100 Techniques

Technique #79: Shape Asian Dumplings That Won’t Fall Apart

Our foolproof shaping techniques guarantee you can stock your freezer with high-quality homemade dumplings for whenever the craving strikes.

Published Aug. 14, 2023.

This is Technique #79 from our 100 Techniques Every Home Cook Can Master.

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Dumplings are like carefully wrapped little gifts: juicy, deeply seasoned pork or vegetables encased in crimped dough with just the right soft chewiness.

Although purchased versions are the standard, making them at home is an exciting, hands-on project that leaves you with a sense of accomplishment and a stockpile of homemade frozen dumplings.

With our shaping techniques and step-by-step photos, you're guaranteed to enjoy that project and end up with high-quality dumplings that won't fall apart when you go to cook them.

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5 Common Reasons Dumplings Fall Apart

Homemade dumplings can fall apart for a number of different reasons, or any combination of them.

  1. Often they burst during cooking because they have too much filling for the amount of dough.
  2. Some doughs are too dry, so the dumplings won’t stay sealed.
  3. Others can be too wet and sticky and end up tearing.
  4. If the filling isn’t cohesive enough, it will tumble out when you bite into it.
  5. If there’s air trapped in the sealed dumpling, it will balloon during cooking, causing an explosive first bite.

Why Our Dough and Filling Stick Together

Our shaping methods and foolproof recipe will make you feel capable rather than clumsy, with a supple-but-not-sticky dough and a juicy, cohesive filling, and with both elements used in the best proportion to each other.

To make wrapper dough that’s moist but not sticky, you need only two ingredients: all-purpose flour and boiling water. Boiling water hydrates the starch in flour faster than cold water does, and it makes the gluten network looser and less prone to snapping back and unsealing.

And for a pork-veggie filling that’s compact, cohesive, and moist—but not dense or wet—mix the meat vigorously to release myosin, a sticky meat protein that helps the filling hold together.

Hands spooning dumpling filling onto a flat wrapper.
Using just the right amount of filling helps ensure that your dumplings can form a proper seal and won't burst open while cooking.
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A Very Chinese Cookbook

This wide-ranging and affectionately irreverent look at Chinese cooking includes detailed recipes and instructions for all types of dumplings.

How to Wrap Dumplings

The simplest way to form a dumpling is to fold a half-circle, so if you’ve never done it, you may want to start with that. The classic approach is to pleat the wrapper so that the dumpling curves and is stable enough to stand up and brown on its flat side.

Traditionally, you gather one side of the wrapper into a series of pleats and seal them to the other side, which remains flat. We devised a simpler two-pleat method that achieves the appearance, functionality, and security of a properly sealed crescent with far greater ease.

Step by Step: How to Seal Dumplings Using the Two-Pleat Method

Follow these three steps to carefully (and beautifully) wrap your dumplings.

Step 1: Fill and Press

Place scant 1 tablespoon filling in center of wrapper. Seal top and bottom edges to form 1½-inch-wide seam.

Step 2: Start on One Side

Bring far left corner to center of seam and pinch together. Pinch rest of left side to seal.

Step 3: Repeat on the Other

Repeat process on right side. Gently press dumplings into crescent shape, with seam on top.


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Step by Step: How to Seal Dumplings Using the Half-Moon Method

This more straightforward technique is a reliable method for potstickers.

Step 1: Fold Dumpling in Half

Place scant 1 tablespoon filling in center of wrapper. Fold wrapper in half to make half-moon shape.

Step 2: Pinch Closed

Using forefinger and thumb, pinch dumpling closed, pressing out any air pockets from filling.

Step 3: Flatten

Place dumpling on its side and gently press to flatten bottom side.

Watch Cook's Illustrated's Deputy Editor Andrea Geary cook through our Chinese Pork Dumplings recipe

Recipes That Use This Technique

Looking for a fun weekend project? Try any of the following recipes.


Chinese Pork Dumplings

A plateful of juicy dumplings can lift you from the pits of despair. We wanted a recipe that didn’t put you there in the first place.
Get the Recipe

Shrimp Potstickers

For our version of these Cantonese potstickers, we wanted a light filling, the right wrapper, and the perfect mix of flavors.
Get the Recipe

Cabbage and Mushroom Potstickers

These classic pan-fried potstickers are stuffed with a cabbage and mushroom filling and dipped in a savory scallion sauce.
Get the Recipe

Pan-Fried Dumplings with Plant-Based Meat

These Chinese-inspired dumplings pack amazing complexity into a small package.
Get the Recipe

Shu Mai (Steamed Chinese Dumplings)

Shu mai is a type of steamed Chinese dumpling with many different regional variations. This is our version of the pork and shrimp shu mai served at Cantonese dim sum restaurants.
Get the Recipe

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