenly cooked and juicy finished result — perfect for all types of dishes.

It’s no wonder why this formerly lengthy cooking process has become increasingly popular over the years. The reduced time required to marinade yields excellent results when cooking fried chicken, grilled chicken or any other poultry-based dish.

Tools You Need For Tenderizing Chicken With Yogurt/Buttermilk:

  • Yogurt/buttermilk
  • Measuring cups/spoons
  • Whisk (optional)
  • Sharp knife and cutting board (optional)

Secrets from Mexican Restaurants on Making Deliciously Tender Chicken

Mexican food is known for its tender chicken dishes, but how do restaurants make the chicken so soft and juicy? Generally, they use a secret weapon: salt. Specifically, by using a marinade with a salty base, they are able to effectively break down the proteins in their chicken that leads to its tenderness.

The ‘Tenderizing’ Effect of Salt

Salt helps to tenderize meat by breaking down the proteins making the meat softer and juicier. In addition to this, it also helps absorb moisture from the marinade into the chicken for intensely flavorful results.

The Benefits of Salt as a Marinade

Rather than having all your flavor clinging to the outside like browning or sauces, with salt it is permeated throughout the entire cut of meat. This allows for delicious and evenly distributed flavors that can’t be achieved without a good quality marinade.

  • Moisture is drawn from the marinade into the meat.
  • The proteins are broken down for maximum tenderness.
  • The flavor of the marinade is spread throughout.

Ultimately, this is why you’ll find a large selection of delicious and succulent Mexican dishes with poultry!