Despite the fact that stir fry is not the most difficult dish to make, most of us don’t make stir-fries that are restaurant quality. But once you master the following tips, you will want to make stir-fry every week!
Mise en place
This is simply the fancy French culinary term for saying “everything in its place”, i.e. get everything prepped and in its place beforehand. Once your pan or wok is on the stove, everything happens relatively quickly. So, make sure your stir-fry sauce is mixed, your veggies are chopped, and all your seasonings are nearby. You don’t want to be in the thick of things and realize that you are missing a few key ingredients!
The right cooking vessel
If you have a gas cooker, a wok is a good choice. The flames are able to lick the sides of the wok, ensuring an even distribution of heat across the whole vessel. Woks can also be used for frying and steaming. If you have an electric cooker, however, you’re better off using a non-stick pan with a large diameter base. This will ensure better heat distribution, meaning your veggies will cook more evenly. Alternatively, you can also use a well-seasoned cast iron pan.
Because the meat is fried at a high heat, it can quickly become tough. Whether you’re using chicken, beef, or pork cuts for your stir-fry, if you want tender pieces of meat, you need to velvet them. So, what’s velveting then? It’s actually a Chinese restaurant trick to make tough cuts of meat super tender. And it couldn’t be easier. Simply sprinkle baking soda (NOT baking powder!) on your meat cuts, leave them for half an hour, then rinse, and pat dry. Then proceed with the recipe. (You can use ¾ tsp baking soda per 8 oz of sliced meat). Remember to cut your meat against the grain to improve tenderness (i.e. your knife should cut across the meat fibers, not parallel to them).
Slicing and dicing
To ensure that all your vegetables cook evenly, it’s absolutely crucial that you cut them thinly and similar in size. If you’re using garlic, you will notice that crushed or sliced garlic burns easily. To avoid this, wait until most of your veggies are cooked, and only then add the garlic to the pan, stirring until it becomes fragrant.
Use the right oil
A stir-fry is not the place to use olive oil. Here, you’ll need an oil with a high smoking point (as stir-fries are cooked at a high temperature). Peanut oil is a great choice, since it can withstand high temperatures and has a neutral taste.
Because you are cooking at a high heat, it’s essential to stir continuously to prevent the food from sticking to the pan. Make sure you don’t overcrowd your pan. Cook the meat (and vegetables) in batches if necessary. If you add to much food to the pan, a lot of moisture will be released and you will end up with steamed food instead of a stir-fry.
Serve your stir-fry with rice or noodles and enjoy!