White cut chicken or 白切雞, is a classic Southern-Chinese dish that is frequently eaten by people with Fujian, Guangdong, and Hong Kong roots.
A chicken is thoroughly cleaned, then poached whole in a seasoned brine. It is then cooled (sometimes in an ice bath), and cut before serving. This is a simple dish to make. You can’t really mess it up as long as you know a few basic rules, and I share them in this post with you.
MY OWN HISTORY WITH THIS DISH
When I was growing up, my mom and grandmother made white cut chicken in two ways. The first way is to steam the chicken, and the second is to poach it in a pot over the stove.
This recipe uses the poaching method in an Instant Pot, or electric pressure cooker. I like using the IP in general, because it’s clean, and there is no need to babysit the dish over the stove. Some of the chicken flavor does go into the poaching liquid. If you are a flavor purist, you might want to stick with the steaming method. Steaming can also be done in the Instant Pot, but might work better in a dedicated stovetop steamer or wok.
If however, you don’t mind relaxing your standards in favor of getting dinner ready quickly, then read on.
The basic poaching technique of white cut chicken is common knowledge among cooks with Southern-Chinese heritage. I first learned it from my mom and grandmother. The Instant Pot method of bringing the contents up to pressure however, was adapted from Amy + Jacky’s recipe from the popular pressurecookrecipes.com blog.
Their recipe as is, worked out just okay the first time I made it. The chicken meat was too soft, because of multiple factors. I had used a younger, softer bird, an 8-quart IP that had a higher wattage output and PSI. The second time was much better, because I changed a few things, and put my own spin to it. I still cooked the chicken with the IP 8-quart, but made some changes to the recipe, used a better chicken, and added a dining happy ingredient.
SOME DINING HAPPY RULES
- Always clean your bird (I show you how here).
- Your bird must be 90% submerged in the brine.
- Smaller chicken, less water and salt. Bigger chicken, more water and salt.
- 1/2 tablespoon of kosher salt for 2 cups of water, or 1 tablespoon of kosher salt for 4 cups of water. (Reduce sodium if you’re using sea salt)
CHICKEN BREED, SIZE, AGE, AND QUALITY
I recommend using air-chilled organic whole chicken that has no retained water. Some other good varieties are corn-fed chicken, Long Koong, Kui Fei (Empress Chicken), bald-necked chicken, and/or a capon. Bear in mind that you may have to adjust the natural release time based on the type of chicken you are using.
The younger, more tender, and/or smaller the chicken, the sooner you release the pressure. The more mature, bigger, and firmer the chicken, the more time you need to leave that bird in the pressured pot.
As a general rule:-
Cook the chicken on High Pressure for 0 minutes + Natural Release (15-25 minutes)
6-quart IP:- 15-22 minutes depending on breed, size, age, and quality.
8-quart IP (slightly higher wattage and PSI): Follow the guideline above, and reduce the natural release time by 2 minutes (with the exception of a mature game chicken).
Here’s the recipe.
Instant Pot White Cut Whole Chicken 白切雞
- 1 whole chicken 3.5 lb/1.5 kg
- 10 cups water
- 2.5 tbsp kosher salt
- 5 sprigs green onion stalks
- 2 inch ginger peeled, and crushed
- 1 whole star anise
- 3 tbsp grated ginger
- 3 tbsp green onions sliced finely
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- A pinch of salt
Condiment options (optional)
- Lee Kum Kee oyster sauce
- raw green onion stems
- fried garlic bits
- fried shallot bits
- Chinese parsley/cilantro roughly chopped
- Fresh ginger-chilly sauce
- Prepare your brine by adding the water, salt, green onions and ginger into an 8-quart IP inner pot. Mix the solution evenly.
- In a large bowl, place and clean your chicken by removing the lungs, cutting off excess flaps, and fats. Rinse the bird with water.
- Scrub the bird with course salt to remove all the grime on the skin of the chicken.
- Rinse your chicken again with cool tepid water, and transfer your chicken to the Instant Pot.
- Lay your chicken, breast side down, and make sure that it is 90% submerged into the brine. Make and add more brine solution if needed, 1 cup at a time with 1/4 tbsp of Kosher salt.
- Close the lid to the Instant Pot, and make sure your vent valve is set to seal.
- Press on the "high pressure" button, and adjust the time to 0.
- Let the chicken rest in the Instant Pot for 18-22 minutes after the time goes off, and release the pressure.
- Remove the chicken with a pair of tongs into a large bowl. Cool down for 15 minutes, cut, garnish with condiments, and serve.