August 30, 2020

7 Tips for Better Stir Fry

I'm working on my stir-fry skills and sharing what I've learned.

I figured we’d mix things up this week. Maybe just do some hot takes. Nothing too oily. Wouldn’t want to stir the pot.

Let’s wok and roll. 🍜🥡🥢

Let’s talk stir-frying. And let me start by saying that I’m very much a novice in this area. But I’m learning. So I wanted to share some tips I’ve picked up lately from Grace Young and Fuchsia Dunlop.

1. Properly pre-heat

Make sure your wok or pan is properly pre-heated. You want it to be sizzling hot! The high temperature helps sear the meat and vegetables imparting flavor from the Maillard Reaction and leaving them crisp.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: when water drops evaporate in 1-2 seconds, the pan is hot enough.

2. Dry vegetables

Make sure vegetables are completely dry after washing them. Stir-fried vegetables are the perfect combination of tender and crisp. If your vegetables are dry when you add them, it prevents the dish from becoming soggy.

3. Be prepared

I don’t know if the Chinese have a name for it, but the French do. So I’m going to use that. Mise en place folks.

Stir-frying happens fast! It’s one of the beauties of the whole thing. Once your pan is heated, you don’t leave your spot. So have your vegetables cut and ready. Aromatics minced. Meat marinated. Sauce mixed. You got this! 👩‍🍳

4. Use high smoke point oil

Remember we want high heat here. Which means it’s easy for our oil to burn. So don’t reach for the trusty EVOO. Instead stick with oils that have a higher smoke point like peanut, ghee, grapeseed, canola, or avocado. (If it interests you, here’s a resource on health considerations when picking a high smoke point oil).

5. Don’t stir (as much)

A little counterintuitive given the name. But here’s why. American stovetops don’t get as hot as their Chinese or restaurant counterparts. And lower heat means less of a sear.

Instead, give your meat and vegetables the chance to sear properly. So resist the urge to stir them when you first add them to the pan. Give them a minute or so undisturbed. Let them brown beautifully. And then stir to your heart’s content.

6. Cook in stages

Steam can be your best friend, but when stir-frying, it’s the enemy 😡. Don’t overcrowd your pan so the food starts to steam instead of sear. This usually happens because of:

  1. Less contact with the pan
  2. Too many ingredients bring down the heat of the pan
  3. More places for steam to get trapped

As I mentioned above (and I’m obviously a fan of it given the name of the newsletter), the sear is crucial!

Instead, cook in stages. Remove things from the pan as you cook them. This lets you give each component of your dish individual attention so they cook properly. Then you’ll recombine everything at the end when you add in your sauce. You still want to marry everything together of course! 👰🤵 / 👰👰 / 🤵🤵

7. Starch it up!

Use cornstarch or potato flour in your stir-fry sauce to thicken it and give it a silky, velvety feel. Just make sure to whisk well so you don’t have any clumps.

Plus if it’s thicker, the sauce won’t pool in the pan and make everything soggy. Wouldn’t want that after all our hard work to sear everything to perfection!

These things have helped me level up my stir-fry game from a white belt to…maybe a green belt 🥋. Hopefully, they’ll help you too!