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4 Tips for Making Better Chinese Dumplings at Home

Make a dim sum favorite in your own kitchen using these tricks.

Published Feb. 23, 2017.

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Potstickers are a staple on Chinese dim sum menus, but why should they be left to the professionals? The trouble is finding a reliable, foolproof Chinese dumpling recipe to make at home. At their best, Chinese dumplings are soft, savory pillows filled with tender meat and vegetables, spiked with hints of garlic, ginger, and soy. At their worst, the dumplings resemble dense meatballs wrapped in an undercooked, doughy blanket. In order to recreate the best version of this restaurant dish in the test kitchen, we found a few simple tips that will ensure mouthwatering potstickers whenever the craving strikes.

1. Steal a Trick from Meatloaf Recipes

Too many potstickers suffer from “the meatball effect”—one bite into a dumpling and the small, dense “meatball” hidden inside falls out and onto the plate. Our meatloaf recipes often include an egg or two to lighten the filling. The egg will puff up as it cooks, incorporating tiny air bubbles into the otherwise compact ground meat. To mimic this effect in homemade dumplings, add a beaten egg to the dumpling filling mix to create a light and tender filling.

2. Choose the Right Wrapper

Since dumpling wrappers are easy to find in supermarkets and Asian grocery stores, you don’t need to make your own, but you do have to buy the right ones. Wonton wrappers, which are made with flour, egg, and salt, are too thin and delicate—they’re much better suited to steaming, such as in our recipe for shu mai in our newest Cooking School course, Dumplings and Potstickers. Gyoza wrappers are sturdier and hold up better when pan-fried, so they work best for potstickers. Plus, the chewy texture of gyoza provides a pleasing contrast to the filling.

3. Press Out Extra Air

After spooning the filling onto the wrapper and folding it over to seal, press out any extra air around the filling. This is a critical step because air pockets can cause the potstickers to balloon during steaming, which makes the wrapper pull away from the meat. The result is a messy first bite.

4. Use a Three-Step Cooking Method

The ideal potsticker is both crispy and chewy thanks to a unique cooking method. The filled dumplings are sautéed in a nonstick skillet so that the part of the wrapper in contact with the hot pan becomes crisp. Next, water is added and the pan is covered to steam the rest of the wrapper to tenderness. The final step is to remove the lid, cook off any remaining water, and recrisp the bottom. This fry-steam-fry method results in a potsticker that is tender, crispy, and chewy, all in one bite.

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Dumplings and Potstickers

Check out our newest Online Cooking School course, Dumplings and Potstickers. In this course, you will learn how to prepare steamed Chinese pork and shrimp dumplings (known as shu mai), pork and cabbage potstickers, and vegetarian mushroom and cabbage potstickers.  
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