A stir fry is the ideal fast food to make without skimping on essential nutrients or taste. The great thing about stir fries is you can go for a really simple recipe with few ingredients, or get really creative and experiment with different spices, herbs and nuts. The key thing to remember is to keep it simple, less is more when it comes to stir fry ingredients.
Simple Stir Fry – What You Need
The best wok to use for a stir fry is one that can withstand high temperatures, is quick to heat up and responds quickly when the temperature is adjusted. A carbon steel wok with a curved base is preferable to a flat based one – a curved base will enable you to easily shake and swirl the ingredients about without the need for excessive amounts of oil.
Something similar to this wok from Craft Wok (see on Amazon) is perfect for stir fries.
Alternatively there are some high quality electric woks on the market if you prefer to cook that way.
How To Season A Wok
Seasoning the wok is important as this will provide it with a natural non-stick surface which is much better than relying on Teflon. The more you use your wok the better it will perform, with food tasting better as the wok ages. It is well worth following these steps to ensure the success and longevity of your wok.
1. Wash wok in hot soapy water.
2. After washing it, dry it off and rub vegetable oil over it.
3. Heat the wok over the stove until the wok begins to smoke.
4. Take wok off the heat and allow to cool.
5. Using a paper towel rub the wok to remove any blackened oil.
6. Repeat steps 2 to 5 twice more or until the wok has darkened to a black or brown color.
Caring For Your Wok
Don’t use detergent or a dishwasher to clean your wok. Simply rinse it under hot water and wipe with a paper towel, then rub with a little bit more oil. If there is food stuck on the wok just use a little salt and oil and lightly scrub it.
You can choose your favorite oil to use in a stir fry but the best ones to use are groundnut, grapeseed or sunflower. Make sure you heat your wok without oil first and only add the oil once the wok is at a high temperature. Slowly pour it in around the edges and allow it to coat the surface of the wok evenly. Don’t be tempted to turn the heat down, you want it as hot as possible to achieve that lovely smoky taste. You can flavor the oil bvy adding in some garlic, chilli or ginger. Once they have softened and released their flavor you can remove and discard them.
You can have fun experimenting with different stir fry sauces, popular sauces include black bean, oyster, hoisin and yellow bean. A classic stir fry sauce usually includes soy, garlic and fresh root ginger. You can add in some dry sherry, or if you have it, a little Chinese rice wine. Mix all the ingredients together during the preparation stage. Alternatively there are some great store made stir fry sauces on the market which are already made and ready to use.
If you are making a meat based stir fry then the best cuts to use are tender and lean ones. For example, use chicken fillet or breast, sirloin beef or tenderloin pork. Cut the meat up into thin slices of a similar size. Meat should be cooked in a single layer in the wok and left until they get some color, try not to stir the meat at first – once they have some color you can turn the meat over and brown the other side.
You can use a variety of vegetables in a stir fry, just make sure then are chopped up to similar sizes and added at the right time to ensure they are properly cooked. Vegetables such as carrots and onions will need longer cooking times than leafy vegetables like cabbage, and so should be added earlier on in the process.
Nuts provide a great source of protein to a stir fry as well as some extra taste and texture, especially to meat free recipes. Cashew, almond and peanuts are good choices. Just use a handful and add them in after the oil has been heated. Once they are browned you can take them out and put them to one side while you continue to cook the meat and vegetables.
Herbs such as cilantro and basil are perfect for garnishing the stir fry at the end. Just sprinkle over fresh, torn or chopped, leaves at the end of cooking.
Depending on the stir fry dish you are making, you can use a variety of different spices. Cinnamon, ginger, chilli flakes and paprika are all tasty spices to throw in a stir fry.
Stir Fry Cooking Steps
To produce the best tasting stir fry with perfectly cooked meat and/or vegetables, follow this cooking order;
- Heat wok (dry without oil)
- Add a little oil to the wok and ensure it is evenly distributed across the wok surface.
- Add any flavorings for the oil such as sliced ginger, crushed garlic or chilli. This can be removed and discarded once it has browned.
- Add in any nuts and allow to brown. Remove and set aside.
- Add in meat, in a single layer and leave to brown for up to 2 minutes. Turn over to brown the other side. Remove and set aside.
- Add vegetables – root vegetables first (carrots, onions etc), followed by tough vegetables (mushroom, broccoli, peppers etc), and finally more delicate leaves (spinach etc)
- Return meat and nuts to wok.
- Add sauce and stir through.
- Garnish with any herbs (cilantro, basil etc)
Common Stir Fry Problems
Ingredients Are Overcooked/Undercooked
The type of stir fry you are cooking will determine what order you need to add the ingredients. Each food will take a different length of time to cook so it is important to account for this. Those ingredients that take the longest to cook will need to be added first.
Ingredients Won’t Fry
You food won’t cook properly if you throw all the ingredients in at the same time. Instead of frying the food your wok will start to steam or boil it instead. This is because a wok needs to be sizzling hot to fry and adding too many ingredients at once will cause it to cool down.