With a few pantry staples, a whisk, a bowl and about 30 minutes, marinades give you an entirely new meal on your hands -- literally. When mixed together, cornstarch and egg whites create a thick base that allows meat to retain its juices and protein at high heat. For this reason, these two ingredients are commonly used as marinades for Chinese stir-fries. Cornstarch is also integral to making light, crispy batter for fried chicken.
"Velveting" involves marinating meat to keep it moist and tender, even when exposed to high cooking temperatures. Cut chicken into bite-sized pieces, cutting against the grain to preserve the meat's tenderness. Marinate the chicken in a mixture of egg white, cornstarch, salt, rice wine and canola oil; use equal parts cornstarch and canola oil, 2 parts egg white, 2/3 parts rice wine and a few dashes of salt. Soak the chicken for about 30 minutes in the refrigerator and consider using it for a chicken/vegetable stir-fry.
Marinating and Frying, Asian-Style
For Asian-style chicken, marinate diced chicken in a mixture of egg whites, soy sauce and sesame oil, and use the cornstarch to fry it. For each egg white, use 1/2 teaspoon sesame oil and 1/2 tablespoon soy sauce. Soak the chicken at room temperature for about 10 minutes. Spread the cornstarch on a plate and lightly coat the chicken pieces, heating peanut oil in a heavy-bottomed pot to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Fry until lightly golden, about three minutes per batch. Coat the chicken in a sweet-and-sour sauce and serve with rice.
Marinating and Frying, Southern Style
For fried chicken with a Southern twist, marinate whole chicken breasts, thighs or drumsticks in egg whites, hot sauce and salt for 30 minutes to several hours in the refrigerator. For each egg white, use two dashes of salt and two dashes of hot sauce, depending on your taste. Then, dredge the chicken in a mixture of cornstarch and flour -- 1 part cornstarch to 2 parts flour -- seasoned with salt, pepper and paprika. Fry the chicken according to your recipe.
For maximum flavor and tenderness, ensure that the chicken is evenly coated by soaking it in a ziplock bag or flipping it inside a large baking dish. If you are marinating larger cuts of meat, score the meat so the marinade can penetrate it better. The meat will brown better if you wipe off the excess liquid before cooking. It's unsafe to use the marinade as a sauce -- or otherwise recycle it -- because of its exposure to the raw meat.
- Eising/Photodisc/Getty Images